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'Blended' Learning Shows Promising Results At D.C. Schools

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A "blended" learning model, which combines traditional teacher instruction with use of technology, is showing encouraging results at some D.C. public schools.
Kavitha Cardoza/WAMU
A "blended" learning model, which combines traditional teacher instruction with use of technology, is showing encouraging results at some D.C. public schools.

Some D.C. public schools using the "blended learning model" are seeing student test scores go up and suspensions go down.

At Randle Highlands Elementary School in Southeast D.C., fourth grade teacher Jarvis Gause just left the small group of readers he was working with for a moment, and he's checking in on another group wearing headphones, working quietly on computers.

There are different learning "stations" and these 9-year-olds rotate through all of them. It's part of the blended learning model, which blends teacher-led instruction and technology.

Principal Tracy Foster says even kindergartners at this school use computers to learn, but they have a picture password because they can't spell yet.

"We try to balance the technology with social interaction so we don't create a cohort of students who shuts out the world and tunes into a computer," Foster says.

The principal says she's seen a nine percent increase in math scores and an 11 percent increase in reading scores since they've implemented blended learning. She says teacher turnover is far lower this year and there haven't been any school suspensions. She attributes the change to how much more engaged students are with their school work.

Foster receives reports every day showing if students are just clicking through lessons on the computer or if teachers are not rotating student through different learning stations like they should. John Rice with DCPS Central Office says this model allows students to learn at their own pace.

"We have some kids that are reading at the eighth grade level, some kids that are reading at second grade level," Rice says. "How can I teach them all at one time? And the answer is you can't effectively. So by breaking the classroom into different groups, students can get the content they need, so that's a huge advantage."

Currently eight DCPS schools follow the blended learning model. School officials are hoping to expand the program to several more over the next year.

Support for WAMU 88.5’s education reporting comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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