George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Editor's Note: Dr. Lourenco Garcia, Adjunct Professor at Northeastern University and Principal of Revere High School, co-authored this post.

In just two years, Revere High School (RHS) went from a low-performing school as classified by the Massachusetts Department of Education to winning the 2014 High School Gold Award at the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) conference in San Diego. This past April, the school also ranked Silver on a U.S. News and World Report survey of the best U.S. high schools. With a population of approximately 1,500 students, 60 percent of whom are of color and 71 percent of whom are low-income, RHS is a national example of the type of programmatic systems change needed to move our schools forward.

RHS students outscored the state average on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test this year. Its dropout rate fell to 2.1 percent while its attendance rate climbed to 95 percent -- averages higher than the district and even the entire state. Surveys administered to RHS students and their parents have consistently indicated an overall satisfaction with the teaching and learning that goes on inside its walls. While we know that satisfaction surveys are not as important as student learning gains, these are still welcome and leading indicators of improvement.

But how does a school that was among the lowest performing in the state experience such a dramatic turnaround in such a short time?

There are plenty of evidence-based recommendations for how to quickly optimize student achievement in low-performing schools, but an entry point for a broader, deeper systems change at RHS was to redesign its educational system and adopt blended learning.

1. Shifting the Teaching and Learning

Adopting a blended learning environment requires taking a holistic look at the entire school community -- students, teachers, staff, and parents -- and making changes that allow each of these groups to buy into the shift.

The first thing RHS did was to adopt flipped learning as a teaching model. In a flipped learning classroom, students might be assigned to create a multimedia presentation of their interpretation of Shakespeare's Hamlet. This is just an example of how learners develop ownership of learning. The lesson for students is determining how to present and deliver information to a group and initiate substantive dialogue -- the presentation itself is the test. One hundred percent of RHS' teachers are certified in flipped learning.

All administrators and teachers use iWalkthrough to collect data and observe and improve their skills. This Web-based device helps teachers capture and share classroom activities online, and receive instantaneous feedback on their implementation of a lesson. Teachers also use it to observe each other's classes, as well as identifying potential areas for further professional development and finding support through professional learning groups (PLGs), which were established to help teachers help each other.

2. Shifting the Culture

Each teacher needed to know how to use an iPad and a SMARTBoard as platforms for daily instruction. Some PLGs went out of state to expand their understanding of flipped learning and how to change instruction from teacher-directed to student-centered.

Then RHS implemented a 1:1 iPad program that plugged all students and faculty into the new learning system, allowing the school to surge forward into becoming a model of 21st century education. The iPad program gives teachers 24-hour access to Schoology, an online hub for posting lectures, uploading videos, and sharing assignments. Students can also access Schoology -- any time and from anywhere. Additionally, the school uses PowerSchool, an online platform for storing and accessing information such as attendance records, grades, and evaluations. All of this has helped to endorse the philosophical premise that learning can take place anywhere and at any time.

3. Embracing the Change

The library culture was also altered for successful implementation of blended learning. Unlike old school libraries, where talking or interacting might cost a student his or her class credit, it's impossible not to communicate in the Learning Commons (formerly known as the RHS library). Equipped with broadband wireless capabilities and Internet access, this flexible space is where students and teachers convene to plan lessons, deliver instruction, and complete assignments. As a physical space, the Commons enforces, in a tangible way, the flexible nature of learning. There are often multiple workshops taking place concurrently here. For instance, in one corner, a college representative might be meeting with a group of students; in another corner, parents may be interacting with teachers; students might be completing their language assignment in a third corner; or they may be filming a video for a class assignment in a fourth corner.

The Learning Commons also has a Genius Bar where students work one-hour shifts and receive internship credit for providing technical assistance to people seeking help with their iPads.

Blended learning has changed the school and the community of Revere. Whether in classrooms or in the Learning Commons, at home or in restaurants, or while traveling by train or by airplane, students know they can learn anywhere and at any time. Families in the community see the school providing equal access and opportunity for their children. Having shifted three key dimensions of any school -- the teaching and learning, the system structures, and the culture -- RHS is now an emerging exemplar not only of blended learning, but also the steps we must take to grow this strong model across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and even the nation.

Has your school undergone similar transformations? Please tell us about it in the comments.

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Aaron Cook's picture

The story in this report resonated with me and my current setting quite deeply as we suffer from similar levels of disengagement and the inherent conditions of reflective socioeconomic groups. Like this story, we're also trying to move mountains in order to enact meaningful change. I was hoping, therefore, that there might be a broader report on this setting that documented pedagogies, social programs, P.D's etc etc. or at least a channel of communication with the movers and shakers of this school or other similar programs people might know of?? any help would be appreciated.
P.s if anyone knows of any Universal Design for Learning programs being used, that too would help.

RAmrhein's picture

I connected to your post for many reasons. I am currently teaching in a Title I school in Charleston, South Carolina. We have been an at risk school for a few years, just recently moving to below average on our state report card. I look at our school and I see all the ingredients for success, but at times we struggle with the right recipe to achieve that success. We are on the road to becoming and IB school along with utilizing personalized learning. Just as your post mentioned, we too have 1:1 iPads, 100% of our teaching staff has received preliminary IB training, and we use Powerschool to track attendance, grades, and demographics.
Part of our struggle, I believe, is a high turn over rate of teachers, students, and administration, along with low parental involvement. We have a new principal and AP this year and I am looking forward to their commitment to the school. In this year alone, we have seen significant drops in referrals and an increase in critical thinking within the classroom. I can only hope that our journey continues in this direction as yours did. Thank you for sharing- your story provides inspiration!

Greg Green's picture

I am so happy for Revere High School and their success in transforming their school. They were a terrific group to visit with at Clintondale "Flipped" School. We exchanged so many ideas and I want to congratulate them on their success.

kwilms's picture

In my school we did a similar idea as Hamlet, although it was in 3rd grade. Students had to create a "fractured fairy tale." The idea is to take a fairy tale (i.e. The 3 Pigs) and make a different story with the same plot. The students were really into Grumpy Cat so we had a lot of "Grumpy Cat and the 3 somethings". Some students did stories based on aliens, penguins, and all sorts of animals. Although the story of the 3 pigs was a popular one, some students would do Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.

After explaining this concept, students had to first write their story. After having an adult edit their work, they created slides using Microsoft Paint. They took these slides and put them into Windows Movie Maker, adding voice and music to their creation. After the students were done, they shared their videos on the Google Drive server where the teacher could have access to it. The students even shared the videos with other grades so they had access to them. It was a lot of fun for the students and taught them about technology, sharing of ideas, creating something, and writing.

The school I'm at now does not have the technical opportunities that these kids had (mainly, each kid does not get their own computer). Trying to find ways to incorporate blended learning into a poorer district is a challenge and your blog post gave me some good ideas on how to do this.

Miomir Rajcevic's picture
Miomir Rajcevic
New Models of Education for Crucial Generation

We are very interested to cooperate with Revere High School (RHS) and other schools with experience in Blended Learning, Flipping classroom and Urban Pedagogy... our Summer workshop is part of the Danube Peace Boat 2016-2020 named "Traveling, Source for Learning through Cultural Discovery". More on our flip flyer and our web site
Warm regards from Serbia, Europe

Imani19's picture

I think that the implementation of technology was a really great step for Revere High School to take. Since so many students these days are connected to using technology in one way or another in their daily lives, it was clever to take something that most students are already very familiar with and apply it to learning. Teens especially spend so much time interacting on cell phones and the internet.Why not use it as a device which can allow them to have interactions with their teachers and complete assignments? However, I am curious to know what is done for students who do not have access to broadband outside of the school house and local libraries?

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