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School of One in New York City: An Implementation Guide


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School of One, now know as Teach to One, is a rotational blended learning model for personalized middle school
math instruction. In this guide, we will highlight the enabling conditions, promising practices, and challenges associated with the implementation of School of One, in hopes that schools will be better equipped to make decisions about bringing School of One and similarly innovative personalized
blended learning programming to their school communities.

This guide was developed based on findings from a post-implementation evaluation as well as analyses of research completed since the program’s inception.

Published in: Education
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School of One in New York City: An Implementation Guide

  1. 1. 1 School of One in New York City An Implementation Guide Summer 2015
  2. 2. 2 Introduction School of One (So1) is a rotational blended learning model for personalized middle school math instruction. It re-imagines what math instruction looks like, by turning math classrooms into laboratories where students engage with several learning modalities to deepen their understanding of essential math concepts. School of One aims to meet students where they are and accelerate their learning by considering each student’s math proficiency as data to create personalized pathways to ensure that students have the foundational skills necessary for advancing their math practice. In this guide, we will highlight the enabling conditions, promising practices, and challenges associated with the implementation of School of One, in hopes that schools will be better equipped to make decisions about bringing School of One and similarly innovative personalized blended learning programming to their school communities. This guide was developed based on findings from a post-implementation evaluation as well as analyses of research completed since the program’s inception (for more on the methodology, see the appendix).
  3. 3. 3 “The biggest benefit of School of One is that it’s truly an individualized program, where students are experiencing different modalities of learning.” SCHOOL OF ONE ADMINISTRATOR
  4. 4. 4 History of School of One School of One, co-created by the NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE)’s iZone and New Classrooms Innovation Partners, a nonprofit dedicated to creating new models for effective instruction, was initially piloted in three New York City middle schools as a summer program for personalized math instruction in 2009. After the summer pilot, and a subsequent trial as an after-school offering, the model was introduced as a replacement for math instruction during the school day. During the 2014-15 school year, School of One was operated in five New York City schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island. These schools range in size, demographic makeup and historical academic performance (for school profiles, see appendix). The program was also offered at eleven middle schools outside of New York City. New Classrooms expects to double the number of schools using School of One in the 2015-2016 school year. Note: School of One is known as Teach to One: Math outside of New York City schools.
  5. 5. 5 What is School of One?.....................................................................................................6 School of One and the NYCDOE Framework for Great Schools..............................7 School of One’s Modalities...............................................................................................9 The School of One Classroom........................................................................................11 Teaching in School of One..............................................................................................13 What Works?....................................................................................................................15 Spotlight: Educator Critique of the School of One Curriculum..............................17 Key Considerations..........................................................................................................18 Staffing School of One.....................................................................................................18 Selecting Teachers for School of One..........................................................................18 Building an Effective Support Team.............................................................................19 Spotlight: Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) as a Measure of Student Progress .............................................................................. 22 School of One’s Technology Needs............................................................................. 23 Creating Space for School of One................................................................................ 25 The Student Cohort......................................................................................................... 27 Class Composition in School of One........................................................................... 27 Student Norms and Behaviors...................................................................................... 28 Spotlight: Transitions in School of One......................................................................29 Scheduling.........................................................................................................................30 Spotlight: School of One and State Assessments.................................................... 32 Teacher Evaluation..........................................................................................................34 The School of One Checklist......................................................................................... 35 Implementing School of One........................................................................................ 37 Orientation........................................................................................................................ 38 Support from New Classrooms.................................................................................... 39 Key Takeaways.................................................................................................................40 Methodology.....................................................................................................................41 Table of Contents
  6. 6. 6 School of One is a rotational blended learning program that targets middle school math. School of One uses an individual rotation model; it assigns students to different learning modalities based on their individual playlists. The playlists are created by the program’s proprietary algorithm, which factors in students’ prior performance, as well the modalities that students were recently encountered. What is a rotational blended learning program or model? The Clayton Christensen Institute defines a rotational blended learning model as: “A course or subject in which students rotate on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion between learning modalities, at least one of which is online learning. Other modalities might include activities such as small-group or full-class instruction, group projects, individual tutoring, and pencil-and-paper assignments. The students learn mostly on the brick-and-mortar campus, except for any homework assignments.” What is School of One? “The biggest benefit of School of One is that it’s truly an individualized program, where students are experiencing different modalities of learning.” SCHOOL OF ONE ADMINISTRATOR 6 A DAY IN THE LIFE OF SCHOOL OF ONE This video, created by the New Schools Venture Fund, one of New Classrooms’ funders, depicts a day in the life of Edgar Ventura, a student at one of the School of One schools:
  7. 7. SPOTLIGHT 7 Supportive Environment: The So1 classroom allows students the opportunity to learn from and work collaboratively with their peers as they strengthen their math practice. Rigorous Instruction: New Classrooms curates content from leading providers for its scaffolded approach to math instruction and creates content when quality materials cannot be found elsewhere. So1 also provides teachers with individual- level data so they can target areas where students may need more assistance. Teachers also draw from their own expertise to supplement instruction when necessary. Collaborative Teachers: Teachers in So1 become a tight-knit community due to shared space and frequent Common Planning Time meetings. Effective School Leadership: So1 requires and promotes strong goal-setting and guidance from school administration. Strong Family-Community Ties: Families have opportunities to engage in their child’s learning by accessing the portal to track their child’s progress. Trust: School of One reinforces strong relationships, due to shared accountability and a sense of purpose about the work. School of One and the NYCDOE Framework for Great Schools
  8. 8. 8 “It’s an ongoing focus group. Since this schedule has been built to accommodate a lot of meetings, there’s a continuous refinement of teaching strategies, approaches to assessment and then reflection that re-informs teaching strategies; it’s like an ongoing think tank to improve instruction for the entire year.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER “I feel like [School of One] really takes into consideration where the students are in their needs, whereas I don’t have to do a lot of background work, it’s done for me in a sense, and then I can really get into the instructional part and really work with the kids based on where they are.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER “In School of One, each kid is being tracked in what he needs, so if he needs to pair up with seven kids because he needs a percentage lesson, that’s what happens.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER 8
  9. 9. 9 School of One’s Modalities School of One encompasses seven modalities that are assigned depending on their level of understanding and familiarity with math concepts. These modalities include teacher-led, collaborative, virtual and independent instruction. Students also participate in multi-day task sessions that allow students to explore their newly developed math skills in engaging group projects. “The seven modalities are the truest form of differentiation.” SCHOOL OF ONE EDUCATOR School of One Modalities Teacher-Led Live Investigation Collaborative Virtual Independent Task Sessions Small Group Collaboration Peer-to-Peer Coached Virtual Instruction Virtual Reinforcement Independent Live Practice
  10. 10. 10 The School of One school year is divided into three-week periods, called rounds. During each round, students cycle through most, if not all, of the modalities. School of One aims for students to have the foundational skills necessary for higher-level math before they encounter it. Students begin the school year by completing an assessment, the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, that measures student mastery of math concepts and identifies gaps in student learning (see Spotlight on page 18 for more information). The algorithm then analyzes students’ strengths and weaknesses based on their results and uses that analysis as the student’s entry point into the program. Students enter School of One with a range of abilities and the model honors that diversity by offering support for every student who enters the program, whether that student needs to work on second or tenth grade math concepts. Content for the program is curated by New Classrooms from top textbook and web resource providers. The materials are mapped to corresponding math concepts and delivered to students depending on the assigned mode of instruction for the lesson. At the end of each class session, students are tested on the skills learned during the period in a short quiz called an exit slip. Student performance on exit slips is used to determine the skills students will focus on the following day. WHERE DOES THE CONTENT IN SCHOOL OF ONE COME FROM? New Classrooms collaborates with a host of print and digital providers to deliver content. These partners include: BuzzMath Carson-Delloso Publishing Continental Press Curriculum Associates Destination Math ETA Hand2Mind Houghton Mifflin Harcourt I Can Learn LearnZillion Manga High MathXL for School TheMcGraw-HillCompanies Queue Sophia TenMarks Virtual Nerd
  11. 11. 11 The School of One Classroom Students move through the modalities in a learning laboratory (typically called a math center) that is several times the size of a traditional classroom. In this environment, known as a walls-down classroom, students interact with two modalities and complete an exit slip over the course of a double block period. These three segments are overseen and facilitated by School of One teachers. Typically, an entire grade cohort occupies the space at once. The classroom space is separated into manageable sections for teachers by whiteboards, bookshelves and cubbies. School of One Classroom Versus Traditional Classroom TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM REDESIGNED CLASSROOM Whiteboard/BookshelfSmartboard WHAT ABOUT WALLS-UP? For some schools, building a math center for School of One is not feasible because of cost or construction constraints. To test an alternative approach, one of the five middle schools currently running So1 is offering a walls-up program. The school uses the same curriculum and modalities in traditional classroom spaces. In this guide, we’ll highlight some of our observations on the differences between the programs.
  12. 12. “I think it is the culture, it’s the clear expectations that you set: that this is what we’re doing, this is going to be instructional, planning is going to be a part of it, we’re building capacity in instruction in math and technology. [It also] comes down to your teaming, your collaboration and empowerment of teachers. We never told them what it was, we told them what it could be.” SCHOOL OF ONE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL 12
  13. 13. 13 Teaching in School of One Teaching in School of One can feel markedly different from what a teacher experiences in a traditional math classroom. Teachers in a School of One classroom share space with the other educators in the program and switch stations up to three times in one double block class period. Teachers in School of One also plan differently; teachers are given their assignments—including a list of students, modalities and materials—each night before the next day’s session. The program provides the curriculum in order to allow teachers more time to focus on their instructional strategies. Based on our research there appear to be several characteristics can that influence whether a teacher might thrive in a School of One environment. These traits include: Belief in the Model: School of One is a departure from traditional math instruction in many ways. Teachers who believe that the model enriches the experience of learning and are excited about the model’s potential will be more comfortable teaching within the School of One classroom. Flexibility: Teachers in School of One receive assignments daily, share space, and oversee instruction in different modalities. In order to do this successfully, teachers should demonstrate a willingness to do what the program requires at any given moment. Domain Expertise: School of One’s content spans from second-grade math concepts to Algebra in order to meet the needs of diverse learners. Teachers in the program should have broad subject matter expertise and be comfortable teaching concepts across a range of levels. Strong Classroom Management Abilities: Being able to keep students on task in an open environment is an essential duty for School of One educators. “It’s not the technology that is teaching. It’s how you’re utilizing it and it’s really the teacher in there that facilitates [learning], making sure that there’s discussion and questioning and things like that.” SCHOOL OF ONE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL PLANNING IN SCHOOL OF ONE Planning in School of One is fundamentally different from what teachers experience in a non-School of One environment. Planning shifts from preparation of entire units to planning individual lessons. Teachers in School of One receive e-mails the night before each class (typically between 4:00pm and 9:00pm) prompting them to enter the portal to check their assignments, which are prepared using the School of One algorithm. Teachers can then review the lessons, supplementing and tailoring them as necessary. Teachers typically oversee two lessons during a double-block period, which are approximately 35 minutes each.
  14. 14. 14 Strong Organizational Skills: School of One assigns students homework packets each week that must be manually graded by teachers. Given the homework, worksheets and other assignments that are tracked, teachers with strong organizational skills will be better prepared to stay on top of grading. Basic Technical Capacity: Given the program’s reliance on technology, teachers who are capable of performing basic troubleshooting activities are better able to quickly resolve tech-based challenges. The Ability to Analyze and Interpret Data: School of One provides daily reports of student-level data in the portal. Teachers who are able to interpret that data quickly to provide targeted instruction are better positioned to serve the needs of their students. TEACHING IN A WALLS-UP ENVIRONMENT As previously mentioned, the walls-up implementation of School of One has classrooms that resemble those in a traditional school; each teacher has his or her own classroom. This change was implemented after an attempt to have the teachers switch rooms was deemed too cumbersome for teachers and too inactive for students. In terms of teacher practice, there were several notable differences observed in the walls-up setting, including: • Teacher-to-teacher interactions are limited to Common Planning • Teachers feel more ownership of their individual spaces • Fewer modalities may be run on occasion due to physical constraints
  15. 15. 15 What Works? There are a number of benefits to using School of One including: Differentiated learning for all students, including low-performers: “I would that say that probably what we have seen is the greatest benefit is that if students are behind, it’s a program that fills in the gaps of where students are so that we don’t necessarily see at the beginning of sixth grade that there’s a jump in scores, but you do usually see it later on for students that are behind.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER “It’s less embarrassing for [low-performing students]. They can work on the grade level that they’re at and no one really knows that they’re learning those skills.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER “I would say that the main positive is the differentiation that is built into the program, but it also gives you the experience to know how to apply differentiation when we are not running School of One. All of the different modalities give you lots of ideas and strategies to help.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER Inspiration to embrace technology and blended learning to supplement instruction across content areas: “I think we’ve learned a lot in terms of blended technology, moving that into various classrooms, and [our principal] was wonderful with getting us technology in all subject areas, so the ELA department is now using iPads and have a special learning program that they are using in literature.” SCHOOL OF ONE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL “School of One was the catalyst for other programs to come to our school. I think it created a lot of excitement about utilizing technology in blended learning environments.” SCHOOL OF ONE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL
  16. 16. 16 “When School of One came in it might have been the new kid on the block in terms of blended learning, but it wasn’t a have and have not, like you’re in this wonderful space and we aren’t so we’re not in it. If anything, it inspired the other teachers to build their own capacity and look at different models of blended learning. I think that’s what really spread throughout the school.” SCHOOL OF ONE PRINCIPAL The rich dataset of student-level data the program provides, which teachers can use to target their interventions: “There’s very specific pieces of data that I look at every single day, and that’s class tries, how students do in the exercises...I will see what trial they’re on and how they did in their previous exercise. If they’ve had one try and they got a two or three on their exit, sometimes I’ll let them go a little bit. But if they’re on try two or three and they got a zero, I’m going to target them, and I’m going to prioritize the kids in that way.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER “The [non-School of One] teachers at the school use [popular data tracking tool] as their data tracking tool, and they don’t look at individual students...they look more at how to progress from their assessments and make decisions at [the class] level. It’s not a day-to-day thing where each try helps inform you of what you’re going to do next.” SCHOOL OF ONE MATH DIRECTOR What Do We Still Need Evidence For? Although most of the School of One schools have made gains in math performance on state exams, current research commissioned by the NYCDOE has not concluded that School of One is necessarily the cause of the gains. That said, many teachers and administrators report that the program has made positive effects in their school communities. As administrators assess whether their schools would benefit from School of One, there are a few factors that should be considered before making a decision. These considerations are discussed in detail in the next section.
  17. 17. SPOTLIGHT 17 Teachers may need to supplement or alter materials: “We sometimes just change the lesson or the skills because we know that’s impossible to cover everything that [New Classrooms] wants us to cover in the 37 minutes that we have with the students. So we can alter what we’re doing to an extent. You know, we make it our own.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER “The most glaring weakness is the quality control issue. You get things that aren’t thought of from the perspective of the user that come out illegible or inaudible; things that don’t make sense.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER Students may need more opportunities to practice skills: “For systems of equations, maybe in March of his 7th grade year, a student passed the exit slip. But now it’s March of his 8th grade year and he hasn’t been exposed to it since then. He needs a refresh but School of One doesn’t do that.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER School of One educators appreciate the School of One curriculum by and large, but made a few comments that are worthy of consideration: And teachers would appreciate a way to visualize student scaffolds more easily and have insight into how the algorithm works, because some of the processes do not feel transparent. Despite these criticisms, educators across schools say that New Classrooms is responsive to their feedback. “I think the School of One team has been very responsive to us. When we have ideas or feedback for the portal, the tool, or the content, we’re free to give those ideas back. It’s a great relationship.” SCHOOL OF ONE ADMINISTRATOR Educator Critique of the School of One Curriculum
  18. 18. 18 Key Considerations School staffing, student norms and behavior, scheduling, technological capacity, assessment and evaluation are all factors that must be examined prior to acquiring School of One or a similarly atypical mode of instruction. In this section of the guide, we will dive into each these themes, while providing opportunities to reflect on how the program should operate during implementation and strategies current School of One schools have used to troubleshoot issues and ultimately enhance their experience with the program. Before delving into each of the considerations, it is important for school leaders to understand that while School of One can benefit a school community, it also has the potential to exacerbate issues. If a school struggles with organizational or behavioral practices, School of One will be more challenging to implement. Staffing School of One According to School of One administrators and educators, the success of the program is influenced to a large extent by the teacher team and support assembled to operate the program. In building a team to operate the program, administrators should take a holistic approach to assigning responsibilities. Selecting Teachers for School of One Having teachers who support of the vision of School of One and exhibit the traits described earlier in the guide is fundamental to implementing the program. Things to consider: Some teachers prefer traditional classroom environments. Others may not believe that the program will work for the students in their particular school. Teachers who believe in the program’s potential and have the characteristics of promising School of One teachers will ease the school’s transition to the program. “I feel like we’re juggling a million different roles, which as teachers you do, but here we teach a skill in 37 minutes and have to be a tech person and be a supervisor—the whole grade is up here.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER Read Teacher Aaron Kaswell’s thoughts on School of One at:
  19. 19. 19 Teachers in the program must also be willing to be highly collaborative with their fellow teachers. Sharing a space, structure and students, teachers in the program appear to function best when they are open to supporting their fellow teachers, co-developing and enacting norms and protocols for the classroom, sharing responsibility for student behavior and outcomes, and asking for help when necessary. “The program is only as good as the teachers you have and the people running it. When you are going to have this program, you’ve got to think, “Do I have the right people?” SCHOOL OF ONE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL Things that are affected: Schools with teachers who do not believe in the School of One model or do not embrace the spirit of collaboration will likely have high teacher dissatisfaction. One teacher, who stated that she was a better teacher in a traditional classroom, was very unhappy to teach in a School of One environment and missed being able to manage her own classroom. Other teachers we spoke to thrive in the School of One environment; they appreciate the cooperative model and the varied experiences the program provides. Administrators should have a sense of how well their teachers work together and the extent to which they exhibit the traits necessary to operate the program effectively. School leaders should also allow teachers to voice their opinions on how they believe School of One will affect their ability to teach prior to making the decision to implement. Building an Effective Support Team In addition to teachers, the program relies on support from a number of staffers who are not a part of the teaching team. These support personnel include administrators, Math Directors, Teaching Residents, and Operations Technology Associates: Administrators of the program should plan on being involved with the program during the early stages of implementation. Several current School of One administrators stated that they participated in Common Planning Time, led teacher development, and worked closely with New Classrooms at the beginning of the implementation process. Those responsibilities were typically handed over to the Math Director completely once the program was up and running. New Classrooms recommends that each school has a dedicated Math Director. The Math Director should serve as the primary point of contact with New Classrooms, and should be a full-time administrator of the program. It also helps if the Math Director is familiar with middle school math concepts. Teachers who are not supported by dedicated Math Directors tend to have a more difficult time managing the day-to-day operations of the program and advocating for themselves to New Classrooms and their administration. Teaching Residents (TRs) are typically student teachers or paraprofessionals who assist teachers with instruction and classroom management. TRs can monitor students and answer their questions as work they individually and in small groups so that teachers can focus on their assigned tasks. Each school hires its own TRs. The Operations Technology Associate (OTA) provided by New Classrooms is responsible for staging the program. He/she makes sure that all of the day’s materials are prepped and delivered to teachers and oversees some of the technical components of the program. Schools should consider hiring an additional tech person to support the program as well, especially if they have or are planning to bring in additional hardware or software for other programming. New Classrooms also provides each school with an Instructional Coach who will assist each school as necessary. Members of this team should be highly communicative, collaborative and flexible.
  20. 20. Team Roles and Responsibilities Operations Technology Associate (OTA) Teaching Resident (TR)Math DirectorAdministrator • Provide leadership on the goals of the program • Offer professional development opportunities • Support teachers and other staff as necessary • Co-develop norms and protocols with teachers • Provide instructional guidance and support • Assist with planning • Supervise OTA and other support personnel • Liaise with New Classrooms to provideprofessionaldevelopment and to manage program • Support teachers as needed • Provide instructional assistance to students • Monitor student behavior • Support teachers as needed • Oversee daily operational tasks • Manage the distribution of worksheets and other materials • Troubleshoot technology issues as necessary 20
  21. 21. 21 Things to consider: In addition to the core School of One team, teachers outside of the program should be familiar with the model for several reasons, including: • If a School of One teacher is absent, having other members of the staff who are familiar with the program and can teach effectively within it is a boon to the other teachers. • Teachers outside of the program may not understand the unique processes and needs of School of One. Building familiarity of the program across sub- jects may help mitigate issues with School of One teachers feeling isolated from their colleagues. Things that are affected: Having adequate staffing and a clear delineation of roles can affect how the program is organized and managed and can ultimately ease the workload of the teacher team. “I think administration really needs to understand that it’s not a 30:1 ratio of teacher to students, that this program requires a much larger staff, including administration for support.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER Note: Small schools will have to think more critically about staffing resources. MAKING THE MOST OF THE MATH DIRECTOR The position of Math Director is a critical one. Teachers and administrators stressed the importance of having a dedicated Math Director to oversee the program. In addition to the responsibilities outlined above, here are a few strategies recommended by current Math Directors to go above and beyond: • Math Directors are on-hand when School of One is in session to assist teachers with instruction and classroom management. • Math Directors coordinate and oversee Common Planning Time. • Math Directors help teachers develop supplemental curriculum when necessary.
  22. 22. SPOTLIGHT 22 MAP is an adaptive assessment that measures students’ growth in understanding over the course of a school year. New Classrooms uses MAP to evaluate the program’s efficacy in each of its schools. Every spring, each school receives a report of student results revealing trends across the tests and comparing their scores to national norms. MAP scores can help schools better understand how well School of One is preparing students for grade-level or advanced math. While some states use MAP as a data point in assessing school performance and quality, New York does not. Learn more about MAP and its alignment with New York’s standards here: Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) as a Measure of Student Progress
  23. 23. 23 School of One’s Technology Needs School of One relies heavily on the use of technology; students receive their daily assignments through the School of One portal and often learn through modalities that require access to the internet. Things to consider: Administrators should be aware of the hardware and internet requirements for the program: Hardware • It is recommended that schools running School of One maintain a 1:1 student- laptop ratio for each cohort. • Thinkpads and ChromeBooks have been popular choices for schools. Purchasing additional laptops for emergencies is a worthwhile investment for times when technology breaks. • Students should receive training on technology care at the start of the program. Many schools have up to three students using a computer in a day (if grades 6-8 are all scheduled for instruction in the same day); acquiring technology with long battery lives and a technology cart that allows for rapid charging between classes or during lunch is important. Long-term planning for technology refreshes should begin at the outset, so that there is a plan for procuring new machines when obsolescence sets in. Internet • Schools must have the infrastructure to accommodate an entire cohort using the internet at once. • Students will be able to access websites beyond what is required; it is important to identify preventative measures that can be taken if necessary. Some schools use software that blocks students from using outside sites (though one administrator suggested this may be an issue at co-located schools). • Internet failure may occur at some point; teachers may want to play out various scenarios to develop strategies to use if there are internet issues. Software • Portal glitches will occasionally happen; having a backup plan that includes materials that do not live within the portal will be beneficial. • The portal has many features for students to interact with; students should learn how to use all of the portal’s resources at the beginning of the school year to maximize their learning time. Schools should also think about ways in which they can leverage technology to support the program. Many School of One teacher teams have developed systems for sharing resources and data using various web and mobile tools. Teachers at one school, for example, have a long running group text message to exchange insights before class sessions. “Just like any program, we reassess the technology each and every year.” SCHOOL OF ONE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL Things that are affected: Administrators must have a strong sense of the cost and maintenance requirements of the program. School leaders must budget carefully after taking an audit of their technology needs and plan ways to fund necessary technology purchases for the future. It is also important for schools to plan for issues that may occur during implementation prior to the start of the program. To mitigate tech-related issues in their schools, some of the current School of One sites have technology hubs in their math centers that are equipped with printers and desktops with wired connections, a strategy that can decrease lost instructional time when technology fails. THE DIIT “HEALTH CHECK” The Division of Instructional and Information Technology (DIIT) offers schools the opportunity to get their technology evaluated in a “Health Check”. With a “Health Check” request, DIIT will work with the school, listen to their issues and analyze their infrastructure usage. To request this service, call the DIIT Helpdesk at 718-935-5100.
  24. 24. “Students are very tech savvy, so they already have the knowledge of technology. Now all you’re doing is have them use it.” SCHOOL OF ONE PRINCIPAL 24
  25. 25. 25 Creating Space for School of One Space plays a critical role in the implementation of School of One. The School of One math center typically spans the space of four to six traditional classrooms and is divided into smaller sections by portable whiteboards, bookshelves and cubbies. New Classrooms works closely with each school to determine the best layout given the facilities they have available. “To have a space designed that celebrates academic achievement, at the same time as openness and malleability with the floor plan, it really inspires in people that there are these characteristics that you want to get out of them, from their input. [The School of One space] really does foster a sense of open communication and a sense of support. If you’re a visiting parent, or if you’re a student, or if you’re a teacher, you have so many people around you that are there to just help you along your journey.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER Things to consider: Four of the current School of One schools created math centers in their existing facilities by knocking down walls. It is worth noting that noise can be problematic in a space as large as the School of One classroom. Selecting a space that might have noise canceling features, like heavy carpeting, or bringing in resources that might assist in keeping noise levels low is important. One school purchased a speaker set and microphone so that administrators could quickly quiet students down across sections, a purchase that an administrator at the school suggested was the best idea they ever had. Things that are affected: Selecting the right space and furnishing it to minimize distractions and noise is a large and essential undertaking. A space that fulfills the requirements of the program while honoring each school’s needs will allow teachers and students to inhabit a space that has minimal noise and distractions. New Classrooms works with schools to plan the space appropriately, but schools should be cognizant of potential noise issues and may want to identify additional strategies to combat them. If a school’s population grows or if there is too much noise pollution in the classroom, it may be useful to contemplate the use of a spillover room to ensure that all students have the appropriate atmosphere for learning.
  26. 26. “I felt that we could modernize our space [with School of One] and also bring in an exciting program for the students. I think it has enhanced our space significantly.” SCHOOL OF ONE PRINCIPAL ALLOCATING SPACE IN A WALLS-UP ENVIRONMENT Setup for School of One in a walls-up environment may appear simple at first glance, but there are several considerations that administrators should think about when selecting space for the program. New Classrooms recommends that walls-up classrooms are located in the same hallway clustered to minimize the distance students travel between spaces large enough to accommodate stations for different modalities. To the right is a diagram of the space allocated for the current walls-up school: HALLWAY CLASSROOM 1 CLASSROOM 2 CLASSROOM 3 CLASSROOM 4 26
  27. 27. 27 The Student Cohort Class Composition in School of One The School of One classroom typically hosts all students in a grade level cohort at the same time (i.e. all eighth graders are in the classroom at once). Things to consider: Most of the current School of One schools pull out the special populations they believe may benefit from an alternative to the School of One classroom. They may run an adapted version of the program for the smaller group or use an entirely different curriculum for those students altogether. These populations can include SWD, ELL students and students who may be ready more advanced coursework. For example, some schools will have two sections of students in ICT participate while a third section of students with severe cognitive delays uses a different program. Administrators may want to keep the needs of the different special populations in mind as they think about programming students in School of One. Things that are affected: In addition to impacting the efficacy of the program, pulling students out of the School of One environment may require additional space or staffing. “We have a genuine community here, and I think the students buy into that community and they buy into knowing this [program] has value.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES (SWD) IN SCHOOL OF ONE School of One’s curriculum supports students who are able to comprehend concepts from the 2nd to 10th grade levels. Students with disabilities who are able to complete coursework for those levels may benefit from School of One. At one current school, SWD students participate in School of One at the same time in a separate classroom to ensure that the students are properly supported. Other schools use paraprofessionals in the grade cohorts to support SWD students in the program.
  28. 28. 28 Student Norms and Behaviors Student readiness is an important factor in the implementation of School of One. Administrators should be confident that students can handle movement around the space and take ownership of their own learning. Things to consider: Students in School of One rotate through up to three stations over the course of a double block session. In order to facilitate smooth and efficient transitions between sections and maximize time for student learning, School of One students should be normed around the practices and protocols the school has established for the program. Those norms should be set prior to student orientation to the program and reinforced as necessary. Students are also called on to take greater responsibility for their learning in School of One. Students who are self-motivated and exhibit self-control will thrive in the program. The School of One classroom can provide many distractions for students; students who are willing to ignore those distractions to focus on the task at hand and follow direction from teachers about the different behaviors that they believe are most conducive for learning in each modality are at an advantage in the program. They also help create a better environment for learning for their peers. There are also certain skills that students should have prior to implementing the program, including the ability to take notes, stay organized, and use and care for technology. Having these skills prior to the start of School of One will make it much easier for both the teachers and students to focus on the curriculum. Things that are affected: When it comes to student behavior, a student in School of One who acts out disrupts more than his section. Students may view School of One as an opportunity to socialize with friends or antagonize other students; it is usually the only time apart from lunch when most (if not all) of the students in the grade are together. Transitions may be more time-consuming when students misbehave, which cuts down on instructional time. “Some of the kids will see [the open environment] as an opportunity. They will do stuff that they wouldn’t do in a traditional classroom, like get up and walk around or go through different areas [of the classroom] .” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER If students do not have note-taking, organizational and technology skills, teachers will have to find ways to build those skills during orientation and over the course of the school year. CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT IN SCHOOL OF ONE Successful classroom management in School of One looks a lot like effective management in a traditional classroom setting. That said, there were a few strategies that seemed share-worthy, including: • Displaying mementos of high student participation and performance. • Signage to encourage positive behaviors. • Developing clear rules for each modality. • Teachers moving in to support their colleagues when they overhear tricky situations.
  29. 29. SPOTLIGHT 29 Time is a precious commodity in any classroom, but it is especially so in School of One. Class sessions are double blocks where students transition between up to three spaces in a single class. In order to maximize learning time, transitions need to happen quickly. As soon as the notification to switch goes off (typically a fun song selected by students or staff), students and teachers move immediately to their next station. Here are a two great pointers picked up from current School of One schools on making the transitions as smooth as possible: Control traffic flows: One school has students enter and exit through the door closest to them or where they need to be (instead of walking inside of the space) to help keep the noise down. Another has specific flows for each cohort to either enter or leave the space. Locking doors or creating specific routes for students can be hugely beneficial in discouraging students from taking circuitous routes to their assigned stations. Have additional staff monitor transitions: If additional staff is available, having a few extra personnel on-hand to oversee students’ movement can help quicken the pace of transition. More eyes and ears on students as they transition can help teachers focus on organizing the class for their next lessons quickly as well. Transitions in School of One TRANSITIONS IN WALLS-UP Transitions in walls-up environments differ from those in walls-down spaces in that they require more student movement. Attributes of a walls-up transition include: • The existence of the hallway as a ‘third space’ • Isolation of noise and disruption to individual classrooms and the hallway (unless students feel they can move freely between classrooms) • A potentially heightened need for support staff to oversee transitions 29
  30. 30. 30 Scheduling Scheduling is a critical component of the School of One model. The program requires that students participate in class sessions that are the length of a double block (about 90 minutes each) at least four days a week. Things to consider: In addition to the instructional time requirement, New Classrooms also recommends daily Common Planning Time, dedicated time for teachers to assemble and discuss students and strategies. While schools can modify the program to meet their individual school community’s needs, administrators may have to revisit how the school day is programmed. Things that are affected: Scheduling for School of One can affect how the rest of the school is run. In most School of One settings all students of a grade are programmed for math at the same time; a departure from how most schools schedule. Additionally, meeting the time requirements may be difficult for schools to figure out. Several schools stated that they had to rework their schedules more than once to get it right.
  31. 31. 31 PERIOD MINUTES MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY 1 43 7TH GRADE So1 MATH 8TH GRADE So1 MATH 2 42 7TH GRADE So1 MATH 8TH GRADE So1 MATH 7TH GRADE So1 MATH 3 43 4 42 6TH GRADE So1 MATH 6TH GRADE So1 MATH 8TH GRADE So1 MATH 7TH GRADE So1 MATH 6TH GRADE So1 MATH 5 45 6 49 7 48 8TH GRADE So1 MATH 6TH GRADE So1 MATH 8 43 Note: Common Planning Time typically occurs during one of the free periods each day. Common Planning Time
  32. 32. SPOTLIGHT 32 New Classrooms’ philosophy on math instruction is based on the premise that each student should have mastery over basic math concepts before moving on to more advanced topics. While many administrators and teachers agree with New Classrooms’ values, schools are tasked with preparing their students for state assessments, tests that measure students based on grade level benchmarks established by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). School of One schools are faced with the task of developing ways to minimize the tension between the desire to build foundational skills for their students and the need to expose them to the grade-level content they would encounter on the test. All of the schools institute some system for test prep, using different approaches, including: School of One and State Assessments Preparation between Rounds Intensive Assessment Preparation School of One closes down completely one month before the state exams and either teachers or an external test-prep provider gives high-dosage test prep. Schools that use this strategy make time between rounds to focus on test prep. Off-line Days Schools that use this strategy program School of One for four days each week and use the fifth for test prep.
  33. 33. 33 Some schools target skills that their students performed less well on the previous year, while others try to map concepts that students have learned to the standards that are tested on the assessment. In deciding which strategy is most appropriate for your school, it is important to think about what the adjustment will be like for the students. Here are a few questions to ask/consider: • How will you identify which concepts to focus on for your test prep system? • How will your structure for test prep look different from what students encounter in School of One? • How will you help students adjust to the change, if necessary? • What is the best way to utilize your teaching team to support the instruction of tested skills? • What resources can you leverage to demonstrate the concepts? • How will you create opportunities for students to practice skills? 33
  34. 34. 34 Teacher Evaluation Schools and even staff within schools disagreed on what teacher evaluation under School of One looks like. Some comments on teacher evaluation reflected some teachers’ and administrators’ discomfort with how School of One fits within the DOE’s teacher evaluation framework. An example: “It sometimes is difficult in terms of observations. With Danielson, you’re looking for certain things in terms of discussion and making sure that students are having discussions. But, if that modality doesn’t lend itself to it, and I’m observing, I can’t really observe fairly at that time. So I look to see what the teacher has for the day in terms of modalities; I look for certain modalities that I think would really be a more fair assessment of how they’re performing.” SCHOOL OF ONE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL Others claimed that teacher evaluation under School of One was simple and straight-forward: “Quite honestly, it may be easier at times because we ask teachers, what’s the stan- dard that you’re focusing on today, and the teachers will tell us and if the Assistant Principal or I come in, it’s so transparent.” SCHOOL OF ONE PRINCIPAL “What you’ll notice is that the teacher makes a tremendous impact on the culture of the School of One program, so you’re still listening for good question and discussion techniques, so in that sense it hasn’t changed. How is the teacher pushing students’ thinking? How is she meeting the students? Whether it’s task or an independent practice, students still have to engage with the content and the teacher’s role is still to facilitate and question.” SCHOOL OF ONE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL Things to consider: Administrators should have a discussion with teachers before implementation about what evaluation will look like for them to as- suage fears about unfair assessments. Additionally, administrators thinking about evaluation may want to work with New Classrooms to determine what the best course of action is for planning observations. Having a conversation about evaluation with teachers could help with staff morale and commitment. Things that are affected: Disagreement among staff about what evaluation looks like can influence teacher satisfaction. It can also shape how superin- tendents and QR evaluators assess School of One. District staff who evaluate schools have different levels of understanding School of One and blended learning more broadly, and school leaders have an opportunity to model ways to approach evaluation in a blended learning classroom. New Classrooms has developed expertise in helping schools prepare for evaluations, but schools may also want to think about how their attitudes about evaluation can and do shape how they are viewed by external evaluators, and adjust accordingly.
  35. 35. 35 This checklist is intended to help principals determine if their school is ready for School of One or similarly innovative programming. The more items checked, the more prepared your school is to launch School of One! VISION c Does School of One align with your educational vision? c Are you willing to commit extra time and effort to overseeing and managing the program in its first year? STAFFING c Are your teachers interested in and excited about School of One? c Are you confident about your teachers’ classroom management skills? c Are you confident about your teachers’ domain expertise? c Do your teachers work well together? c Are your teachers comfortable with planning the night before each lesson? c Do you have a staff member in mind who could be a dedicated Math Director? If not, are you willing to hire for the position? c Do you have the budget and resources to bring on Teaching Residents? c Do you consider you and your staff to be flexible? c Do you consider you and your staff to be highly communicative? c Do you have a large enough student cohort to support the program? STUDENT BODY c Do you believe that your students can self-regulate in a way that would allow you to operate the program? c Do you believe your students can handle the program’s call to move between three modalities quickly? SCHEDULING c Are you willing to change your schedule to accommodate the program? TECHNOLOGY c Does your school have the infrastructure and bandwidth to accommodate an entire cohort of students on wireless at once? c Are you confident in your ability to implement a new technology program? ASSESSMENT c Do you believe in New Classroom’s philosophy despite its conflict with state requirements? c Are you willing to explore ways to co-teach School of One and skills needed for standardized tests? The School of One Checklist
  36. 36. 36 New Classrooms will work with individual schools over the course of the school year to determine the fit with School of One and partner with the schools to determine specific details for training implementation. Typically, there are three main activities that occur prior to implementation including: In addition to these activities, schools should do their own due diligence by sending administrators and/or teachers to visit schools that have already implemented the program to see what it is like in action. Note: Schools interested in implementing School of One should be in touch with New Classrooms in the fall of the year before they want to implement so that there is sufficient time to work through program details. Implementing School of One “It’s very different than any other program. When you talk to someone about it, they look at you like you’re a crazy person. You can show someone [the space], but they don’t really understand it unless there are kids here and they can see it themselves.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER SITE VISITS SPRING SIMULATION PRE-SERVICE TRAINING
  37. 37. SPOTLIGHT 37 In addition to providing an orientation for students, schools may also want to figure out ways to introduce parents to the program. For some parents, School of One is a major selling point: “We want to attract students to our school and parents look to see if the school offers this type of program.” SCHOOL OF ONE ADMINISTRATOR An administrator at another school agreed, but said: “We do have some parents that still miss having that teacher in front of the classroom.” SCHOOL OF ONE ADMINISTRATOR All parents, regardless of their initial reactions to the program, should know what it encompasses. Involved parents will be interested in knowing the program’s benefits and in using the portal to monitor their student’s progress. Others may just want assurances that their students’ educations are not suffering as a result of being a part of the program. Current School of One schools build this awareness among parents in several ways, including: • Hosting parent workshops • Using time during parent/teacher conferences to demo the program • Providing an overview during Back to School Night Bringing Families into School of One
  38. 38. 38 Orientation Because of the differences between School of One and traditional instructional practice, building orientation activities into the beginning of the year is extremely important in helping students and teachers norm around the program. Here are some of the practices that the School of One schools use to orient their students and teachers: • Create a clear message about School of One’s benefits and expected outcomes to share with students, parents and other interested parties. • Host a series of workshops and planning sessions for teachers and support staff to design and align on processes and protocols for the program. • Prep students prior to the beginning of the school year by sending them materials about the program. Develop an orientation schedule that allows sixth-grade students enough time to learn the program’s structure and expectations. Seventh- and eighth-grade students should be scheduled time to receive a refresh on program policy and protocols. “A welcome and introduction to what the culture is built on, the rules, consequences and procedures--those were all explicitly taught to the student population to say you’re now a part of a community where there’s rules and regulations. It’s continuously reinforced and re-expressed to students, the idea that these are the expectations on you.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER Portal UseBasic Computer SkillsStudent Behavior • How students should retrieve technology • Modality-specific behaviors • How students will be disciplined • How students will be rewarded • How to turn a computer on/off • How to enter a username and password • How to use the internet to support School of One • How to restart a computer • How to get assistance with technical issues • How to enter the portal • How to use virtual modalities • How to find the skills library • How to find individual progress reports • How to fill out exit slips When the school year begins, orientation at current School of One schools focuses on three main topics:
  39. 39. 39 Support from New Classrooms New Classrooms provides each school with a number of instructional supports over the course of the school year. Instructional Coaches will visit schools that need more assistance two or three times a week. Professional development provided by the Instructional Coaches centers on helping teachers reach the next level of their instructional abilities within particular modalities. When New Classrooms makes a change to the portal, each school’s instructional support will come in to train teachers on the updated site. The coaches may also help teachers with their classroom management techniques when necessary. As previously mentioned, New Classrooms works to be as attentive and re- sponsive to schools’ needs as possible. Having a primary point-of-contact, like a Math Director, who can serve as a conduit for information can strengthen this communication. Transparency and open communication with New Class- rooms will ensure that the organization is aware of how to better assist schools operating the program. “We had to do a lot of practice in the beginning, writing down the username and password and not losing it, and just going through everything with them. How to restart the computer if they have internet issues. We have gone through all of that with them and we do it constantly, whenever they have a problem.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER Orientation may take place over the course of several weeks of intensive training in these skill areas. At least one of the School of One schools also hosts a kick-off assembly to welcome students to the program. STRATEGIES FOR CREATING AN ENGAGING ORIENTATION PROGRAM Creating an engaging orientation plan can be extremely difficult for educators as they prepare to start a new school year. In addition to the practices outlined here, one school decided that a scavenger hunt would be a great way to introduce students to the School of One portal. “The portal is not overly complex, but there’s lots of bells and whistles and little features. At the beginning of this year, we did a scavenger hunt asking students to find this part or that part of the portal.” SCHOOL OF ONE TEACHER For additional tips, check out teacher Aaron Kaswell’s videos on his school’s orientation and classroom management strategies at:
  40. 40. 40 Key Takeaways Administrators and teachers who are considering School of One and similarly radically different programming should consider a number of factors, including budget, space, personnel, technology and more. While New Classrooms (and other vendors) will work with schools to create implementation plans that are specific to each school’s context, it is also important for administrators and teachers to begin to ask questions and surface potential challenges and solutions before going to the table. School of One and other personalized learning programs require different investments in terms of human, financial and resource capital at different times, and planning for the short- and long-term viability is important. With the themes discussed in this guide, we hope that school leaders can begin to think critically about their school’s needs and how they can incorporate new and potentially effective modes of instruction in their schools. INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT SCHOOL OF ONE? Visit to learn how to become a school partner!
  41. 41. 41 Methodology Four out of the five New York City middle schools that used School of One in the 2014-2015 school year. School of One participated in the qualitative portion of the research for this study. On-site observations, administrator interviews and teacher focus groups were conducted at each school. The principal investigator sat in on School of One affinity group sessions (monthly convenings for current and former School of One educators to share lessons learned and promising practices on the program and blended learning more broadly) and Common Planning Time meetings to supplement the classroom visits and conversations. Interviews with New Classrooms were held to understand the perspective of the organization that developed and continues to refine the program. Prior research on the implementation of School of One was also consulted and analyzed for the creation of this guide.
  42. 42. 42