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Aspire Public Schools

The organization has learned some lessons along the way regarding rolling out a blended learning program. Their number one rule of thumb is to start by setting expectations and working to develop a shared mindset around what blended learning is.

State: California Number of Students: 16,000
School Type: Charter Management Org   Free and Reduced Lunch: N/A
Grade Level: K-12 English Language Learners: 28.0%

School Context

College for Certain: Aspire’s central goal is for all students to attend college. For the past five years in a row, 100% ofAspire’s students gained admissions to four-year colleges and universities.

Efficient School Model: One of the CMO’s top priorities is to maintain a disciplined approach to managing financialresources.

Sharing What Works: Aspire aims to be a catalyst for educational change in public schools and is focused on sharingsuccessful teaching and learning practices with others.


State of Technology

The Magic Schoolbus: From mid-August through mid-December 2015,fourteen four-year olds participated in a pilot program at Aspire MonarchAcademy in Oakland. The major goal of the pilot was to test out whetherconverting a school bus into a preschool classroom was a feasible option.The pilot was preceded by a two-week test for safety, and both the twoweek test and the four-month pilot had positive results. If there is continuedsuccess with the pilot, Aspire plans to add pre-kindergarten for its Californiaschools. The pilot was born out of an engagement between two of Aspire’steam members, Elise Darwish and Erin Cox, and T Lab, a program throughTipping Point Community, one of Aspire’s funders.

Exploring Blended Learning: Aspire has been exploring blended learning tosee if a model exists that would impact student learning and simultaneouslysupport financial sustainability for the organization. In November 2014,Aspire piloted a blended learning program at ERES Academy in Oaklandusing the station rotation model with a focus on freeing up teacher time forsmall group instruction. The school rolled out the pilot with five teachersduring the 2014-2015 school year. In August 2015, ERES Academy began awhole-school implementation. At ERES, students either work with a teacherengaging in direct instruction, with a peer or small group, or use a laptop toaccess tools such as i-Ready, Lexia, myON, Think Through Math, ST Math andNewsela.

Scaling Blended Learning: With the success of the ERES pilot, Aspiredecided to scale the blended learning program. As of June 2016, Aspiresupports blended learning in 23 of its 38 schools.The organization haslearned some lessons along the way regarding rolling out a blended learningprogram. Their number one rule of thumb is to start by setting expectationsand working to develop a shared mindset around what blended learningis and can be before bringing tech tools into the mix. When launching aprogram in K-5 schools, Aspire developed a series of classroom lesson plansthat help the launch phase. These lessons are shared in “Go Blended!,” animplementation handbook for teachers looking to use a blended learningapproach in their own classrooms. The book was authored by Liz Arney,the former Director of Innovative Learning at Aspire from 2009-2015, whonow serves as a Partner at NewSchools Venture Fund. The book shares tips,lesson plans, timelines and documents that can help get implementation offthe ground. Today, Aspire continues to iterate on the model using data fromstudent achievement metrics and student and teacher surveys.

EdTech Incubator: Aspire believes that it is important to try innovativesolutions, which is why the organization incubated Schoolzilla. Schoolzillais a data reporting and analytics tool, which was originally launched atAspire Public Schools. Schoolzilla spent five years as part of Aspire,before branching out to become its own organization in early 2013. TheSchoolzilla team iterated the tool with feedback from Aspire’s teachers andadministrators.

Data Drivers: Teacher development is critical at Aspire and the organizationhas a number of teacher programs that support professional growth. Someof these programs include an induction program, a teacher residencyprogram, a lead teacher position and a data driver position. The datadriver is a teacher who works with colleagues to learn how to use datain meaningful ways that drive instruction. Some of this work is local andhappens in-person, and some work happens virtually as data drivers providesupport to colleagues from across all of Aspire’s sites.

Computer Science: Aspire is engaged in three computer science pilotsin which all participating students receive roughly an hour and a half ofcomputer science instruction each week. While the pilot is focused on K-5classrooms, the goal is to scale up the pilot to middle and high schools. Inone of the schools, the instruction takes place in the library, and in the othertwo schools, a “specials teacher” pushes into each classroom.


Tech Needs & Requirements

All tools must follow state privacy laws that are already inplace. Aspire highly prefers tools that have single sign oncapabilities through Clever and that transfer data in anautomated way on a daily or weekly basis. All tools must be Chromebook compatible.

*Content From 2016

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