Located west of Houston, Spring Branch Independent School District serves 35,000 students. In 2015, members of the district leadership team recognized academic gaps in both math and reading across the district that impacted students’ post secondary readiness. The district’s elementary and middle school Raising Blended Learners pilots are designed to facilitate a shift from one-size-fits-all instruction toward student-centered, personalized learning and develop student agency that will serve learners long after they graduate.
“When you talk to an elementary student and they can actually tell you, ‘This is what I’m doing. This is why I am doing it. I know what to do next.’ That’s what it’s truly about.” – Roy Moore, Principal at Nottingham Elementary School
Innovation and learning redesign in Spring Branch is targeting a statistic that only 36 percent of the district graduates demonstrate postsecondary readiness and of those who graduate, only 44 percent complete a form of higher education. Campus and district leaders attribute these statistics to academic gaps compounded throughout K-12 and low levels of academic ownership and agency. Spring Branch leaders believe that shift to student-centered blended learning will improve the outcomes in both areas, therefore improving postsecondary readiness. Spring Branch designed their pilots to increase data transparency and encourage purposeful student choice so that students can simultaneously close math and reading gaps and develop the agency needed to drive their own learning.
The district’s blended learning strategy is guided by the Spring Branch ISD Strategic Plan with a goal to ensure every Spring Branch graduate leaves the district prepared to successfully complete some form of higher education, whether it be a Technical Certificate, Military Training, or a two‐ or four‐year degree. In alignment with this strategic plan, the superintendent has encouraged risk-taking and innovation mindset in service of redesigning teaching and learning for each student.
Spring Branch’s RBL pilot includes one elementary and one middle school campus. The district is promoting a high level of autonomy for each campus to design a model that aligns to the district’s innovation pillars and solves for these root causes. At each Raising Blended Learners site, the teams are focused on improving data culture practices, increasing agency through ownership and goal setting, and instituting planning practices to ensure students have access to rigorous, deeper learning opportunities. The elementary pilot classrooms use data to increase frequency of flexible instructional groupings, rigorous personalized station activities and goal setting conversations to help student close academic gaps and develop agency. They also use these techniques to ensure that students who have already mastered the content are moving on to new concepts so they can continue to grow. At the middle school, teachers in pilot classrooms focus on refining their assessment practices so they have a holistic picture of where each student is and can share that data with students. Learning modalities include strategic flexible instructional groupings, self-directed assignments through individualized work stations and online programs. Teachers are also introducing videos and playlists through the district’s learning management system.
Anytime, Anywhere Learning
Rigorous and Individualized Instruction
Design pillars are used among all Raising Blended Learners sites to identify the essential design elements upon which each site’s student experience is based. The Spring Branch design pillars are: Anytime Anywhere Learning; Rigorous and Individualized Instruction; Holistic, Actionable Data; and Student Voice and Agency.
Anytime, Anywhere Learning increases students’ access to academic content while at school and while at home. By giving students opportunities to practice skills at home, review videos of in-class lessons and access data through technology platforms outside of class, they are more able to own and drive their own learning at any time.
Rigorous and Individualized Instruction offers instructional approaches and learning experiences that teach to the level of rigor of the standards, encourage critical thinking, and support each individual learner in targeted areas of need. These deeper learning and academic skills are developed through small group learning, 1:1 teacher time, collaborative group work, teacher-created content and playlists, and adaptive software programs.
The use of Holistic, Actionable Data is the backbone for all the other pillars. Through a strong data-driven i process of effective assessment, thoughtful analysis, and timely action, students receive the instruction and support that they need when they need it. The systematic use of data informs flexible instructional groupings, student choice in work stations, and the progress monitoring that students do to track their progress toward academic and non-academic goals.
Student Voice and Agency is designed to support students to have a say in their educational experience, and give them data that helps them understand and then make decisions about their learning activities and goals. These strategies work together to develop students’ authentic engagement and advocacy for their own learning.
Holistic, Actionable Data
Student Voice & Agency