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How technology is changing the look of middle school math classes.

At the David A. Boody Intermediate School in Brooklyn, New York a computer program called Teach to One: Math determines how class unfolds each day.

Teacher John Garuccio works with a group of about 20 students using a lesson generated for them by the program based on a quiz taken earlier.

This is not a traditional approach to learning where the teacher stands in front of the classroom and works out decimal problems on a white board. Garuccio's group is part of a classroom the size of a cafeteria where 150 sixth graders learn math at the same time in a variety of ways with a variety of tools and approaches.

The Boody School, where five out of six students qualify to receive a free or reduced-price lunch, has adopted a blended learning approach to math that combines small group lessons, one-on-one teaching, learning using software and online tutoring in the same classroom at the same time.

Supporters of the technology say teaching in this manner ensures children learn using materials that fit their skill level or learning style. About 6,000 students in 15 schools located in four states and the District of Columbia have signed on. Skeptics aren't convinced it's effective.

Teach to One

Teach to One was developed by New Classrooms Innovation Partners, a New York City-based nonprofit that provides the software and supports schools that use it. The organization evolved from a program created at the city's Department of Education.

Cathy Hayes, the school's math director, likes the transparency in the over-sized classroom. "Children and teachers can easily collaborate and share great work. This isn't a room where you can shut the door and contain what you are doing."

Shelves, desks and whiteboards divide the large room to create nooks for small group instruction. Each area is named to help students find their location. A teacher might be instructing the Brooklyn Bridge group while the Manhattan Bridge students work in sections monitored by teaching assistants. Some stations use paper worksheets with prompts to guide them through group projects and there are independent computer-guided lessons and tutoring happening elsewhere.

The math class has two 35-minute sessions. Students and teachers rotate to new stations after the first session is completed. The classroom is staffed with one math director, five teachers, two teaching assistants and a technology aide.

Everyone's location is coordinated by the computer's program and based on how the children perform on a daily test at the end of class. The next day's schedule is delivered electronically and can be accessed by teachers, students and parents on a website. Teacher Amelia Tonyes said keeping track of everyone hasn't been a problem and supports the model. "It really targets what students need."

Teach to One uses software that pulls lessons from a database created by the program's academic team. When they find a lesson that fits their program, they negotiate with the publisher to buy it a la carte--sort of like buying a song instead of the entire album. Staffers say they examined about 80,000 lessons to create a library of 12,000 from 20 different vendors.

Joe Ventura, a spokesman from New Classrooms (Teach to One's parent company), said schools pay $225 per student each year in licensing fees to use the content in the curriculum that replaces typical textbooks. They also pay between $50,000 and $125,000 a year for professional development and support services, he said.

Skeptics Want More Evidence

Of course, not everyone is a fan. Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University, isn't enthusiastic about Teach to One. "From what I've seen, it looks like a jazzed-up version of worksheets," he said recently.

In an effort to demonstrate that the program gets results, Teach to One commissioned a study by Douglas Ready, an education professor at Columbia University. The study documented progress in 11 of 15 schools in the program but could not conclude that Teach to One was the reason. The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded a $3 million grant to pay for additional research and expansion of the program to schools in New Jersey.

For more information on Ready's Teach to One study visit: newclass-rooms.org/resources/Tech-to-One_Report_2013-14.pdf

Sources: newclassrooms.org; hechinger-report.org, 2/19/15
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Title Annotation:Special Report
Publication:Curriculum Review
Date:Apr 1, 2015
Words:714
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