ST. FRANCIS SCHOOL, AN INNER-CITY, EAST SIDE SCHOOL IN CLEVELAND ― ONCE A PARISH SCHOOL ― IS OPERATED BY THE DIOCESE OF CLEVELAND. PRINCIPAL SCOTT EMBACHER SAID THERE ARE 210 STUDENTS IN GRADES K-8 WHO ARE PART OF A CUTTING- EDGE PROGRAM NEW TO THE DIOCESE: SETON BLENDED LEARNING.
Rachel Marchand, a former fifth-grade teacher at St. Francis, returned to the building this school year as coordinator for the Seton Blended Learning program. St. Francis is the 14th school to join the Seton network, the fifth in Ohio and the first in the diocese. She helps teachers understand and use the Seton techniques in their classrooms by visiting each classroom and meeting with each teacher regularly.
Student growth is tracked through a computer program.
“Each student has an individual learning pathway based on their skill level,“ Rachel explained. In the classroom, there are three types of learning stations: the small group, independent worker group and computer group. A group of second-graders sat at a table with their teacher and focused on a math lesson during their small group session. Another group sat at tables lining a wall and worked on math problems on their laptops while a third group worked independently on a math lesson under the watchful eye of a student teacher. The room was quiet and students were on task.
After 20 minutes, it was time for a rotation to the next learning station where they spent another 20 minutes.
“The curriculum stays the same; the delivery is changed,” Scott said.
“The longest Seton Blended Learning blocks are for math and language arts,” Rachelsaid,becausegenerallythose are the lessons for which students need the most help. “We have to make up the achievement gaps caused by socio-economic status.” She said the rotations provide structure and keep things manageable for the teachers.
Scott heard about the program and visited some schools in Cincinnati to learn more about it before seeking and receiving approval to implement Seton at St. Francis. It required intensive staff training, the purchase of additional equipment, rearranging some classrooms and hiring of a program coordinator — all of which carried a $750,000 price tag for the first two years. “The teachers came back to school early to get the training last summer,” he said and they have embraced the program.
When the two-year period ends, Scott said St. Francis will have to pay a fee to stay in the Seton network. He’s hoping the documented record of student success at other schools in the Seton Blended Learning network — and the success they are seeing in student achievement at St. Francis
— will help drive up enrollment to pay for thenet- workfees. “We’d like to use this as a marketing tool,” hesaid,since it is unique to St. Francis.
Austin, a fourth-grader, said he likes the Setonpro- gram, especially since he has a laptop to use for his lessons. “It’s like having a teacher inside. I like it a lot.”
In addition to the Seton Blended Learning program, Scott said St. Francis continues to offer sports opportunities, clubsandother activities to help the students have a well-rounded educational experience. The school introduces children to technology beginning in kindergarten and continues to use it as a learning tool until graduation, Scott said.
“St. Francis School, in partnership with parents, is commit- ted toprovidinga safe, caring environment where students can learn Gospel living, gain a quality Catholic education andwit- nessto a non-violent way of life,” Scott added.