Carroll Oakland Elementary from Wilson County School District, located in Tennessee, is a K-8 school that struggled to be competitive with grade 6-8 middle schools. Principal Jason Dunn said he tried to create a middle school within the elementary school, but still lacked the resources. He said separate middle schools had a lot more teachers and a lot more students, so it was difficult to provide his students with the same experience. He was limited in the number of classes he could offer his students due to a lack of staffing, causing him to place students in an algebra class they may not have been ready for. Resultantly, his 8th grade math scores were hurting.
With Proximity Learning Inc. (PLI), Dunn said he is able to be more purposeful with his scheduling. He has implemented an online PLI instructor for 8th grade algebra 1 starting with the 2019-2020 school year that allows him to place students into appropriate math classes. Since, Dunn has seen success with their most recent math benchmark.
“Our last benchmark, 100% of our kids were projected to be on track and master our end-of-year course,” Dunn said. “It’s very effective. You can compare that to schools that actually have the algebra course with the instructor in the room. We are right on track with them and, in a lot of cases, doing better than they are.”
The students can be more independent with their studies in a structured online environment, Dunn said. Since the class is small, he said the students help each other out and that they have no issues with their motivation and work ethic. He said that working online allows the students to learn how to manage their time appropriately and effectively. In Dunn’s own experience with online learning, he said he wasn’t able to take classes online before college. By introducing them in 8th grade, he said they are at an advantage by preparing them to be in a new type of classroom.
Without a teacher directly in the classroom, Dunn said that the communication between the teacher and the students is built into the system unlike in a traditional classroom. With a class size of 13, they said the students and online teacher have a comradery with each other.
“I know the students very much love their teacher,” Dunn said. “I know that a couple of them got her a Christmas gift and they all signed it and sent it over to her.”
Perseverance and persistence through difficulty is the biggest lesson Dunn hopes to instill in his students. With the latest success of the benchmark, Tucker said the students have a lot of pride in what they are doing.
“The other day at my staffing meeting they were like: ‘What would you be able to do without Proximity Learning?’ I said I’d panic,” Dunn said. “Because it’s been such a success for us. Watching them grow, watching them be competitive with their counterparts at other schools and giving me that flexibility has just been tremendous.”