Maximizing student learning in math during the pandemic with Ojai Unified School District's Superintendent
In March, Dr. Tiffany Morse, Superintendent at California’s Ojai Unified School District joined us to present her district’s experience during the pandemic using Levered’s online core curriculum for elementary math at the Center for Educational Innovation’s Conference, as well as the National Education Summit for the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. Morse started her career as a middle school math and science teacher and spent time working at the California Department of Education and the Ventura County Office of Education before becoming the Superintendent in Ojai. Dr. Morse carries a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and was recently named the California Region 13 Superintendent of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators.
Finding Levered Learning
Levered’s co-founders, Joshua and Mitch, met Morse at the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators Summer Institute. Mitch was presenting a session on Levered’s impact on state test scores in our fourth-grade cohort in Chula Vista, San Diego. Morse wasn’t hunting for a new job and filed away what she had seen at the conference. In 2019, Morse took the job of Superintendent at Ojai Unified School District and immediately told her team what she had seen in Levered, “Hey, there’s this really cool math program and I noticed our math student achievement is much lower than it should be. Like most districts, we struggle with math in elementary. I want to bring in this program.”
The wrinkle, as is often the case with change, was that the district had just adopted Bridges Math. Morse’s Assistant Superintendent told her,
“We’re just getting started in Bridges. We just have it, you know, we’re like in our second year. What if we pilot Levered in addition to Bridges?” Morse, knowing that Levered is a complete curriculum product decided to get started so her team could experience Levered’s approach first hand. Morse wanted to dive in as soon as possible so she set up training, with a pilot starting in the summer of 2019.
Levered as a core curriculum
By the time the school year started, Levered was being implemented as a core program district-wide.
Reflecting on the transition, Morse commented,
“It’s is a real mindset shift for people to get around that this computer program is not just supplemental and it's really not just a computer program, but this is your curriculum because a lot of our teachers think of curriculum is like a workbook that you hold in your hands.” Getting an entire district up and running using Levered requires only a couple hours of teacher training to get the basics of the intuitive, grade-book style, interface, which is followed by video support and an additional check-in after a month of using the program. On the ease of transition, Morse said, “In our second year into Bridges, our teachers still weren't fully utilizing the intervention pieces, the extension pieces, and they felt like they were missing some content areas.” Now, after having Levered in schools, she went back to her teachers to see if they thought Levered was comprehensive enough, “And ‘to a ‘T’ every teacher said, ‘Absolutely! I love that I could just get started and that all those pieces were there and they were intuitive.’”
The power of real-time data
In a traditional curriculum, you teach, you assess, and then you reteach, but understanding where students are at is a challenge, particularly for elementary teachers who have to teach multiple subjects and often do not have a deep mathematical understanding of the material. Levered provides real-time data in the form of a teacher dashboard that functions like a grade book that fills itself in. Information from the individual student work informs instruction by grouping common areas of struggle, connecting that to specific standards, and providing interactive examples for the teacher to use in a small group or individual intervention. Morse sees the data flow as an advantage for her teachers to help understand how to be more effective, “I love Levered because the teachers get real-time data, and if kids make mistakes, it is clear how you help kids correct the mistake. I wish we had this live real-time data in every content area. It’s amazing and it’s really got our teachers looking and thinking about student learning and how to reteach in a meaningful and targeted way.”
When everything changed, Levered was ready
Levered was designed as a classroom tool, when COVID-19 closed schools we learned that the features that made learning effective for each student and their teachers were ideally suited to distance learning. We made some adjustments in how we were reporting engagement to school administrators and added automated reports for teachers. Because our online program is individually-paced and competency-based, students could just continue their work. Teachers were able to shift to Zoom for whole-class instruction and then send their students to their independent work, while still being able to monitor each student’s progress from their dashboard.
Morse says of the transition,
“When the pandemic hit and we closed all of our schools down on March 13th, we were ready to go. We had a great program that was adaptable to meet a wide range of needs for devices and connectivity. We would not have been able to do math with our Bridges curriculum, the way that we were able to continue seamlessly with math when students ended up moving fully to distance learning last spring.”
This year when schools came back no one knew what to expect and how long-distance learning would last and they had to figure out how to account for hybrid scenarios where cohorts of students would rotate between online distance learning and in-person school. Ojai started the year with distance learning along with a homeschool option for students, giving families the most flexibility to have the same teacher, without Zoom meetings.
Since January, Ojai has been on an in-person hybrid with about 60% of kids are coming into school and 40% either on distance only or homeschool options. With Levered’s flexibility, every third, fourth, and fifth grader is using the same curriculum, regardless of how they attend school.
“Levered has allowed us to seamlessly transition to distance learning and now we’re back in hybrid. We don't have our teachers at home printing packets and things like that. We’re able to really utilize the platform at home and in-person and wherever we happen to be based on COVID at that moment.”
Thriving during a pandemic
Levered is impact-driven and uses active time spent engaging with the curriculum and answering questions to measure the engagement and provide snapshots and reports for teachers and administrators. What we’ve seen in engagement data for Ojai is every student using Levered in those classrooms. Most students are using it three, four, or five times per week as their core learning and the total amount of instructional time is averaging above 45 minutes of that asynchronous time per day. Students are also receiving an additional 10 to 20 minutes of direct synchronous instruction from their teacher, where Levered scaffolds math talks that are part of every daily math session, as well as direct instruction in small groups (Tier II) intervention.
“Being able to maintain those numbers through all those transitions has been a really significant lesson for us about what best practices look like in Ojai”, says Mitch Slater, CEO of Levered Learning, “Obviously we don’t have state testing data from last year but we have historical data from other districts that have implemented a Levered at the same grade levels which we can map to what’s happening in Ojai.”
Using data from some of Ojai’s classrooms with the highest implementation fidelity, we see students progressing through the materials and showing their competency, with a higher completion percentage for every standard for every student than we’ve ever seen in a cohort of students.
Even though there’s a lot of anxiety about testing in the spring in terms of math for third, fourth, and fifth grade, in Ojai, we’re expecting really solid outcomes for those students because of the work that teachers and kids themselves have been putting in throughout distance learning and the whole school year. Dr. Tiffany Morse articulates the level of consistency that is possible using Levered in a post-COVID, disaster-prepared district approach
“I am so excited to see our data. With all the talk about learning loss and learning loss mitigation, I am so comfortable with where we are in math this year… it’s such a relief to know that our math is on track and that we didn't lose anything in our transition and, and that we're progressing just as it would be if we had a regular school year.”
You can learn more about bringing Levered into your school or district for a summer pilot to see how we can help regain learning loss for your elementary students by emailing our Partnership Manager, Oscar Norsworthy.
This article was adapted from the transcript of a talk given at the Center for Education Innovation’s Conference in March, you can watch the entire video below.