Author Archive | Livi Stanford

Palm Beach personalized learning program gives students ownership

Students in Geniel Joseph’s fourth-grade Accelerated Math class are performing exceedingly well on FSA’s.

Students were asked to solve the multiplication problem 24 times 36 in Geniel Joseph’s fourth-grade Accelerated Math class in Palm Beach County, Fla.

Joseph wrote on the wipe board one way they could solve it: by breaking apart 36 into 30-plus-six and 20-plus-four.

Then, she said, they could use the distributive property to multiply 30 times 20 and 30 times 4, and then 6 times 20 and 6 times 4 to get the answer.

She then stepped away from the wipe board and asked students to discuss among themselves how best to come to the answer.

Instead of choosing the method Joseph modeled, students began thinking of other ways that they could come to the answer.

One student theorized that instead of breaking apart the 20 and 4, they can focus on adding two 10s plus 4.

Joseph remained available if students needed help, but she urged them to find the answer on their own. And the students found many ways to solve the math problem with their classmates’ help. They explored their own methods to reach solutions to complex problems. In the process, they took ownership of their learning.

School officials in Palm Beach are learning that when they give students choice, students become animated and focused. At schools like Seminole Trails Elementary, where Joseph teaches, they often excel academically. The district’s new accelerated math program gives them the freedom to decide how they will solve math problems. It also lets them pick up the pace, so they’re constantly doing challenging work.

The hope is that eventually, they’ll complete more than a year’s worth of math coursework in a year’s time, setting them up to take algebra classes in middle school, and, if they’re up for it, multiple years of college-level math in high school. Continue Reading →


Building character at St. Vincent

Students at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School learn about character development, which is taught in every area of the school.

What happens when you don’t tell the truth? What are the consequences? How does it affect your life?

Fourth-graders at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School in Delray Beach pondered these questions while reading the Newberry Honor-winning novel On My Honor.  The story centers on a boy named Joel whose friend drowns while they are swimming in a dangerous river.

During the discussion, students were asked to weigh in on Joel’s decision to hide the truth about the drowning.

“Lying makes it worse,” one student chimed in.

Another student said: “You don’t value your friends until they’re gone.”

Students at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School were discussing Marion Bauer’s book because it is one of many that focuses on the development of character. At St. Vincent, the school’s theme, Build a Better World by Building a Better You, is taught throughout the school: in classroom projects, curriculum and activities.

“We are under construction,” said Vikki Delgado, principal at St. Vincent. “Sometimes we fail, but we get up and try again.” Continue Reading →


How Montessori education can help low-income students

Emerging Minds Montessori Academy school officials say low-income students fare better with a Montessori education.

Sitting on the floor cross-legged with his hands to his sides, the student was focused. He had a long division problem to solve.

But he was not going to solve it the conventional way, with a pad of paper and a pen.

The student took several squares with numbers on them and arranged them physically on the floor, so he could count them out and visually come to the answer. The multi-colored squares each represented different numbers: 1000s, 100s and 10s.

Rows of squares lined the floor vertically and horizontally as the student worked through the problem 4518 divided by 6, coming to the answer: 753.

He grinned. Other students around him were also sitting on the ground solving their own math problems. In another classroom, students were having a book discussion, and in another, they were learning to write essays.  Teachers served as facilitators, while students took ownership of their learning by choosing the lessons they wanted to learn. They worked independently.

Students of all backgrounds can excel at Emerging Minds Montessori School in Boca Raton, Fla. The school groups children ages 3-6 grouped together, as well as 6-9-year-olds and 9-to-12-year olds. School officials say they focus on the needs of the whole child. They emphasize hands-on-activities and self-directed learning. When students arrive at the school behind academically, they often catch up in a few years’ time. A study released by the University of Virginia showed that Montessori schools help keep pace with their peers — where, with other educational models, they often fall behind.

“In my opinion, because children who come from lower income families don’t have the same family support the student needs a more enriched environment,” said Jeanne Weigel, head of school academics at Emerging Minds. “It is a self-motivating curriculum that allows the children to follow their already holistic needs.” Continue Reading →


New report sheds light on challenges of implementing personalized learning

A new study has found personalized learning is strongly supported by teachers, but often lacks an innovative environment to succeed.

For two years, Betheny Gross and Michael DeArmond at the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) studied schools, districts and external organizations that received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to implement personalized learning in their classrooms.

Two of those districts — Lake and Pinellas Counties — are in Florida.

CRPE researchers surveyed 4,508 teachers, observed classrooms in 39 schools and conducted more than 450 interviews with superintendents, principals, teachers and office staff. Continue Reading →


Collaboration between traditional public and charter schools is critical

Several superintendents from different parts of the country told an audience at the National Alliance For Public Charter Schools conference that it is critical charter schools and traditional public schools work together to meet the needs of all students.

Pedro Martinez, superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District, said it is important leaders do not get bogged down in philosophical debates.

“Let’s focus on what matters,” Martinez said. “How do we create options that are inclusive?”

The superintendents were speaking on a panel about how they have been able to overcome obstacles and work together with charters.  The discussion centered around three principles key to advancing choice: equitable access; transparent indicators of quality and equitable funding. But the superintendents acknowledged in working together, there were challenges that may impede that progress. Continue Reading →


Top teacher: Education can be a tool for social justice

Sydney Chaffee, 2017 National Teacher of the Year, spoke about the importance of empowering students to become active and engaged citizens.

AUSTIN, Tex. – Sydney Chaffee has taught her students about apartheid in South Africa.

But students simply do not take notes and answer questions.

They probe deep questions about morality and justice.

“My students draw comparisons between South African kids’ activities and their own power and promise as young people,” said Chaffee, the 2017 National Teacher of the Year. “They debate whether they would be willing to risk their lives to ensure future generations can live in a more just world.”

Chaffee, a humanities teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School in Boston, was one of the main speakers at the closing session of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools Wednesday. Continue Reading →


Innovation is key to the future of success of charter schools

Charter schools must continue to innovate to meet the needs of students.

This was the message at the heart of the first day of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools annual conference.

“Some worry that schools are becoming too conventional,” said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools during the annual conference. “We need to keep dreaming big and we need to turn those dreams into action.”

It is about finding innovative ways to educate students, offering parents a variety of public school options and giving inspired leaders the freedom to organize their schools, Rees said. Continue Reading →


Growing up as an immigrant fueled this Catholic school principal’s passion

Vikki Delgado tries to create a welcoming school environment at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School.

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Vikki Delgado remembers the difficulty her father experienced when he settled the family of six in America.

Living as a Cuban immigrant, he faced backlash. But he sought to bring his family out of Cuba in 1959 just as Fidel Castro was coming to power.

“There was pushback,” Delgado said.  People thought “my dad was coming to take jobs away. That somehow opening doors to others is going to take something away from them.”

“You would see signs against Cubans,” she added. “I saw how polarizing that can be.”

The family of six settled in Miami in 1968 after spending a few years in Ohio. He left his home of Cuba right as Fidel Castro emerged in power in 1959.

Arriving in the United States at the age of 3, Delgado did not know a word of English. She began to learn the language at the age of 5 through TV programs such as Captain Kangaroo.

In her 20s, she saw the nativist backlash against the Mariel Boatlift and race riots in Liberty City. Such events affected her deeply.

Delgado is now the leader of St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School in Delray Beach, Fla. The strife she witnessed in her youth fuels her drive to create a school where all are welcome. Like in Florida Catholic schools as a whole, the student population at her school has grown increasingly diverse.

When she first became principal at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School in 2008 there were few minority students at the school. Continue Reading →