Just 160 miles from California’s Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the tech industry, is Fresno Unified School District (FUSD), located in the farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley. Many of the 72,000 students come from immigrant families from all over the world, a fourth of them English language learners. The work ethic in this community is high – more than 17,000 the students participate in honors and other accelerated programs. But with more than 80 percent of the students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, many do not own computers.
Brandon Dorman is a talented math teacher at FUSD, as well as a champion of technology, currently on assignment working with the district’s middle schools to help teachers tap into the technology tools that will help their students meet the Common Core State Standards. He also serves on our Advisory Board at OpenEd, a startup my wife, Lisa Blum, and I co-founded two years ago to meet a growing need for high-quality resources that are easily accessible and aligned to the Common Core.
Connecting a Student With the Right Resources, at the Right Time
Last summer, when Brandon was teaching math courses in FUSD’s summer school program, he introduced his students to a number of technology tools – from online presentation products to OpenEd. When one of his students, “Paul,” became ill and had to miss a couple of days of class, the student remembered seeing that OpenEd also had a free app, Common Core Quest, that he could download on his phone to help him keep up with his coursework. This comprehensive quiz and instructional resource tool gives students easy access, through Android and Apple phones and tablets, to more than a million curated resources that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards. When Paul had difficulty understanding a concept, he could click on “resources,” and a video would pop up that explained precisely what he needed to know. As he progressed, he was engaged in learning, earning ribbons for each Common Core standard met, and badges for entire strands.
Consequently, Paul was able to keep up with assignments during his absence and complete the summer math course with flying colors. And his success did not end there. With summer school long behind him now, Paul continues to turn to Common Core Quest, clicking on “resources” whenever he needs to learn more about any concept, and Brandon continues to receive reports on Paul’s progress. With this resource at his fingertips, this student who struggled in math last year – to the point that he had to repeat it in the summer – is now ahead of the rest of his math class.
Helping Every Student Succeed
Paul’s success illustrates how we can change student outcomes by personalizing learning with the right resources at the right time. When a child misses a concept, especially in a subject in which they build on one another, he can quickly find himself in a downward spiral. It’s imperative that we catch kids before they’re floundering and losing confidence in their ability to succeed.
With upwards of 25 students in a class, no teacher – no matter how skilled – has the bandwidth to detect and fill every learning gap in every student on his or her own. At OpenEd, we are committed to providing teachers with the tools they need, for free, connecting assessment and resources to help students meet the Common Core State Standards.
While there may be some controversy around the Common Core, it is being implemented in the vast majority of states. This is a time of transformation in the quality of education that we provide for students in this country, and in our expectations for achievement. As today’s students will compete in an increasingly global workforce, it’s more crucial than ever before that they meet and exceed rigorous learning goals, such as those delineated in the Common Core.
By personalizing instruction with the right resources and providing them to students at the right time, teachers can help students meet today’s learning goals and achieve their highest potential. Together, we can ensure all students are prepared for the world that awaits them.
Adam Blum OpenEd CEO and co-founder Adam Blum has been VP of Engineering/CTO/CEO of several successful startups, including Rhomobile (acquired by Motorola), Good Technology (acquired by Motorola), Systinet (acquired by Mercury/HP), and Commerce One. He is the author of several books on various computer science topics and has been an adjunct professor at the University of California-Berkeley and Carnegie-Mellon University.