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Using The 'Flipped' Classroom Model In School

A suffering Macomb County high school decided to turn the typical school instructional model on its head, using something called the "flipped" method - and it's worked to improve grades. Could it be a solution for other suffering schools?

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School has long adhered to the same basic structure: Attend classes, listen to lectures, take notes, maybe ask questions (if you're gutsy enough), go home, do homework (perhaps), repeat.

But what happens when that supposedly tried-and-true template simply stops working?

In 2010, Clinton Township's Clintondale High School was in bad shape. With about 35 percent of its students failing at least one or more classes, Principal Greg Green could see the school needed a new practice – something that would turn things around. His idea? Have the school somersault into a completely new structure. Turn the traditional school model on its head.

The concept is called the "flipped" model. Instead of following the standard procedure, students at Clintondale watch videos and listen to lectures from teachers at home on their computers, iPads and phones. When they come to school, what would normally be class time is now dedicated to doing homework with the teachers there to help.

"It really wasn't a big risk, because we had to step forward and take responsibility of our situation," Green says of flipping his school.

But it was revolutionary. Clintondale is the first school in the country to completely flip its entire school – and the acrobatics proved successful. Failure rates are down, graduation rates are up and the school's climate has been more positive overall, Green says.

Plus, it dissolved barriers Green says many students faced, from parents not being able to assist with homework to students not having the proper tools to do the homework. To educate, teachers are using the technology that inundates the lives of teenagers already. The information is accessible 24/7 at the kids' fingertips on their favorite devices. In a world infused with new and always-developing tools, is it farfetched to look at the flipped model and wonder: Will this be the future of education?

"The structure's broken. The alignment's broken. That's what's broken in education. It's not parents who don't care; it's not teachers who don't want to work hard," Green says. "Now, I think we've found the right alignment."

The idea

As a baseball coach for his son's team, Green made videos. He was introduced to Camtasia Relay, a program used to record and share videos, and he recorded instructional clips for the team.

"I showed them to the kids and then, when they came to the practice, they tended to be more on target and I didn't have to go over 100 things and we could get further along," Green recalls. Then, it came to him. "I said, 'Wouldn't this be great in math or science?'"

Looking at his struggling school, he saw how his idea could benefit the students in other ways.

"I can eliminate all the things that frustrate us from the home factors, as far as parents not being able to help them because it's a process they haven't gone through," he says of the flip. He reasoned to his teachers that helping students with homework in the classroom, where they can go into more detail and spend the time working with the students, was a better use of their time.

"We know as soon as (students) leave, we have no control over the environment or what they do," Green says, noting that schools are full of experts and resources.

During the second semester of the 2010 school year, Green put the plan into action with his freshman class. In just one semester, failure rates among the ninth graders dropped by 33 percent in English, 31 percent in math, 22 percent in science and 19 percent in social studies, according to the school. With these results, Green felt confident about flipping the model for the entire school in 2011. It resulted in a more than 20-percent reduction in failures, he says.

"In some cases, people might say it's remarkable," Green adds. Even the graduation rates and college acceptance rates have gone up, he notes.

Things at Clintondale haven't just improved academically, either.

"The culture climate in my building has significantly changed. From teachers working with kids and building relationships. I mean, when you find that, your school runs a lot smoother," Green says.

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