Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools
n Detroit, parents have a lot of difficult realities to face. Fortunately, the poor educational system is not one of those realities, because Detroit offers families school choice. One of these choice schools, located seven miles outside of Detroit, is Clintondale High School. With the motto “changing education, one class, one student, at a time.”
Just over 500 students are enrolled at Clintondale, most of whom are from the Detroit area. One of the things that these students have in common is that they are, as Principal Greg Green said, “just people looking for a change.” Green said that these are students who have struggled in traditional academic environments and are “looking for something more supportive.” That’s exactly what they find at Clintondale, which is a school which has entirely flipped their classrooms.
In a flipped model, teachers provide video lectures to students that are available at any time, and then work to build on that base knowledge while they’re at school rather than in homework. Flipping the status quo means that teachers get more time to work with students and ensure that they are on the right track, right from the beginning. If students need to refresh that information, they can always watch the lecture again. It also means that students always receive their lecture from the best teacher. “if one math teacher is better at explaining calculus while another specializes in geometry, why not have them share lectures with each other?” Green told CNN.
Not only does this make the educational process more effective for teachers and students, it also eases the minds of parents. Green said, “Parents don’t have to be a chemistry teacher at home anymore.” When a student is applying their knowledge, the teacher is there to guide them. “I want an expert right there,” said Green, “the first time a kid is learning.” As many of these students are “kids from urban areas who struggled before, or didn’t have support outside of school,” this more hands-on approach makes all the difference, as teachers find that a flipped classroom means “getting through to a child much more quickly,” with a personalized learning experience.
Teachers have also noticed the difference. Science teacher Rob Townsend told the Center for Digital Education that homework used to be a major stumbling block. “If they were doing it at home, they would get frustrated and just stop doing it.” Since flipping the classrooms, things are different. “Now they know where their mistake was, and they can immediately fix that perception in their head.” Not only that, but it means he can teach more effectively. “The great thing is,” he said, “if I go around the classroom and three or four kids are having difficulty with a certain problem, I can stop class right there and reteach it.”
Clintondale wasn’t always a flipped high school. As a school which receives traditional public funding, they really had to think through the change, but they knew a change had to be made. In evaluating their freshman class, 52% were failing english and 44% were failing math. That number was 41% in science and 28% in social studies. Clearly, something had to be done. It was a risky decision to make such a drastic change, but “our kids are worth it,” said Green, “the real risk is not doing anything at all.” So, four years ago, they moved ahead with flipping the classrooms.
They had realized that, after graduation, students would come back to visit their coachers, but not their teachers. In looking into why that was, they realized that it was because coaches are able to take time with the kids and build personal relationships. Teaching in a flipped classroom is “similar to coaching. The basketball coach is right there to correct the mistake.” In fact, in a flipped model, teachers are able to quadruple the time spent with each individual student. Working together builds relationships, and that helps students to thrive.
The results have spoken for themselves. Green has noticed that “students are more engaged,” and disciplinary actions have gone down 300% (they had been dealing with more than 700 disciplinary cases in a single semester). Failure rates have also dropped drastically, by 33% in the first year alone (from 52% to 19% in English, from 44% to 13% in math, from 41% to 19% in science, and from 28% to 9% in social studies). This, in turn, boosted the graduation rate from 80% to 90% (vs a statewide average of 76%). 81% of graduates now attend college, which is a 17% growth in college-bound graduates in just 4 years. Attendance hovers at around 93%, which is especially impressive when one considers that some students take three city busses to school every morning, which can mean traveling more than an hour each way. The school is comprised of 70% African-American students and, for many of Clintondale’s families, their graduate will be the first in their family to do so.
With flipped classrooms, Clintondale has taken their school out of the box. They are now there for their students in new ways and, said Green, “we can control our own destiny as a school now.” Fortunately for these Michigan families, they can control a little more of their own destiny, too, through school choice.
Top photo: YouTube screenshot of Principal Greg Green