Tag Archives: After School Program

Amidst COVID-19’s Spread, Hope For Education Innovation Glimmers In Vietnam

This week’s post comes from Michael Horn, a senior partner at Entangled Solutions, and the co-founder of and a distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. This post appeared originally on Forbes.com

With COVID-19 spreading across the globe, I’ve watched the impact on Korea and Vietnam with some measure of connection and concern.

As the countries to which I journeyed on my Eisenhower Fellowship in 2014 and studied their education systems in some depth, the manner in which the disease’s spread has shut down their schools has struck me on two levels: worry about the health of the communities and hope for innovation.

It’s with an eye on the opportunity for innovation—improving an educational system that needs an overhaul—that I’ve paid close attention to the response of Everest Education, an after-school tutoring organization I got to know while in Vietnam and whose board I joined after my return to the United States.

Schools and after-school programs were shut down in the beginning of February in Vietnam. With no opportunity to learn in traditional classrooms, students became nonconsumers of education—literally unable to access formal education—overnight.

As students of disruptive innovation—the process that transforms complicated, expensive and inconvenient services into ones that are far more affordable, convenient, and accessible—know, disruption typically takes root in areas of nonconsumption. There the new service has a marked advantage, as its competition is nothing at all.

That describes the unintended opportunity in which Everest Education found itself, as after-school programs have remain shuttered and students have had no options to continue their studies.

One Everest student, Nguyen Viet Khanh Linh, who is studying for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)—the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education—said she was worried she wouldn’t be able to stay on track for her test in May. Currently pursuing an Advance Diploma in Multimedia at Arena Multimedia Education Center in Hanoi, Linh’s plan is to transfer to an exchange program in Korea, Singapore or Europe to complete a bachelor degree after earning the 30-month program diploma.

“I’m not sure which exchange programs I will join eventually, but almost all of them ask for IELTS as a prerequisite,” Linh said. “I’m trying to get it done in my first year before the arts workload gets heavier. I [was] afraid I [wouldn’t] be able to study for IELTS and work on my portfolio at the same time.” 

Everest had fortunately been developing an online-learning solution for some time. After experimenting with a range of products, Everest had settled on a platform that facilitated a live online class that, much as Minerva does in its active learning platform, takes advantage of the learning science around active learning to create an experience in which students are interacting with each other and the teacher in real time and taking part in learning games.

As Don Le, CEO and co-founder of Everest, shared, “Most online learning involves watching videos or listening to lectures, and students get bored easily. With our live online classes, students… feel a social bond. The experience feels really natural and fun.”

At the onset of the crisis, Everest swung into action and took its research and development into overdrive, as it deployed its online-learning experience across all of its classes to support all of its grade 1–12 students. An astounding 98% of its students successfully transitioned to its online-learning solution.

From there, Everest began focusing on serving the now-vast market of after-school nonconsumers in Vietnam. To date, it has amassed more than 1,000 online registrations and is scaling up to open as many classes as possible to meet the pent-up demand.

And here’s the opportunity—to help take a system built on rote memorization and turn it into a student-centered learning experience that is marked by active learning far more in line with the research around how students best learn.

“In some ways, it’s even better than a physical classroom,” Tony Ngo, Everest Education’s Chairman and co-founder said. “Online learning is a great solution while students are out of the classroom, and in the long run, it will become a critical tool in how students learn.”

I’ve noted before that disaster preparedness—and, it follows tragically, outright disasters—represent opportunities to innovate. Put another way, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Amidst the challenges that COVID-19 brings, I hope we see education innovations that don’t just take subpar brick-and-mortar experiences and move them online where they will be even worse, but instead transcend the traditional lecture model to leverage technology and fundamentally transform the learning experience into one in which all students have a much greater likelihood of success.

In a country in Vietnam in which innovating in education is challenging, my hope is that Everest begins to blaze a new trail for the nation’s students.

A conversation with Eric Schwarz about the evolution of Citizen Schools

Reflecting on incremental and disruptive change in school and out: A conversation with Eric Schwarz about the evolution of Citizen Schools

Eric Schwarz

Eric Schwarz

I had a recent conversation with Eric Schwarz about the evolution of Citizen Schools. Eric is the founder of Citizen Schools and author of The Opportunity Equation: How Citizen Teachers Are Combating the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools. Citizen Schools began in 1995 in Boston as an afterschool program designed to provide opportunities for students in low-income communities to participate in apprenticeships with mentors from a wide range of professions. Since that time, it has grown into a national organization that partners with public middle schools to integrate apprenticeships and other rich learning opportunities into a longer school day. While Citizen Schools works only in the United States, the evolution of the Citizen Schools model illustrates broader questions of educational change and innovation that are relevant around the world. In this post, you can listen to the interview, get a summary my conversation with Eric, and see slides(below) I developed for my class on school change that highlight issues of “incremental” and “disruptive” change and innovation. See weeks 2 and 3 of the online syllabus for related references and resources, including readings by David Tyack and Larry Cuban, and Clayton Christensen.  

Citizen Schools 1.0: “Apprenticeships are core”

When Schwarz first started working on the ideas that led to Citizen Schools, his key concerns included the limited access that many students in lower income communities have to the kind of rich and extended learning opportunities commonplace in many upper income communities. In order to address this problem, Eric and his colleagues created an afterschool program that engaged students from several middle schools in low-income communities in activities like producing a newspaper in which they worked with volunteer mentors – “citizen teachers” – from related professions. The program took place in the schools, for a few hours a week, with a little time devoted to tutoring and help with homework, but with the main focus on the apprenticeships.

Schwarz explained that in the early years, the work was challenging, but the feedback from many parents and students was powerful. At the same time, some of the same parents who saw these benefits also raised concerns that there was no corresponding improvement in most students’ grades or academic performance. In some cases, parents wanted to take their children out of the program because they felt that they needed more help with their school work. In addition, principals who were providing Citizen Schools with space also wanted to see more academic benefits. As Schwarz put it in The Opportunity Equation, with increasing pressure on schools and principals from new state policies demanding improved performance, some principals had “less tolerance for our rookie mistakes and seemed in some cases to lose their appetite for the enrichment-based learning we were offering.” (p. 63)

Citizen Schools 2.0: Supporting academic development

In response to the feedback they were getting, Schwarz and his colleagues decided to refine the Citizen Schools model. They wanted to remain focused on apprenticeships, but also chose to make support for academic development a more explicit goal and aspect of the design.  To do so, they started offering the program on an almost daily basis, substantially increasing the amount of programming they could offer. They continued to offer the apprenticeships but also significantly increased the time they spent working with students on homework and tutoring. In order to staff those additional hours, however, they also had to change their staffing model and, in addition to the Citizen teachers, they brought in AmeriCorp volunteers to work in the program on a regular basis, and they also hired program directors to work on full-time rather than half-time. With these changes, students continued to report powerful experiences, but the grades and test scores of many of the students improved as well. As Schwarz explained, “The schools changed us in a good way–they made us better academically.”

Citizen Schools 3.0: The extended learning time edition

Citizen Schools continued to expand its afterschool model in Boston and then to a few other cities, but then in 2006, Citizen Schools had the opportunity to partner with The Edwards School as part of a pilot program in Massachusetts to support schools in developing Extended Learning Time (ELT) models. The approach to ELT developed at the Edwards School built on the Citizen School’s approach, but it also had to respond to local circumstances at the Edwards that influenced their design and that made it different from many other ELT models. In particular, rather than simply adding the Citizen Schools afterschool program onto the end of the school day, they integrated the apprenticeship approach and the added help with academics into the regular school day. As a consequence, the school was able to offer a 2 hour “elective/apprenticeship block” four days a week, add a regular 60 min “math league”, and provide time for a half-day of professional development for teachers every Friday. To make that possible, Citizen Schools provided the staff for many of the apprenticeships/electives, but Citizen Schools staff also took on responsibility for teaching some academic subjects, particularly, math. While progress was slow at first, eventually there were clear signs of significant improvements. In addition to offering increased instructional and enrichment programs, there improvements in test scores including an 80% reduction in achievement gap between students’ performance in ELA and science on state tests. Furthermore, while only 17 families in 2005 made the Edwards School their first choice on the application asking which middle school they would like the children to attend, in 2008 over 450 families applied to the school (see The Opportunity Equation, p. 92).

Citizen Schools 4.0: Spreading the model and reshaping thinking about “after” school

With the development of the ELT model and some success both at the Edwards School and in other schools where they tried the ELT approach, questions of how to scale the model came to the forefront. Correspondingly, one key part of the work since that time has been to build an organization capable of spreading the model to other schools. However, as Schwarz explained, the current model is very intensive, requiring significant staffing, time and resources. As he put it, it might be possible to develop the model in a hundred schools, but probably not a thousand. In response, Citizen Schools has also begun exploring other options to support further spread. In particular, they have started to work more broadly in collaboration with government agencies and policymakers to create programs and resources that can support ELT models and afterschool programs in general. Further, they are partnering with private and public organizations and networks to advocate for the development of more ELT models and to develop a broader vision for how learning time can be used both in schools and after school.

The development of Citizen Schools to this point illustrates the ways in which changes and innovations in education evolve between and among organizations and schools. In this case, the Citizen Schools model adapted in response to the challenges and opportunities encountered when working with and in schools during after-school and in-school time. While the integration of the Citizen Schools approach into the regular school day may not have disrupted many of the conventional structures and patterns in schools, learning opportunities for students have expanded. Further, one can argue that Citizen Schools has, at least to some extent, “disrupted” conventional views of after school programs and now provides a different model for afterschool programs as well as an existence proof that that model can be effective. At the same time, the efforts to disrupt the conventional institutions, structures, and beliefs that reinforce inequalities in access to educational opportunities continue. While Eric has stepped down as CEO of Citizen Schools, which is now led by Steven Rothstein, he plans to turn his attention to new work, perhaps in higher education.

Slides: hatch citizen schools

 
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