Innovative model brings renewal to St. Paul School

 St. Paul School student
Students at St. Paul School in south Seattle spend part of each day on computers as part of the school’s “blended learning” model. Photo: Courtesy St. Paul School


'Blended learning' helps boost enrollment, test scores


A combination of computer-based lessons and traditional classroom instruction is showing promising results at St. Paul School in south Seattle.

From 2007-13, the school’s enrollment dropped from 209 students to just 131. But after its first year of the tech-heavy “blended learning” model, enrollment was up by 12 students, the school reported in a release. Student achievement was up as well.

“In both math and reading our students are averaging academic growth well beyond the norm,” said Principal Betsy Kromer. “Our eighth-grade class alone averaged over two years of growth in math. That makes us proud as educators, energizes our parents and, most importantly, gives our children a tremendous amount of confidence as they move on to high school."

According to the National Catholic Educational Association, more than 1,800 Catholic schools across the country have been closed or consolidated in the last 10 years. In the Seattle Archdiocese, St. Paul and other struggling schools are turning to innovative educational models to help improve learning and increase sagging enrollments.

In 2012, Tacoma’s Holy Rosary launched the bilingual Juan Diego Academy; that same year, Seattle’s St. Therese moved to the blended learning model that St. Paul adopted in 2013.

Last year — with support from the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education program, the archdiocesan Office for Catholic Schools and the Fulcrum Foundation — St. Paul School introduced improved facilities, new computers in each classroom and the blended learning model, which includes computer-based lessons customized to the needs of each student.

“I would never go back,” teacher Katie Lundberg said after a year of the blended learning model. “We have achieved amazing things for our students this year and I’ve never felt more effective as a teacher, knowing that I am reaching every child at their just right level.”

The blended learning model allows each student to work at his or her own pace and focus on specific areas to improve. “It is an answer to prayers,” said parent Anne Travis Barker, whose sixth-grade son, Jameslawrence, made four years’ worth of academic growth in math and advanced two years in reading during the past school year, as measured by the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress assessments. “He is engaged and happy and seems to like school for the first time in a long time.”

July 21, 2014