This profile is the second in a series from the EdSurge Research team, which has spent the past six months studying the market of service providers that support schools through the redesign process. Bringing about change in schools is complex. There are organizations that support different kinds of transformation in schools and after researching and interviewing some of these organizations, we've learned a great deal about what these changes can look like, how schools go about redesigning aspects of their model, and what types of support they need along the way. In October, we will share a guide highlighting the trends, insights and challenges we've learned about while profiling five key players in the world of school redesign. Stay tuned!
Education Elements provides support for schools and districts as they transform their school models to personalize learning. The company got its start in late 2010, spurred by founder Anthony Kim’s work with KIPP Empower, an elementary charter school in Los Angeles. Kim had previously been an Executive Vice President at Edison Learning, a for-profit education management organization. Prior to that, he founded Provost Systems an online learning platform acquired by Edison Learning in 2008.
Through a 2010 collaboration with Gisele Huff from the Jacquelin Hume Foundation and Michael B. Horn from the Clayton Christensen Institute, Kim had the opportunity to help design KIPP Empower's instructional model. During his work at KIPP Empower, Kim realized there was a need for providing a scalable way to support schools and districts with blended learning. He founded Education Elements to meet that need.
Since its founding, the company has developed a two-part offering for schools and districts: consulting services to help envision, design and create instructional models and professional learning for blended and personalized learning programs, and a technology platform that helps schools transition to blended learning. The platform, now called “Highlight”, supports teachers and schools as they develop personalized learning environments by managing passwords, the sign-on process and data analysis. Education Elements is currently building Touchpoint, a new tool that will support administrators—both those working independently and those working with Education Elements consultants—as they redesign their schools and districts to embrace personalized learning. As of summer 2016, the company has supported over 100 districts nationally, representing 500 schools and 400K students.
Who They Work With
Education Elements typically works with district and school leaders to redesign school models in cohorts or across entire districts. The company is ideally looking to partner with districts looking to invest in personalized learning by engaging in a full scale transformation or with the potential to scale to multiple schools down the road.
What They Do
Anthony Kim likes to describe the Education Elements team as the “sherpas” of personalized learning. There are two questions that districts commonly bring to the company: “I bought all of these technology tools and my instruction hasn’t changed. What have I done wrong?” and “Can you help us understand what personalized learning means and can look like in our district?”
The length of each consulting engagement typically varies from a few months to three years. Ideally, the company works with district leadership for a minimum of 18 months. Some 95% of districts working with Education Elements last year are returning for ongoing support in the 2016-2017 school year. Typically, schools in their second or third year of engagement are focused on transitioning to capacity building, iterating, or digging deeper into a topic such as small group instruction—making sure the work will be able to continue after the consulting period comes to an end.
Education Elements created a personalized learning implementation framework, which is a central document used throughout school redesign. The framework is a five-by-five square grid that includes many different elements that the company considers when building a personalized learning environment.
Education Elements has also developed four key areas that support schools and districts in implementing personalized learning; the company refers to these elements as the “Core Four of Personalized Learning.” The Core Four are: Integrated Digital Content, Targeted Instruction, Student Reflection and Ownership and Data Driven Decisions. Some districts (but not all) use the Core Four when creating their vision of personalized learning.
A Specific Engagement
In May 2015, Education Elements worked with the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, an urban Indianapolis school district with 16 schools and 11,000 students in grades PreK-12. Three years prior, the district had received $28.6M in Race to the Top funding and used it to purchase 1:1 Chromebooks. By 2015, Superintendent Dr. Dena Cushenberry hadn’t seen much change in instruction or student engagement. With one year of grant money left, the district hired Education Elements to help them use technology to promote individualized instruction and college readiness.
Plan and Align
The work began in May 2015 with a diagnostic readiness assessment. The ”Plan and Align” phase was complete before the end of the school year. During this phase, Education Elements helped Warren identify pockets of innovation throughout the district. District leaders worked with the company to uncover why some classrooms were experiencing change and leveraging technology, while others weren’t. They suspected it was because initially, resources were focused on devices and digital content, not instructional models. They worked with Education Elements to develop clarity around the change they wanted to see, which they defined as an increase in academic growth for all learners, with a focus on college readiness.
During summer 2015, Education Elements hosted a strategy session for the district team. When the staff came back to school that fall, the workshops began. The district was broken up into three cohorts. Cohort One was comprised of five schools that demonstrated readiness and willingness to dive into the deep end and begin building a prototype of their model. Cohort Two included 11 schools that were very interested in making change, but wanted to see how the first five schools fared first. Cohort Three was a large high school with 3,000 students; it was separate from the other two cohorts because of its size. (The English department joined Cohort Two as a pilot for the rest of the high school).
The timeline was designed so that each cohort launched its work separately. Cohort One launched implementation of its instructional model in January 2016. Cohort Two started building a prototype of its model in spring 2015 and is set to launch in August 2016. Cohort Three will launch last.
Design and Launch
The design and launch phase varies by engagement and depends on how much autonomy is given to each school. In Warren, every school was able to create its own instructional model designed to meet its students’ needs. Each focuses in on one of the Core Four areas: Integrated Digital Content, Targeted Instruction, Student Reflection and Ownership and Data Driven Decisions.
One school in the district, Stonybrook Middle School, decided to focus on shifting whole group instruction to targeted small group instruction. The school team built a prototype of an instructional model that would support this effort, taking into account changes in schedule, space and the tools needed to create opportunities for small group learning. During the development of the model, the team came up with specific approaches that would facilitate small group instruction, including station rotation models and flexible learning environments.
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