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Blended learning: The next major reform intervention for PreK-12

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November 20, 2012 03:59 pm

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The following blog post comes from Dr. Michael J. Martirano, superintendent of St. Mary’s County Public Schools in Leonardtown, Maryland. 

In September 2012, I challenged every educational leader and teacher in America to examine programmatic offerings and interventions that are being implemented in their respective school districts for the purpose of ensuring that every young person is on a positive trajectory to achieve the goal of graduating from high school with the skills that will allow him/her to be ready to attend college and enter the workforce.

As this school year has progressed and the first marking quarter has come to a close in most school districts, we are examining our performance data to ensure that students are making the incremental progress needed to ensure that mastery of content is occurring and that students are on pace to graduate from high school, on-time. Like many of my colleagues, I am never fully satisfied when I learn that some of our young people are falling behind and not staying on track to graduate in four years.

When this occurs, we have trained our teachers and staff to ask the one clarifying question that determines our theory of action: “What will we do when are students are not achieving?” This question focuses on the need for urgency, the need to respond in a manner that will make a difference, and the need to get young people assigned to interventions that will get them back on track. If we do not respond appropriately, the cumulative results could have devastating affects and lead a young person to drop out of school.

We must fully accept and realize that our students learn differently than students ten, twenty or thirty years ago. We must acknowledge that our students stay connected via social networks, spending endless hours accessing and analyzing information via a multitude of technological devices.We must transform our classrooms to reflect 21st century learning.

To that end, St. Mary’s County Public Schools has implemented a robust blended learning philosophy. This approach combines face-to-face classroom methods with computer-mediated activities to form an integrated instructional approach. Our online courses have provided an intervention that allows us to respond in an urgent manner when our students fall behind academically.

Our students have access to unit and credit recovery opportunities that keep them on track. When comparing online learning to previous interventions, such as evening high school that provided traditional instruction to large numbers of students who were not successful, the results are overwhelmingly positive.

To emphasize this even further, Great Mils High School in St. Mary’s County realized a 6% increase in the graduation rate for one year. This success was attributed to the fact that one in five graduating seniors took advantage of online learning opportunities. Students were provided with a tangible and dedicated intervention that worked and allowed them to achieve success.

For some students, the goal to graduate from high school is not easily attainable. In reality, some of our students need a longer ladder to get them over the wall of graduation. So, I ask, what kind of intervention ladders are you providing, and do they include blended learning options for your students?
If not, you need to examine this option because it is the next major intervention that will truly reform how we do business in our 21st century classrooms in America.

Dr. Michael J. Martirano is superintendent of St. Mary’s County Public Schools in Leonardtown, Maryland. Read his previous post here.

 

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