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June 15, 2015

2 min

Mark Holley

How Does Method Lower Class Sizes?

How does Method Schools have lower class sizes than other schools when it's a publically-funded charter school? I've been asked this question a lot, and it's a good one. Most people have heard, or read, or researched, that lowering class sizes has a positive impact on student academic performance. There is a lot of evidence out there that supports this, although research varies when it comes to determining just how low class sizes need to be to see real academic gains.

At Method, it's pretty simple. Our iRotate students, who attend a Method center up to four days per week, are part of a rotational model. Some education types refer to this type of learning format as "station rotation." This means that students rotate through different stations throughout the day - whether it's science, math, computer lab, projects, get the idea. We rotate our on-campus students through three distinct "stations" each day: online coursework, project based learning, and Focused Direct Instruction (FDI). FDI is where we deliver our small classes. Let me explain more.

Online Coursework Station

In online coursework, the curriculum is delivered in a very customized way. Students work at their own pace, and they're in the right classes - matched to their ability - to begin with. Method uses online curriculum from trusted providers, such as FuelEd, K12, and Compass. We also make some of our own classes. In fact, our teachers are working hard to add more courses for 2015-16.

Project Based Learning Station

In project based learning stations, students work with other students or on their own on projects that reinforce what they're learning. This is a very organic setting where students are free to explore and build at their own pace. It requires supervision, but not as much direct instruction as a traditional setting.

Focused Direct Instruction (FDI) Station

Both the online coursework and project based learning tracks require less direct teacher support than traditional settings where teachers stand up in front of the class and share their knowledge with students. This means that there is additional teacher support freed up. That extra support is deployed in our FDI classes. So, rather than a class size of 25, which is what the State of California funds Method at, our FDI classes have an actual class size of about eight, because they're in FDI roughly 1/3 of the time (25/3 = 8.33). The rest of the time they're working on projects or in online curriculum. How do they end up in FDI? Our teachers rely on data from the online courses, or they observe trends and patterns that they can use a small class setting, like FDI, to improve or enhance. Sometimes students are in FDI because they're behind, other times it's because they're ahead.

This Solution Works

We've found students get far more from this set up than sitting in classrooms all day, in groups of at least 25, listening to teachers drone on and on. And on. For many families, this type of learning setup is the difference between a great school experience and a terrible one. We want all our students to have a great learning experience, and using a rotational model that transfers excess teaching capacity to where students can benefit the most is how we do it.

Want to learn more about Method and small class sizes? Click here.

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