Students at KEA are taught in small groups for all core subjects, including writing and science. By fostering an environment in which students learn in small groups, they get a more personalized education that meets their individual needs and they receive instruction at their level. Whole group instruction where one teacher teaches to the average student is eliminated. Differentiation in a whole class setting is very difficult for teachers; small group instruction allows for built-in differentiation. Groups are determined by STEP test results before students even begin the school year. The groups are fluid based on interim test scores. Day by day, the students rotate between 30 minutes of phonics-based instruction, 30-50 minutes of comprehension and vocabulary-based instruction, and 30 minutes on the computer.
KEA's instructional program is built on the fierce commitment to putting every possible resource toward ensuring that every child reads at or above grade level: high-quality instruction, parent empowerment, every possible reading intervention, and excellent attendance must all be aligned in support of this goal.
Classroom Instruction: Offline
KEA uses Reading Mastery for Phonics, which the teachers supplement heavily based on student achievement data. For developing their reading comprehension skills and strategies, KEA uses Scholastic’s Guided Reading program, which is also heavily supplemented based on the needs of the students. The driving force of instruction is the results received from the STEP test. The test is given on an interim basis five times a year and the data is used to inform goal-setting, planning, and day-by-day instruction.
KEA uses Singapore Math as their main curriculum for math; it is also heavily supplemented with additional content to ensure that all standards are met throughout the school year.
For science, the school uses hands-on units of study from Delta in kindergarten and first grade, and in first grade and higher, the students will use the Engineering is Elementary curriculum from MIT. Not only is it inquiry-based science, but it also incorporates engineering.
Social studies is integrated into writing instruction. Social Studies themes are taught through read alouds during writing time. The school has an anti-racist pedagogical approach to teaching social studies content and social justice themes. The teachers are proactive about helping students to learn their history and culture in addition to what is recommended in the state standards.
Classroom Instruction: Online
Finding software companies that produce age-appropriate, interactive, and relatively inexpensive programming with enough content to engage primary-aged students for 25 to 30 minutes per computer session for an entire school year proved problematic. We found that there was not one company that had sufficient content for students in all of the core content areas of reading, writing, math, and science. Therefore, KEA was required to utilize a few different education software companies to provide enough content to meet students’ diverse learning needs.
Working closely with technology firm Education Elements, KEA leadership developed a blended learning model that took into account the school’s student, staff, facility and technology needs. Together with Education Elements CEO Anthony Kim, KEA leadership evaluated more than 20 potential content providers based on the following criteria:
|Curricular Considerations||Software and Integration Considerations|
|Structure of scope and sequence
Age appropriateness and usability
Engaging, multiple intelligences, and learning modalities
Hours of instructional content available per grade level
|Level of data and standards based reporting
Ability to interface with Blended Learning
Management System (which offers a single sign-on “Launchpad” for students to access
online instructional content)
Cost (least important)
Based on these criteria, the team selected iStation for ELA, Compass Learning for Math, Learning.com for Technology, and Study Island and Teachermate for at home activities. Recognizing that the market was still evolving, as was the school design, leadership took the philosophy that any content not deemed suitable could be changed out for Year 2.
For Year Two, the following adjustments have been made:
ELA: Keeping iStation but adding Compass Learning as a supplement
Math: Keeping Compass Learning but adding Dreambox as a supplement
Home activities: Eliminating Study Island and Teachermate. Study Island was not sufficiently strong on instruction and some of the interfaces were not age appropriate. The Teachermate devices were difficult to maintain, and required significant time from the Instructional Assistant to support.