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With Success Comes Growth For Blended Learning Model
Chris Sheridan
Computer technology instructor Jennifer Vespucci works with students in the Stream Center at St. Patrick’s School in Yorktown Heights Jan. 11. St. Patrick’s is one of 34 archdiocesan elementary schools using the Blended Learning teaching model this year.

Kieran Sullivan attests he and his schoolmates are benefiting from the Blended Learning teaching model at St. Patrick’s School in Yorktown Heights.

The seventh-grader is among the students in 34 archdiocesan elementary schools practicing blended learning in the 2017-2018 school year.

“This has helped a lot of people,” Sullivan told CNY. “I think it’s definitely helped me a lot. I’m learning a lot more, and the teachers are more involved, especially in the stations and 1-on-1 instruction. We’re getting to learn more, and it’s helping us work more efficiently.”

Blended Learning combines online learning with traditional classroom instruction, using technology-driven data to determine the best approach to educating students. Students rotate during the school day to three different work stations—independent work, group or partnered work and small group instruction with their teacher.

The teaching model for students in grades one through eight continues to grow in the archdiocese, which added 10 schools to the program for the 2017-2018 school year. Staten Island has the highest number of participating schools, 12, an increase of five from 2016-2017.

Funding to purchase technology equipment comes from fund-raising, grants or sponsorship by the Office of the Superintendent of Schools. On Staten Island, seven schools received a portion of a $200,000 grant from the Richmond County Savings Foundation.

“We have been really fortunate to have generous benefactors who believe in the program, and Dr. McNiff has a vision for how he’d like it to expand. We’re continuing to grow and share the resources generously given to us with so many schools,” said Sara Collins, Blended Learning coordinator for the archdiocese.

Dr. Timothy McNiff is superintendent of schools in the archdiocese.

“The biggest success behind this program is it enables teachers to personalize instruction. We’re interested in the child in front of me and how do we meet their needs. The technology has given us resources to give us instant feedback and adapt instruction immediately.”

Our Lady of Refuge in the Bronx is one of the 10 new schools employing Blended Learning this year. Each classroom has 12 to 15 tablets.

“What’s pleased me the most is the willingness of the teachers to do something different and stretch what they do and what the students can do,” said Robert Billings, principal of Our Lady of Refuge. “What I’m looking for is for students to be more self-directed and self-motivated, where teachers can give them an assignment and they are off and running.”

Darlene Del Vecchio, principal of St. Patrick’s, said the 170-student school began using Blended Learning during the 2015-2016 year, leasing an iPad for each student in grades 6 to 8. The next year, the school expanded the program to include all students. A parish golf tournament raised money for the school to purchase an additional 20 iPads to be shared by students in the lower grades.

Ms. Del Vecchio said Blended Learning has energized students and also helped to improve state test scores in math and English language arts.

“We’re doing a lot of great things here. As long as the teachers, students and parents are happy, it’s going to continue growing.”

Kieran Sullivan, the seventh-grader, said Blended Learning has helped students develop communication skills and become more involved through the group work among peers and with their teacher. “I noticed some classmates I’ve been with since we were 5, 6 and 7 years old have become more interactive and less shy,” he said.


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