Blending Learning Pilots Take Off with Cisco Foundation and MIND Research Institute

st math photo 3Meeting every student’s academic needs in the classroom can be challenging but is essential to their success. Many of the public middle schools Citizen Schools partners with are reaching students who are academically all over the map, with many falling below grade level. In order to provide customized support to the highest-need students, we began “blended learning” pilots this year focused on core math instruction. Blended learning, which pairs computer-aided instruction with face-to-face classroom methods, enables Citizen Schools’ staff in four pilot programs across the country to offer more personalized and more efficient academic support during the expanded learning day. Partnered with Cisco Foundation and MIND Research Institute, the blending learning math program utilizes Spatial-Temporal (ST) Math instructional software to focus on improving students’ math skills, with the aim of increasing student proficiency for long-term success.

st math photo 2Launched this September, over 350 students are utilizing the ST Math instructional software at four schools across the country. And after 3 months of implementing the pilots, the initial feedback and support from our school partners is positive.

At Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury, MA, Citizen Schools’ staff members are collaborating with teachers throughout the whole school day to align ST Math with the scope and sequence of their school day math lessons. The head of Orchard Gardens’ math department shared, “ST Math is a great tool and resource. It will be effective when used to review and practice what is being done in class".

On the other side of the country in Oakland, CA, Greenleaf Academy requested to expand and integrate the software for a small group of 5th graders after implementing it successfully with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

st math photo 1In East Palo Alto, CA, partner school Cesar Chavez Academy, developed a special “small group” learning environment to offer additional time for English Language Learners who cannot access instruction as easily because of language barriers. Ricardo Benavidez, Community Relations Manager with Cisco, recently visited this school and commented, “With ST Math, students play animated games designed to increase math comprehension and proficiency while promoting student persistence and self-confidence to solve problems.”

Through pilots like ST Math and partnerships with organizations like Cisco and MIND Research Institute, Citizen Schools is able to provide customized learning experiences for students at all levels, ensuring they’re armed with the knowledge needed to succeed in high school, college, and the 21st century workforce.


Citizen Teacher of the Month: Radhika Rajgarhia

Every week, thousands of professionals from across the country are inspiring middle schools students to dream big. These volunteer “Citizen Teachers” lead students on a 10-week path to discovery, working with them on hands-on projects that transcend the traditional classroom experience. They are helping to close the gaps between students and successful futures by giving their time and expertise. We are excited to introduce a new series to our blog-- Citizens Inspired-- which is a chance to celebrate the impact of service and thank one outstanding Citizen Teacher every month for changing students’ lives.

047dd0bAlthough she didn’t know what to expect on the first day back in a middle school, Radhika Rajgarhia was an instant hit with the students in her afternoon “apprenticeship” class. As a former elementary school teacher who taught in under-served public schools, she knows first hand about the disparity between schools that are rich with opportunities and schools that are under-resourced.

After her teaching career, Radhika and her husband founded an education technology company called Second Nature Learning, which creates apps to teach middle and high school students about personal finance. With a deep passion for increasing educational opportunities for students, Radhika felt an instant connection to Citizen Schools and immediately signed up to volunteer.

In the classroom, Radhika has already made a huge impact on students, using her own innovative technology to help students increase math proficiency, while learning important skills to carry them through college and beyond. Through fun, engaging games students from all backgrounds are able to learn complex math concepts and apply them to real-world scenarios like monthly budgeting and how to save for college.

We are proud to feature Radhika as our first Citizen Teacher of the Month. Thank you for helping students in San Jose discover and achieve their dreams!

Meet Radhika...

Apprenticeship: Show Me the Money at Joseph George Middle School, San Jose, California

1. What is your “WOW” moment from the experience so far?

One of our lessons was so engaging and fun. We played a game of “Who Wants to be  Budgeteer?” and the students were so engaged and jumping out of their seats. The app we used has a real-time assessment built in, and at the end, the dashboard showed us that all of the students understood the content. It was so incredible to see them having fun with math and learning in a really hands-on way. The kids are so eager to learn and they just need to be connected to the right resources.

2. Why are you proud to be a Citizen Teacher?

Mentoring is very important, especially for middle school students in these communities. They might not have access to role models, or they might be the first in their family to go to college--there are so many things going on in their lives. Being there with them in the classroom is the best way to give back. Building those relationships over ten weeks and helping them discover what they want to do in their lives is an incredible experience. It’s inspiring to be a part of it. It’s probably the biggest impact you can make on somebody's life.

You can make an impact by signing up to teach an apprenticeship. You might be our next Citizen Teacher of the month!

Working Overtime to Impact Students

Ann Lambert - Second Year Teaching Fellow - Irving Middle School Roslindale, MA

At Citizen Schools we like to think of ourselves as “second shift” educators.  Teachers have the first shift in the morning and early afternoon.  We take the second shift in the late afternoon and evening.  And parent’s take the third—the night shift.  Collectively, we’re the triple crown of influencers, if you will (If you won’t… oh well).

I see it a little differently.  In my eyes, I work a little during all three shifts—and then some.  The deal is this:  when I’m not teaching, I’m prepping.  When I’m not prepping, I’m grading.  When I’m not grading, I’m making family phone calls.  When I’m not making family phone calls I’m thinking… “I should probably be making family phone calls…”  And when I’m not doing that… I’M DREAMING ABOUT WORK.  You can’t escape your students.

The other day I was riding the bus home from work with my headphones in, taking Eminem’s advice to “lose myself in the music”, unwinding, and thinking about what I was going to cook for dinner.  My phone rings: unknown number.  “Hello?”.... "Hi, Ms. Lambert!  It’s Sabrina!”  Sabrina, if you can picture it, is one of the tiniest, cutest little sixth graders in my class.  She usually wears pig tails or a high pony, has a stutter but still wants to talk a mile a minute, and does everything with the utmost spunk that a teacher could ask for.

…. "Ummm, I’m at my grandma’s and my mom’s taking my sister to some high school night and nobody knows how to help me with my math homework.  I was going to call my math teacher but then I remembered I wrote your number in my notebook.  Can you help?”  Of course I could.  As I got off my bus at the usual stop and walked the ten minutes to my apartment, I coached Sabrina through problems one and two: mean and median.  As I walked through the door and dropped my stuff, I put the phone on speaker and began to cook dinner while we worked through problems three and four to find the mode and range of the same data set.  She thanked me when we were done and said she’d see me tomorrow; I ate dinner, answered emails, called a few parents, and went to bed only to follow a similar routine the next day.

I’m definitely not complaining.  I hung up that phone feeling elated that a.) a student felt comfortable enough to call me for help, b.) I was able to assist her in correctly completing her homework and c.) my attempts to connect with my students on a more personal level were not in vain.  However, I do stand by my conviction that the term “second shift” educator is an understatement.  When you are working with children in any capacity, if you have a pulse, it is going to consume you and infiltrate most other aspects of your life.  Whether you’re doing actual work, or simply thinking about a student, worrying about a student, or blogging about a student on a Sunday afternoon—I hate to break it to you: you’re working overtime.

I am a multiple shift educator.  Clocking out?  What’s that?

Share stories, in the comments section, of when working overtime turned into a rewarding experience for you!