For decades, grade-level proficiency has far outweighed overall student growth when it comes to testing and achievement scores. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was signed into law in 2002 with the hope that teachers and schools would be held to higher standards for improving student success. Of course, school funding would heavily rely on the results of the students’ annual test scores, providing incentives for teachers to ensure that all students were learning at grade level.
In theory, the NCLB Act (now called the Every Student Succeeds Act) would improve accountability and standards to prevent students from falling behind. Unfortunately, the major issue with the reform was that it did not measure academic growth. Students who were already behind continued to fall behind. Teachers found “shortcuts” and developed “tips and tricks” to help their students pass. They were merely placing a mask on the problem, instead of taking the time to identify where each student struggled and develop a plan to help them grow.
Learning Loss Is an Iceberg Problem
Student achievement, especially in math, is based on cumulative knowledge. If a student falls behind in learning one concept, there is a good chance the same student will continue to struggle as they move through the education system. This is known as the Iceberg Problem, a concept detailed by New Classrooms Innovation Partners. The organization’s solution to fixing the Iceberg Problem is Teach to One: Math (TTO).
TTO is an innovative learning approach that allows each student to achieve success through their own personalized learning plan. It addresses the gaps from learning loss and fixes them, so every student becomes college and career ready.
Recently, the topic of learning loss has become headline news as the 2019–2020 school year came to a close much too early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The problem is that learning loss isn’t new, but the solutions that TTO provides are helping students succeed, and the approach has been a lifesaver for continuing education in a remote learning environment.
Last month, New Classrooms discussed the issue of learning loss with two educators from Mildred Osborne Charter School in New Orleans. Jolene Galpin, executive director, and Matt Driscoll, director of curriculum and instruction of math, shared how the Iceberg Problem affects their students’ success and how TTO has helped close learning gaps.
When Learning Loss Becomes an Issue
In the interview, Driscoll pointed out that many students are behind when they first start school in kindergarten, but the problem is really identified in the fourth grade and is heightened when students reach the sixth grade.
Driscoll’s experience isn’t unique. New Classrooms’ research identifies that “many students enter middle school with significant learning gaps from their time in elementary school.” Once students begin middle-grade math, if they do not understand the concepts from previous grades, they have a tougher time processing new concepts, pushing them further behind on grade-level proficiency.
Driscoll said that “at the highest level, education needs more funding,” but importantly, schools need to reimagine what the teaching experience can look like and how they can affect change now. He also said that creating personalized learning solutions to focus on teaching the whole child can be a valuable resource for individual student success.
The Teach to One approach meets students where they are, moving them toward grade-level proficiency in a way that is tailored to their unique abilities.
Taking a Hard Look at the Current Education Model
Galpin is encouraged by publications like “The Iceberg Problem” and the attention that is being placed on learning loss as a result of COVID-19. Her team is already in the planning stages for the fall and is looking for solutions to ensure that students are engaged in progressive learning.
Galpin wants to stay ahead of student and staff needs and concerns. “Professional development will be focused around supporting personalized learning, more effective individual student goal-setting and progress monitoring, and assessing the current programs we have and how we are utilizing them,” she said.
She also shared that policymakers are now in a unique position to question the current education model and should focus on collaborating with educators and other district and state leaders to create solutions that focus on overall student growth and success.
About New Classrooms Innovation Partners
New Classrooms Innovation Partners is an independent, national nonprofit that is on a mission to personalize the learning experience of students across the country by transforming the traditional education setting. Co-founders Joel Rose and Chris Rush developed a dynamic approach to student engagement and learning called Teach to One: Math (TTO).
TTO is an award-winning educational approach that provides a personalized learning solution, meeting students where they are and elevating them to become college and career ready. TTO has designed an open-concept classroom, including the development of Math Innovation Zones, and applies technology, independent learning, and collaborative learning approaches to help students understand daily curriculum.
Prior to launching Teach to One: Math, Rose and Rush developed School of One, a middle-grade math modality designed to improve students’ learning experiences within the New York City Public School system. School of One was named Best Invention of the Year by Time magazine in 2009.
The success of School of One helped the team build Teach to One: Math as an approach that can be adopted by schools nationwide. Teach to One: Math ensures that students are learning the right math lesson, at the right time, and in the right way that meets their individual needs.
To learn more about New Classrooms Innovation Partners and Teach to One: