Boothbay Regional High School
Understanding the college application and financial aid process is hard—no matter what your background. But for students whose parents have never attended college or for students who attend schools with limited resources, navigating the pathway to college can be especially daunting.
With a decline in public education funding, many schools like Boothbay Regional High School in Maine are left with fewer college counselors, leaving it up to just a few to support hundreds of students. Without personalized guidance, students can struggle to understand the application process and the course requirements needed to stay on track. At Boothbay, students also had to tackle the labyrinth of financial aid and scholarship applications without any means to consolidate all the requirements, criteria, and deadlines. Only about half of Boothbay’s seniors even applied to college in 2012, even though many more would likely have been successful in higher education.
To try to increase college application and matriculation, the guidance director suggested that the school adopt a software platform to help students understand if they’re currently on track to attend the college of their choice — or,if not, what changes they need to make.
Through the platform, students track the credits they need to graduate, upload their academic information into college applications, and make decisions about where to apply. Students can also anonymously compare their own grades and test scores with peers who applied to the same colleges in previous years.
This comparison helps students in two ways. First, it lets them know which colleges are looking for students like them, and which schools might be more of a reach. With that information, they can make informed decisions about where to apply. Second, if students have a particular college in mind, the comparisons can help them set goals for the grades and scores they will need in order to be competitive in the admissions process for that college. The guidance office can also contribute by assigning students tasks and milestones to complete, to make sure that they stay on top of their goals.
Finally, to help students through the financial aid process, Boothbay was able to compile scholarship information into the program, giving students a useful reference and saving them hours of time.
In one year after using the new tool, 94% of Boothbay seniors applied to colleges – up from 52% the year before. For those students who don’t want to go to college, Boothbay administrators tailor the program to help them identify the career fields that best match their interests or strengths.
Stanton Elementary, a high-poverty school in Washington DC’s Southeast neighborhood, has been one of the lowest performing schools in the district for years. In 2011, only 4% of 3rd graders were meeting grade level expectations in math, and only 7% in reading.
Any given classroom includes students at various academic levels – some performing at grade level, some performing several years below. This makes it very challenging for any teacher to meet the individual needs of all the students at one time.
To raise student achievement, Stanton’s principal and teachers knew they needed to find new ways to engage students, as well as meet each student’s unique needs. They began using blended learning, a classroom setup that balances students’ time between learning at their own pace on a computer or tablet, and learning through group or one-on-one instruction from the teacher.
In a traditional classroom, where students all sit and listen as the teacher delivers the lesson, students can only move at one pace. Because of their different capabilities, some struggle to keep up, while others who have mastered the concept become bored. To address this issue, Stanton Elementary uses a rotational model instead – students move in small groups between online lessons and teacher-led instruction. Teachers can track students’ performance and group them according to their needs, adjusting the lessons and activities to meet them where they are.
Classrooms at Stanton use technology in different ways to meet the needs of each lesson or learning objective. Some teach with interactive whiteboards, while others use digital devices to help students follow along in a teacher-led lesson. For math specifically, the school uses a game-based, adaptive learning program to engage students. This program also provides teachers with frequent reports on students’ progress, allowing them to provide support to students who might be stuck on a concept or problem.
Although the program is still in its early stages, students and teachers at Stanton have already begun to see some promising gains. Since 2011, third grade math proficiency increased from just 4% to 37% in 2014, and third grade reading increased from 7% to 24%.