In the throes of global disruption in K-12 education, a group of committed social entrepreneurs and educators banded together in 2020 to found Cadence Learning, an effort to “bring great teaching to children in grades 3-8 everywhere.” Scholar Lynn Olson’s February 2021 report for Georgetown University’s FutureEd, Teaching Innovation: New School Staffing Strategies Inspired by the Pandemic, best describes Cadence Learning’s transformative model:
Cadence employs a team of national “mentor teachers” who support online instruction in “partner schools” throughout the country. Each of the dozen or so mentor teachers delivers a lesson on the screen along with three to five students who discuss the lesson and ask questions. The teachers in the partner schools, known as “partner teachers,” can play the recorded lesson for their students or teach a live version of the lesson themselves, using virtual breakout rooms to work more closely with their own students, whom they know well.
Steven Wilson, cofounder of Cadence Learning, explains in the FutureEd report that “It’s like being able to sit in the back of the room of the best teacher in the building for weeks at a time and see his or her moves and adapt them and make them your own.”
A recent study by Beth Schueler and Martin B. West from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University found promising early results for both teachers and students from Cadence Learning’s virtual summer program, which launched in 2020 with 12,000 students from 50 participating schools or networks across 17 states and the District of Columbia.
The Annenberg Institute evaluation found that students benefited from engaging and refreshingly relevant curriculum, and partner teachers benefited from collaboration and witnessing mentor teachers’ successes and failures. The mentor teachers benefited from networking and reaching more students.
Parents reported that 75 percent of students grew as readers, and 77 percent grew as mathematicians.
In addition, the evaluation found that “partner teachers perceived that the program improved their instruction…both their ability to teach in a virtual or hybrid environment and their pedagogical skills more broadly…in large part, due to their access to the mentor teachers and videos of these teachers delivering lessons in advance, which provided a notably rare opportunity to observe other educators in action.” Mentor teachers also found the program helpful. They “felt their own instruction improved.”
Overall, the Annenberg Institute report concluded that “our findings do suggest promising practices and provide some room for optimism about what can be accomplished through virtual learning in a world where in-person schooling is restricted.”
One innovative example of how the Cadence Learning partnership works in practice is The Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy, a free North Las Vegas microschool for students in grades 1-8. The Academy was established during the pandemic as a public-private partnership between the City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Action for School Options, and Cadence Learning to help students access a higher–quality remote learning experience.
As a Government Technology feature story recently reported, students have made academic gains:
- 78 percent of students arrived below grade level in reading. Sixty-two percent of children now are at or above grade level.
- 93 percent of children arrived below grade level in math. All students are now working on material that is at least at grade level.
As North Las Vegas Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown explained to Government Technology, “It was just important to us that we did something to ensure that our kids are getting some kind of normalcy in their life, and the microschool just fell upon us. It worked well, and it’s still working well.”
Overall, Cadence Learning provides a robust example of what is possible for remote learning and how an educational model can support a diversity of education solutions from homeschooling and microschools to traditional school partnerships. As Cadence Learning cofounder Chris Cerf, a former teacher who also served as the New Jersey education commissioner and deputy chancellor for New York City’s Department of Education, recently told the New York Times, “I absolutely believe that we are going to come out of this pandemic having learned a great deal about how to deliver quality instruction to students.”
Learn more about Charles Koch Institute partner Cadence Learning in a new video.
The Charles Koch Institute inspires and invests in social entrepreneurs developing solutions to America’s most pressing problems. Read more about our support for social entrepreneurs committed to education.