Blended Learning: 3 Stories of Success

Learning, Online & Blended, PreK-12

Many educators and school leaders are ready to move from the “why” do blended learning to the “how” to do blended learning. While our blended learning implementation guide provides step by step directions to start implementing a blended program, it’s often helpful to see real-life examples of schools who exemplify and understand the importance of implementation with fidelity. Schools can purchase and have the best blended technology and devices on the market, but without effective implementation, and a strategy for sustainability and data usage the impact on student learning may be compromised.

Join me on a field trip to three schools currently using i-Ready, adaptive learning software created by Getting Smart Advocacy Partner, Curriculum Associates. I hope these schools, their implementation stories and strategies inspire you to start a movement in your school.

Thomas Russell Middle School

Keys to success: Goal setting; professional development; and feedback.

1_ThomasRussellMS-1At Thomas Russell Middle School students experienced higher growth rates in both reading and math compared with other schools in California. Their blended learning program had three implementation components:

Setting goals and working towards them. Principal Damon James credits the emphasis of setting goals for usage and progress. “I asked my teachers to ensure an average of at least one hour per week of online instruction through i-Ready for each student,” said James. Students are expected to pass a minimum of two lessons per week.

Tangible, quantitative and achievable goals set expectations for students and allow them to practice student agency. Data provided by i-Ready also allows teachers to measure progress and help students adjust goals based on their Individualized Education Plans.

Professional development to support Implementation. James setup time for his teachers to visit local schools for inspiration and to see blended learning in action. He scheduled regular meetings for teachers to create pacing guides, share best practices, and plan for future classes.

Immediate, accurate, actionable feedback. Perhaps one of the most valued feature of the i-Ready program was having the ability to get real time, immediate data to help give teachers a clear understanding of what steps to take next. One teacher at Thomas Russell used i-Ready to understand students’ gaps and noted that the student profile reports “were especially helpful for higher-performing students because it’s typically hard to see where they are actually struggling.”

Here’s the model and schedule teacher James Larsen is using to blend his classroom:


Cesar Chavez Elementary School

Keys to success: Developing a data-driven culture; and increasing comfort with technology

3_CesarChavez Cesar Chavez Elementary is working toward implementing a truly student-centered learning environment for all students. They believe that a focus on a child’s whole life, not just one standard is vital to success. Yes, they want students to be proficient when it comes to state standards, but they also want them to have fulfilling learning experiences. Through this common philosophy, they’ve successfully implemented a blended program and schedule in their classrooms.

Comfort with technology and data. During the initial roll out of their blended initiative, teachers were uncomfortable with technology; so principal Bob Rayburn knew it was vital to provide targeted professional development for everyone. After initial training and hands on use with technology. Professional development took place during staff meetings when teachers could look at student data reports and engage in conversations about what they were seeing, what was working, and where there were opportunities for improvement.

Creating a culture of success. With a very diverse student population, Rayburn and his teachers were often challenged in giving individualized, data-driven instruction to every child. “We had fallen into this black hole where the teachers were working really hard and trying everything they knew how to try, but we had kids who were still not progressing,” said Rayburn.

Cesar Chavez was able to provide personalized instruction with i-Ready and get students involved in their learning by making data available and helping them craft goals based on their desired outcomes. There is a true and vibrant culture of success among students and teachers.

Here’s an example of how teachers at Cesar Chavez are integrating Ready and i-Ready into their weekly instruction:


Marshall Pomeroy Elementary School

Keys to success: Common data tool, Professional learning community (PLC) meetings, differentiating instruction

5_MarshallPomeroyPrincipal Sheila Murphy-Brewer depended on 3 key components to successfully implement blended learning: common data and curricular tools, comprehensive professional development, and a clear approach to differentiating instruction.

5_MP-RotationalModelProfessional learning community (PLC) meetings. Murphy-Brewer set up PLC meetings for her staff to get together and facilitate discussions around pedagogical strategies and tools and data currently in use. She discovered there was a vast difference in the data tools teachers were using. Switching to a common tool and resource has helped streamline their work and create more opportunities for collaboration amongst teachers.

Murphy-Brewer kicks off the discussion with a 10 minute lesson or demonstration then gives teachers time to plan instructional units and to collaborate on student outcomes, methods of instruction, and data analysis.

Preparing for higher standards. The staff’s favorite trait is how well i-Ready has helped prepare students for the CCSS. “Our goal is to get students to go deeper into each standard, and Ready complements i-Ready, because it teaches the deeper conceptual understanding in the way that Common Core intended” said Murphy-Brewer.

Each school acknowledged that professional development was vital to success and had an end goal to provide differentiated, personalized instruction for every student. Despite vast differences in size, grade-level, and percentage of low- income students, they were successful thanks to a staff commitment and involvement in their end goals and mission.

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