Later that day, two math teachers review every answer on these quizzes. They aren’t grading the papers. They are detectives. They’re combing through each pencil stroke, searching for clues. For each incorrect answer, they retrace the student’s steps to figure out what went wrong. Then they use this information to devise a plan so that every student gets exactly what he or she needs in the next class.
“It does entail a lot of planning, ” said Grisel Mesa, a teacher at W.R. Thomas Middle School, a public school in a neighborhood about 10 miles east of the Everglades just outside Miami, Fla. “When it is done correctly it is amazing. As you can see, every student is at their pace. When we give a quiz, we can separate those students who did not do well and spend more time with them.”
Students in a blended learning class in W.R. Thomas Middle School, in the Miami-Dade County Public School system, work on a math problem. Photo: Nichole Dobo
The algebra classes here use a mix of technology and in-person instruction to give students more personal attention. To make that possible, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district gives teachers in these special math classes extra time daily to plan together for the next day’s lessons. And these teachers get another layer of support, too – a district employee provides embedded training for the entire school year.
All 49 traditional middle schools in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system use blended learning math classes.
“To master and to really maximize the asset of digital content, there has to be sufficient professional-development time – and this is commonly ignored, ” said Alberto M. Carvalho, the Miami-Dade superintendent. “And there has to be sufficient common planning time for the teachers to collaborate on the use of the environment, on the use of the technology, on the use of the content.”
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