KIPP Texas-Houston Public Schools enrolls nearly 14,300 students across 28 schools. Founded in 1994 as the first KIPP location in the country, KIPP Texas-Houston has always held a prominent position in the national KIPP network, and within the broader Houston education community. Since its founding, KIPP Texas-Houston has sought to provide high-quality education options for low-income minority students in the city. Reflecting on the challenges many of their high school graduates face in postsecondary education, KIPP Texas-Houston’s leadership saw the Raising Blended Learners grant as an opportunity to lay a stronger foundation in math in the middle school years. Moreover, the RBL initiative aligned with KIPP’s focus on developing the student agency and resilience necessary to succeed in college.
For their first blended learning pilot project, the network focused on a single flipped classroom at one school, to help more students successfully complete Algebra I in 8th grade and continue along an advanced math sequence through high school. During Year 1, KIPP Texas-Houston hosted a summer Algebra Boot Camp that utilized a flex blended learning model to prepare rising 8th graders for Algebra I.
Several years ago, KIPP Texas-Houston found that while 84% of its high school students matriculated into college, only 51% persisted to graduation. This data was shocking to KIPP Texas-Houston’s leaders, and impelled them to do more. In studying the root causes of this attrition rate with researchers from the University of Houston, KIPP Texas-Houston learned that many graduates were not prepared for the rigors of college math coursework, and too often lacked the agency and self-direction to persist in a less-structured college setting.
In constructing their RBL pilot, the KIPP Texas-Houston team knew that setting a strong foundation for college math started in middle school. In particular, if students could master Algebra I in 8th grade, they would be on track to take the advanced math in high school required by many colleges and selective STEM majors. Likewise, instilling student ownership of learning and supporting the development of self-directed learning skills would need to start as early in a student’s academic journey as possible.
In response to this need, KIPP Texas-Houston’s RBL team set out to develop a strong blended model during Year 1 that would be worthy of replicating in other sites. KIPP Texas-Houston piloted a single flipped classroom in 8th grade Algebra I at the KIPP Liberation middle school campus. In this model, the teacher prepared daily videos previewing the following day’s lesson that students could navigate, at home, at their own pace. The teacher used data and student performance on the nightly videos to plan the level of conceptual rigor for the following day’s lesson, and decide on student groupings, as well any interventions for particular students. KIPP Texas-Houston chose the flipped classroom model because they believed it would develop college-readiness behaviors such as time management, self-awareness, and seeking targeted help. In comparison to other potential blended learning models, KIPP Texas-Houston believed the flipped model had the potential to integrate better with their existing Eureka algebra curriculum, and could provide a bridge to a flex model or other approaches to personalization in the future. In the classroom, students used Imagine Math and other digital content to support their learning.
Design pillars are used among all RBL sites to identify the essential design elements upon which each site’s student experience is based. The KIPP Texas-Houston design pillars are: Flipped Classroom, One-on-One Sessions, Student Agency, Competency-Based Progression, and Rigor. Based on year 1 experiences, KIPP Texas-Houston revised Year 2 pillars to include: Student Agency, Rigorous Lessons, Data-Driven Learning, Coaching Sessions, and Blended Learning Personalized Experience.
Through the Flipped Classroom model, students have control over their pace of learning content before entering the classroom, and complete checks for understanding throughout the video. During class time, activities such as teacher-facilitated conceptually driven discourse, leveled practice with feedback loops, and teacher-led small groups are planned in response to individual student data, which indicate the appropriate instructional level and pace for that day’s lesson.
One-on-One Sessions provide personalized attention to meet learners where they are in terms of emotional well-being, motivation, agency, and academic progress, and guide them along their path to being agents of their learning. During coaching sessions, students connect with teachers, review academic progress, and work on learning practices such as goal-setting, study habit, and reflection, for the purpose of elevating students’ awareness of the learning process and who they are as learners.
Student Agency refers to the level of choice, autonomy, and accountability that a student experiences in their education. This pillar can be manifested in the flexibility of learning environment, approach, and/or pace.
In order to stay true to Great Mind’s Eureka Math, which emphasizes teacher-facilitated discourse for conceptual development, KIPP Texas-Houston did not implement a Competency-Based Progression for students to move at their own pace. Instead, the lessons followed the pacing calendar, and the flipped model enabled deeper understanding of each day’s lesson while also identifying students who needed scaffolding that day. For year 2, this pillar was combined with “Flipped Classroom” and modified to “Blended Learning, Personalized Experience.”
For the final pillar Rigor, KIPP Texas-Houston relied on TNTP’s blended rubric and their own rubric to ensure rigorous lessons, defined as: throughout the entire lesson, all students engage in the work of the lesson, think critically and do heavy lifting on content that is grade-level, college-ready, or student-ready appropriate, and continually practice / receive feedback until they demonstrate mastery. Rigor was a significant focus area for Year 1, which will continue into Year 2.
To learn more about the demonstration sites’ areas of progress and challenges, as well as how they define and track success, explore the reports from FSG.