First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Partnership to Support Blended Learning Growing on Staten Island
By DAN PIETRAFESA
MARY DIBIASE BLAICH
Dr. Timothy J. McNiff, superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, looks at the laptop of student Jake Giordano in a fifth-grade social studies class. The April 7 open house at St. Charles School on Staten Island enabled education leaders and representatives from the Richmond County Savings Foundation to see firsthand how blended learning is working there.

JC Kiernan is not shy when it comes to showing the good things being accomplished at St. Charles School.

Kiernan, the principal of St. Charles on Staten Island, led visitors, including Dr. Timothy J. McNiff, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, Staten Island principals and representatives from Richmond County Savings Foundation, on a tour of classrooms at his school April 7.

“I love my school and our doors are always open because we’re proud of what we’re doing here,’’ Kiernan told CNY. “I think our (Blended Learning) program has progressed nicely and it’s why our school was chosen to host this. All the credit goes to the teachers. They’re in the classroom with students. It shows all their hard work and dedication to the school.”

Representatives from Richmond County Savings Foundation were invited to see how a $200,000 foundation grant is being used to support blended learning at Staten Island schools. The Blended Learning teaching model, which combines online learning with traditional classroom instruction, uses technology-driven data to determine the best approach to educating students.

“Everybody in the school here identifies the different world the children are growing up in. It would be negligent not to change (to blended learning),” Kiernan said.

Staten Island now has seven schools using the Blended Learning teaching model—Academy of St. Dorothy, Our Lady Help of Christians, Our Lady Queen of Peace, Sacred Heart, St. Adalbert, St. Rita and St. Charles.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Richmond County Savings Foundation, we have expanded the Blended Learning curriculum model from two schools at the beginning of this year to seven schools currently, and this open house at St. Charles is an opportunity for us to showcase how that generosity is enhancing teaching and learning for the students in our Catholic schools,’’ said Dr. McNiff in a statement.

“This cutting-edge, technology-infused approach gives our teachers the hardware and the software to engage our students on various subjects, all while rapidly collecting invaluable performance data so teachers can track students’ progress and tailor instruction accordingly.

“With the continued support of key community partners like the Richmond County Savings Foundation, I am confident that we will see further implementation of blended learning and innovative enhancements to our curriculum in the years to come.”

Blended learning was implemented at St. Charles two years ago. Kiernan said the classrooms at St. Charles have three centers—teacher-centered with a small group of students, a collaborative group of students sharing ideas or a group of students working independently, and a technological group of students working on assignments from teachers on Chromebooks.

“Students are thinking more independently, and using problem-solving skills to bring thinking to a higher level,” Kiernan said.

“From my observations, I think the conversations between students and teachers are much more academically strengthened conversations.”

On the St. Charles visit, the guests toured four classrooms—sixth grade English, fourth grade science, and fourth- and fifth-grade math classes.

“It was a great visit,” Kiernan said. “They came to see blended learning in action. They were impressed by what they saw with engagement by students and teachers in classroom.

“It’s been a strong partnership, and I think the visit further strengthened the relationship.”

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