School of One: A More Active Approach to Learning
At I.S. 228 in Brooklyn, a large classroom is filled with boisterous middle-schoolers, some sitting, others standing, huddled by tables and desks, busily working in groups independently or with a tutor. This is how students participating in the School of One pilot program are learning math.
This spring, the school received a special visit from Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, who was eager to see the new 21st-century classroom, designed by the New York City Department of Education, in action. “Do you like this more than regular school?” asked Schools Chancellor Joel Klein as he roamed around the room with the former governor. While some students nodded yes, others were too engaged to answer.
School of One transforms the traditional teaching model — one teacher instructing a group of students — into each student experiencing multiple modalities, including a variation of teacher-led lessons, one-on-one tutoring, virtual tutors, and independent learning. “To see kids excited is phenomenal,” said Mr. Klein.
The architect of this innovative model is Joel Rose, who joined the department of education in 2006 and has been involved in education for more than 14 years. “We thought the middle school grades were the most appropriate grades to begin to pilot this,” he said. The initiative was named one of Time magazine’s “50 Best Inventions for 2009.”
Technology plays an imperative role in this model. Students receive “play lists” that shows them their lesson schedules. Students have profiles set up where they and their teachers can track their progress. Virtual instruction on laptops offer students math games specifically designed to their level.
While students have a fun learning experience with a subject that might have been challenging before, teachers are then able to follow students’ progress. “It shows you how each kid is doing,” said Blair Heiser, math coach at I.S. 339 in the Bronx. I.S. 339 was one of three schools chosen for the pilot program, which started in January 2010, along with I.S. 228 and M.S. 131 in Manhattan (which hosted the pilot in 2009 as a summer program). Next fall these schools will be experiencing the School of One model throughout their school day.
So what’s next for the School of One? Mr. Rose said there is a possibility the model will be offered in other subjects in the future. “We really want to make sure we get math right and study it and make sure we get the right results; once we feel like we have the right infrastructure and results we will begin to explore other subjects.”
Students participating in the pilot program have seen academic improvements, including those with special needs. “I think we are getting some of the best results from students who have IEPs, because we are individualizing instruction for their particular learning styles and on their particular level,” said Mr. Rose.
Mr. Rose hopes to add this program to about 10 schools by the fall of 2011 and hopes to one day see this initiative nationwide. “The most important thing to think about is how innovation has become synonymous with educational improvement in this city,” said Mr. Klein. #