November is Military Family Appreciation Month, a time not only to honor those who dedicate their lives to serving our country but to the families who support them. Here at New Classrooms, we have the privilege to work with schools like LEARN 6 and LEARN 10 in North Chicago, Illinois, where a significant percentage of the student population comes from military families.
Many of these students do not remain in the same place for long, so the challenge of providing them with a quality educational and social experience is factored into the DNA of both schools. Samantha Martin is the Math Director for LEARN 6 Charter School, located on the Great Lakes Naval Station. As head of the math department, Martin sees firsthand how the school is shaped by its direct proximity to the military.
“The fact that our students face a different set of challenges, such as parents leaving for deployment, parents returning from deployment, moving frequently, et cetera is definitely one piece of our school culture,” says Martin. “For our school culture as a whole, I would say the biggest impact is the amount of turnover in our students.”
Children of military families often leave one school to begin attending another in the middle of the academic year. Most schools are on a set progression, and while this comes with its share of challenges in all core subjects, this is especially problematic in math. Since math is inherently cumulative — new skills build upon established skills — students who enter the classroom with unfinished learning from prior weeks, months, or years are far less likely to recover from this missed content. Schools rarely have the time or resources to diagnose exact skill levels for mid-year entries, so with each transition to a new school, these students are increasingly likely to fall further and further behind.
The staff and teachers at LEARN 6 are prepared for students who enroll mid-year to enter with learning gaps and varied content knowledge. To best serve them, both LEARN 6 and its sister school LEARN 10 are focused on meeting students where they are with Teach to One: Math (TTO). TTO is personalized from day one, as the program utilizes diagnostic assessments and exercises to accurately place students on unique academic tracks designed to accelerate their learning. Students and teachers at LEARN 6 and LEARN 10 can then monitor progress in real time with immediate access to growth data.
According to Martin, “Teach to One allows scholars that have a patchy academic background the opportunity to show what they know and where they are strong on certain skills… This is something that would be much harder to do in a traditional classroom, where a teacher would need to continue on their scope and sequence for the class.”
To illustrate her point, Martin shared a recent example. LEARN 6 had welcomed a new student in the fall of his seventh-grade year. Initially testing in the 54th-percentile for math, he started using TTO and was diligent in studying his assigned skills outside of math class. He mastered a majority of the materials available to him, and by January he was testing in the 87th-percentile. Although he didn’t use TTO for his final year at LEARN 6, he graduated in the 99th-percentile.
“His success in the math classroom was jump-started by TTO, which allowed him to tackle his gaps one at a time, on his own time, in a way a traditional classroom never could.”
Throughout the five-year partnership between LEARN 6 and TTO, stories like this are not unusual. Military families make tremendous sacrifices, in many cases building and rebuilding a new life in cities and towns around the country and the world. For their children, repeatedly starting over reflects a similar mindset of determination. We at New Classrooms are honored to do our part in supporting these students on their path to lifelong learning.