By Thomas Arnett
Blended-learning proponents can point to a growing number of schools that consistently achieve extraordinary student learning results. But is technology the key to their success?
Recently, I visited five blended-learning schools in Las Vegas and the San Jose area that are earning accolades for serving low-income and minority students and achieving strong student learning outcomes: Dr. Owen C. Roundy Elementary, Vegas Verdes Elementary, and Elaine Wynn Elementary, three franchise schools in Las Vegas’s Clark County School District, and Hollister Prep and Gilroy Prep, two charter elementary schools operated by Navigator Schools in the San Jose area. All five schools use some variation of the Station Rotation or Lab Rotation blended-learning models for core instruction in math and English language arts. But even though blended learning is a deliberate part of their instructional approaches, it didn’t seem to be the differentiating factor driving their success.
When I observed their classrooms and interviewed many of their teachers and administrators, the thing that stood out as the likely key contributor to student learning was high-quality teaching practices, inspired and supported by effective school leadership. This should come as no surprise given that education research consistently shows that the quality of a school’s teachers has a bigger impact on student achievement than any other school-level factor.