At Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School in San Jose, CA, students are experiencing a new style of learning. Blended learning has provided students with the chance to learn and accumulate information at their own pace. These students are using various websites, such as ALEKS, Duolingo, Memrise, Achieve3000, Curriculet, Teachtci and CK-12. Most work that students are doing with these applications have shown remarkable test scores in Math and English, as I’ll describe below.

But is blended learning the real reason for the increase in scores? Has it really changed the way I learn?

How Blended Learning Can Help

When using blended learning, you allow students to go from a traditional classroom to using technology to learn. We not only get the opportunity to use our electronic “toys,” but we are pursuing our academic studies in order to continue into the next grade.

The unique structure allows students to meet the criteria needed for college readiness. However, rather than learning together in a classroom working at the same pace, we are beginning to work as independent individuals. We have to take responsibility of our own learning, which prepares us for our studies in college. With blended learning, not only is Cristo Rey teaching academic subjects, religion, and professionalism, but they are also instilling the values of independence and initiative.

Let’s talk about my own journey for a second.

Desperation, Frustration, and Elation

When I came to Cristo Rey in the ninth grade, I was put into Algebra 1 for the second time in a row. (I had technically taken this subject in seventh grade and had taken Geometry in eighth grade.) I would complain to the Cristo Rey teachers about this dilemma, but nothing was really done about it. It wasn’t until one day, when I was so fed up with having to repeat this subject, that I asked my parents to talk to my principal. He told us that I must master Algebra and Geometry in order to move on to Algebra 2 so that when ACTs came, I’d remember everything more clearly.

I was desperate to complete the the two math subjects before I ended my freshman year so that I could stay on the same track I was on before. But when I started going through these subjects for the second time, I began to realize how much I didn’t remember from the previous years. Yes, I thought about moving schools just so that I would be able to be in Algebra 2. However, what was different about taking Algebra 1 and Geometry this time was the use of a blended learning system. So, I gave it a shot.

Since I was able to learn as many lessons as I could in a day, I spent more time learning what I needed to know to move on. Specifically, the math program ALEKS helped me in many different ways. ALEKS is set up as a pie chart, where each slice indicates a certain lesson and within each lesson is a topic. ALEKS allowed me to learn at my own pace, I like being able to know that I am the one in control of my own learning--and that whether I pass or fail is on my own shoulders.

ALEKS also provided me with different ways to solve the given topic; being one of the many people who don’t always understand the “formal” way to solve a math problem, I was able to choose the explanation that was easier to me. After a reasonable amount of these topics are mastered, I am able to take an assessment that tells me what I actually learn. At firs,t I hated these assessments because they constantly put topics back that I felt I had already learned. But it turned out that this happened because I didn’t actually master the topics like I thought I did. These factors are still helping me in the subject I am learning today.

When I took the last test in order to move on from Geometry to Algebra 2 and passed, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe that I finally finished the two subjects that were holding me back from reaching my goal. With the help of blended learning, support, and motivation, I was able to complete two math subject in five months. This made me realize that with the right mindset, I am able accomplish things that may seem impossible.

And My Classmates?

The stats don’t lie for other students, either. In addition to ALEKS, another program that has produced academic increases is Achieve3000. Last August, Cristo Rey students took a test that indicated the initial readiness for ninth grade reading and found out that only 20 percent of students were meeting or exceeding these expectations. However, after using the Achieve3000 program for several months, the 20 percent shifted to 45 percent.

At common high schools, the average growth of lexile reading levels is 35 points--but at Cristo Rey, the average growth of lexile increase is 142 points. This means that as a whole, Cristo Rey students’ average reading level went up a level and a half. Similarly, with the help of ALEKS, students improved a grade level and a half worth of math. If we go off of the straight numbers, this shows that these blended learning programs are actually helping the students’ growth in curriculum.

A 'Rey' of Light

In response to this article, some people still believe that blended learning may not be helping some students. Since most students are learning independently, there are usually few students that need extra help and may not be able to reach their curriculum. Remember, this is blended learning, where students are able to learn in a traditional classroom environment while working at their own pace. That means that teachers and tutors are still available when questions need to be answered.

Why are more schools converting to the blended learning system each year? Blended learning has created academic growth in multiple areas of education. It is a new and modernized way for students to be able to learn independently by using the electronics that they are comfortable with.

My classmates and I have each experienced a story of our own, but we have all seen the impact that blended learning has influenced on our school. Blended learning has opened my eyes to how much I will learn throughout my years of high school. Although I am just a freshman who started using this program this year, I am positive that this system of learning will be one key that helps me unlock the door to success.

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