The world of education technology is rapidly expanding every day, with new innovations being made towards developing and improving online platforms for learning. A group of fifth grade students at Furman Templeton Preparatory were lucky enough to be able to experience these innovations first hand when their Teacher, Geoffrey R. Meehle, decided to invest in the online tutoring service GradeSlam.
Furman Templeton Preparatory Academy is located in Baltimore, Maryland. The demographics of the school are specific; with 95.2% of the student population qualifying for the free lunch program, indicating their family income is below $15,171 per year (below 130% of the poverty line). `As children from low income families often face learning difficulties and challenges to their academic success which further the cycle of poverty, understanding the utility of educational technologies such as GradeSlam to schools with low income demographics is vital.
For Meehle, finding tools and resources that can help the students is crucial in helping them get into the best possible middle and high schools. Anything that is introduced needed to be easy to setup and use. Enter GradeSlam. Initially the plan was to use GradeSlam in conjunction with an after-school tutoring group he had started for his fifth graders. The intention was to try to help students improve on their iReady state assessments. The students’ scores on these assessments are a critical indicator for where they will be accepted for middle school.
His expectations for the service at this point were that it would provide the students with a more comprehensive learning experience than what was offered solely within their school environment. Meehle also saw the potential to increase the student’s familiarity with the computer as a learning tool, increase homework completion, and increase the students scores on their progress monitoring assessment.
Making the decision to use GradeSlam wasn’t without risks. Anytime a new technology is introduced there is uncertainty, but for Meehle he couldn’t sit on the sidelines and keep doing things the way they had always done them. His students success was most important and he firmly believed that a positive impact would be had by introducing the support.
Over a period of 6 months, Meehle’s group of students had access to GradeSlam, 24/7. For many, their access was limited to use at school as they had no internet at home. Quickly it became evident to Meehle that GradeSlam was having an impact. Students were motivated, confident and felt that they had a safety net to help them succeed.
After the 6 months of having access to GradeSlam, the iReady assessment date came. All eyes were on the impact that GS would have. Meehle had taken a risk and tried something new - going out on a limb because he believed that the flexibility of GradeSlam would have an impact.
Meehle’s bet paid off. Not only did his students outperform students who didn’t have GS access, their overall improvement on their benchmark assessments was 30% higher than their peers. He credits GradeSlam for inciting “rich conversation” in the school about extended, gifted and advanced learning.
Mr. Meehle cites several positive aspects of his and his students’ experience with GradeSlam. Primarily, he describes how enthusiastic the students were about using GradeSlam, specifically in being able to speak to a real person to answer their questions immediately. Furthermore, he praises the flexibility of the GradeSlam tutors and team in tailoring the service to his and the students’ needs. While there was initially some difficulty with the implementation of the service for his students, he found that the tech team was very competent in addressing this. Meehle states that “he could not ask for anything more” in regards to communication and responsiveness from the GradeSlam team.
Meehle wishes to partner with the service again in the future for a longer period of time in order to monitor the effect it has on students’ learning between third and fifth grade. Overall, he describes the implementation of GradeSlam with his students as successful.