A Summer of Innovation, Part 3: Center City Brightwood

Center City Public Charter Schools, the first Catholic-to-charter school conversion in the United States, empowers students for lifelong success by “building strong character, promoting academic excellence, and generating public service throughout Washington D.C.” Currently, Center City PCS operates six campuses across the District of Columbia. During the traditional school year, CityBridge Education Innovation Fellows Samantha Ellerbeck, Alison Gillmeister, and Desiree Smith teach at separate Center City Public Charter School campuses. Across the summer weeks, however, these three Fellows are piloting their models at the Center City Brightwood campus.

During the second week of summer school, I visited each classroom and recorded a brief panoramic view of their blended learning “pilot-at-work.” Below, you’ll find three brief videos and summaries of their pilot progress.

Samantha Ellerbeck (@saellerbeck)

Samantha is piloting a station rotation-based blended learning model. In this video, you’ll notice three distinct learning stations spread across the classroom. Samantha is leading a small-group critical reading station, while the other two other groups are completing a task via laptops.

The small-group station is a major component in Samantha’s blended learning approach and model. Samantha says that during the small group reading and critical discussion station, “everyone is held accountable for understanding the gist of the novel study.”  In fact, students are not only adjusting well to this station, they’re also exceeding expectations and “doing the heavy lifting” themselves. Although Samantha wanted to use whole-group “read alouds,” she has pivoted slightly, since her students prefer to complete their task using computers.

Alison Gillmeister

Alison decided to pilot a blended learning model because it “encourages self-paced, self-managed, and self-motivated learning.” In her classroom video, you’ll see her students independently working on their assignments via laptops or what is often called a “one-to-one” learning model. It’s important to note that before Alison releases her students to work independently, she allows each student to choose a place within the classroom where they can work effectively. As a result, you’ll see that a few students sitting in the back because they decided that was the most effective place to focus on their work.

So far, Alison has noticed some encouraging signs. For example, she says her students are “writing longer, better-developed answers to the online writing prompts.” This is a great sign, since she wants her student to “take a significant amount of time to analyze the question so they can put it in our own words.” Her students, too, are noticing the benefits of this model. In fact, one of her students, who struggles with reading and writing, has twice mentioned his appreciation for “having more control over his (learning) pace.”

Desiree Smith (@msSmith_desiree)

Similar to her colleagues, Desiree also employs a station rotation-based blended learning model. As a math teacher, Desiree leverages educational technology (edtech) tools such as Edmodo and TenMarks. In this video, you’ll notice Desiree providing targeted instruction to a small group while her other students work independently on their assignments via scratch paper and laptops.

Although Samantha, Alison, and Desiree’s pilots are still relatively new, bright spots are already emerging. During my visit, I couldn’t help but notice how all three Fellows maximized instruction by relying on the power of small-group instruction and one-on-one conferences. I also noticed that 99% of the students were engaged in their learning, 99% of the time. As a former public middle school teacher, I truly appreciated witnessing such positive and productive learning environments. I genuinely look forward to following this talented trio from Center City PCS. I hope you do too!

Off for now…

Angel Cintron Jr., Contributing Blogger and 2014 Education Innovation Fellow
Angel cropped

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