Accelerate Great Schools has invested more than $2 million to transform St. Cecilia and St. Francis de Sales and St. Teresa of Avila schools into blended learning academies through a strategic partnership with Seton Education Partners. We asked Emily Gilbride, Senior Manager for Seton’s Blended Learning Network about blended learning is helping students succeed in Cincinnati.
1) What do you find to be unique about Cincinnati’s education landscape?
I am constantly amazed at the potential of students in our great city. Every student has the desire to achieve success in their education and Cincinnati has a wide variety of schools to serve children of varying needs but some lack the resources needed to help them reach their full potential. That’s why this partnership between Accelerate Great Schools and Seton Education Partners is so important – we’re working together with the Archdiocese to build upon the already great educational foundation these students are receiving. This collaboration will benefit the students now and into the future.
2) What is the Seton Blended Learning Network?
The Seton Blended Learning Network is a network of thirteen Catholic schools driven by results, smart collaboration, and character formation. Seton currently serves over 3,400 students, 98 percent of whom are minorities and over two-thirds of whom qualify for the federal meals program. Seton provides partner schools with the know-how, training, and fundraising required to convert traditional classrooms to blended learning. The goal is to substantially improve the academic performance and reduce per-pupil operating costs of urban Catholic schools. And it is working.
3) What is blended learning?
Blended learning combines a traditional, bricks-and-mortar educational experience with online learning. Blended learning is not just about increasing access to computers and tablets; blended learning involves leveraging technology in a strategic way to provide students a more personalized learning experience. This includes small group instruction where and when each student learns best, as well as at the pace at which they advance. For instance, if a child is performing below standards, they can receive remediation, but if they are ahead, they can receive acceleration. This video of Seton’s first blended learning school showcases the rotational blended learning model.
4) Tell us more about Seton Education Partners. How much does it charge for its services?
Seton and Accelerate Great Schools share the belief that all kids deserve a great education. Seton is a nonprofit 501c3 organization founded to preserve disappearing urban Catholic Schools, many of which serve low-income students. We revitalize our partner schools, implement a more sustainable model and equip them with the tools to succeed. Thanks to the generosity of donors, Seton does not charge Archdiocesan offices or individual Catholic schools to join the Seton Blended Learning Network.
5) What does Seton’s blended learning model look like?
Seton works with each partner school to customize a learning model that meets the needs of each school’s staff and student population. This autonomy at the school level empowers principals and teachers to personalize their approach to meet the needs of their individual school population. Most often, Seton implements a classroom rotation model that uses a mixture of flexible software and data-driven, small-group instruction. The software, procedures, training, and “culture” of the model differ by grade level (i.e. K-2, 3-5, 6-8). We’re excited to be working with four local principals identify the model that best meets the needs of their students.
6) How will Accelerate Great Schools’ investment help St. Cecilia and St. Francis de Sales?
Accelerate Great Schools’ $1.3 million investment in St. Cecilia and St. Francis de Sales will assist the schools with introducing the blended learning model, making necessary infrastructure updates (while remaining at their same locations) to allow more technology in the classroom and increasing student enrollment. Currently, St. Cecilia serves 231 students, and St. Frances de Sales serves 222 students. We project enrollment at each school will grow to 280 students each in three years.
7) Does this program have an impact on enrollment?
Yes! Many parents are excited when their schools partner with Seton because they’re able to leverage the combination of personalized learning and small-group instruction, and they’ve seen the academic results. They choose to enroll their children in Seton-partnered schools, which drives enrollment. Figures differ by location, but Seton schools have collectively increased enrollment by 28 percent from pre-Seton totals. I can say firsthand that after Accelerate Great Schools announced its investment in the transformation of St. Cecilia and St. Francis de Sales, we received phone calls from enthusiastic parents who wanted to enroll their children at both schools and at St. Joseph.
8) How does Seton’s blended learning model impact school culture?
Blended learning is not a silver bullet but rather a flexible and effective tool that can be used by a great leader and reflective teachers to achieve a strong school culture and high performing academic results. Blended learning increases student/teacher interaction, enables targeted small group instruction, and provides an opportunity to celebrate good character. As a result, Seton works with each school’s leadership team to inject best practices from high performing, “no excuses” urban schools across the nation in order to help build a culture in which students develop the knowledge, skills, and character necessary to earn a college degree and pursue lives of value, faith, and integrity.