Teachers in the younger grades are finding out that a reorganized classroom encourages targeted learning and teacher collaboration. Teachers at Las Palmas Elementary School in National City are test driving a program called KnewSpace that re-imagines the traditional classroom. It takes the educational resources at hand — staff, students, space and schedule — and rejiggers them to deliver more targeted instruction to students and a more collaborative spirit for the teachers.
KnewSpace was created by Alpine resident and veteran educator and former superintendent Albert Haven. He recognized early in his career that the “one size fits all approach” with the teacher at the center of the experience was not adequately preparing children for the future. Two years ago, he launched his pilot program at Creekside Early Learning Center in Alpine.
“Classrooms are inconsistent because of the way we organize them,” Haven said. “The teacher has to do every single thing in there. The closest thing I can think of is a one-man band … everything takes total concentration, every piece of the body is moving, you’ve got four or five instruments going at once.”
With KnewSpace, Haven broke up the band.
Instead of the typical ratio of one teacher to 24 or more students, the KnewSpace system pools the teachers and masses all the students in a particular grade level — such as Las Palmas’ 96 second graders and six classroom and impact teachers — and divvies them up into teachable groups.
Las Palmas has four learning space configurations in which 1 teacher presides over about 20 students working at computers; another teacher supervises a large group occupied with independent study; 1 teacher helps another 20 or so students with project learning; and 3 teachers with 6 students each engage in small group learning where the kids are organized according to similar learning level.
Las Palmas Elementary Principal Steven Sanchez first saw KnewSpace in action last spring at Creekside when his brother invited him to see how well his nephew was doing in the new kindergarten program there. What Sanchez saw was a possible solution to bolstering his second grade where fully half of the students had fallen far enough behind to need “response to intervention” instruction from a specialized impact teacher.
Las Palmas is a classic inner city school. Built in the mid-1950s and situated next to the busy I-805, it has 725 K-6 students. Nearly all of them are socio-economically disadvantaged; 74 percent are English language learners, many of whom only speak Spanish.
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