Located south of Houston, Clear Creek Independent School District serves more than 41,000 students. In 2015, as members of the district leadership team recognized several academic and non-academic challenges across campuses, Clear Creek transitioned away from their traditional model. The new blended learning approach builds on the district’s foundation of rigor and differentiation and focuses on personalized instruction, supported by technology, as a core strategy for improving student agency and academic performance.
“Autonomy, mastery, and purpose. We did a lot of work around building the capacity within kids to want to do the learning.” – Jepsey Kimbel, Principal at Clear Lake City Elementary School
Despite consistently high averages on state test scores, the district found some Clear Creek students had persistent achievement gaps. They also found a majority of the students lacked the motivation and ownership needed to drive their own learning. Clear Creek’s year-one pilot at Clear Lake City Elementary School targeted these issues through personalized station rotations and competency-based progression pathways using student-friendly “I Can” statements. In year two, the Clear Creek team expanded the pilot to include two additional elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school allowing the program to impact all grades in the district.
The district’s blended learning strategy is guided by its strategic vision and informed by the Superintendent’s Targets which aim to, “… inspire learning through an array of personalized opportunities and experiences.” In order to achieve this goal, the district is developing curriculum, a standards-based grading system, and flexible scheduling that support student choice and personalized learning in a rigorous environment.
Across all grade levels in the three elementary school pilots, the station rotation model focuses on providing students with personalized small-group instruction tailored to address specific areas of need as determined by multiple high-quality assessments. Students drive their own learning by choosing specific stations they need and track progress toward their individual goals using data. The use of data also drives the goal setting process and teachers meet at least every other week to check in with students on their goals.
At the intermediate campus and high school campus, across all core subjects, 8th graders are working through pathways, including stations, playlists, menus, and strategic flexible groupings to pursue learning objectives in more personalized ways. Both campuses are also focused on data transparency, goal setting with students, and using technology give students access to the content they need in the most efficient way possible for teachers.
Flexible Instructional Groupings
Design pillars are used among Raising Blended Learners sites to identify the essential design elements upon which each sites’ student experience is based. The Clear Creek design pillars are: Data-Driven Instruction, Flexible Instructional Groupings, Student Agency, Competency Based Education, Differentiation/Individualization without increasing stress for teachers.
Data-Driven Instruction is the backbone of personalization and is comprised of strong assessments, data analysis protocols and data culture routines that support teachers’ use of data to drive instruction.
Using data and a deep understanding of content, the team uses Flexible Instructional Groupings to strategically meet the needs of all students with targeted small group instruction. Groups can change as frequently as daily to remediate the on- or behind-grade-level competencies that students need.
Student Agency refers to the development of students’ ownership of their learning by increasing the personalization of their school experience. This interactive process seeks to increase engagement and motivation through progress and process ownership in the classroom. Student agency can be instilled through ownership over academic and non/academic processes, feedback from teachers, and reflective learning procedures.
The district believes that students need access to the right content at the right time and therefore have built a pilot with foundational elements of Competency-Based Education. The district uses internally-created competencies to break down state standards into rigorous, lifelong skills and strategies that inform instruction and better allow students to advance to the next competency upon mastery.
The final pillar of Differentiation/Individualization without increasing stress for teachers is the district’s way of working toward what is best for students while simultaneously monitoring how the pilot impacts a teacher’s role, including their satisfaction, workflow, and how successful they feel on a day-to-day basis.