Hoke County Schools in North Carolina, a Classworks partner district, has received several accolades including the award for North Carolina Innovator in Digital Learning.
We spoke with Hoke County's superintendent and a classroom teacher about how Classworks supports their goal to innovate teaching and learning.
Dr. Freddie Williamson has been superintendent of Hoke County Schools since 2006, and is the 2016 North Carolina Superintendent of the Year. Under Dr. Williamson’s leadership Hoke County Schools' dropout rates in the district have decreased by 65%.
Congratulations on North Carolina State Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Williamson! How long has Hoke been using Classworks?
We first purchased Classworks in 2007 close to the beginning of my Superintendency at Hoke. The district was not performing well. Classworks’ individualized instructional plan for each student was something we needed to close the achievement gap. We used Classworks for remediation for about seven years. At that time we used the Scantron assessment and then Classworks generated targeted instruction using that data.
You stopped using Classworks in 2013. Why?
The state landscape for education has been undergoing quite a shift here in North Carolina. We had state resources being recommended, the change in standards and assessments, and the focus on reading by grade three. We decided to step back from all the programs we were using as we evaluated how to best serve our students and teachers.
Classworks is excited to partner with Hoke again! What made you take another look at Classworks for your district?
Thank you, we share your enthusiasm! There were a few things that stood out to us. First, using Classworks to help students catch up was working. We still have that need here in Hoke and Classworks was a great help to us in closing the achievement gap. The second thing we liked was that Classworks partners with the assessment we use today districtwide, Renaissance Learning’s STAR. Individualizing learning with our current assessment is a huge benefit. The third, and possibly most interesting reason is the new classroom resources you have developed since we last implemented.
Why are the classroom resources so important?
Our teachers have been asking for rigorous reading resources to support lesson planning. More importantly, they needed resources to support differentiation in a student-centered math classroom. When they saw the new math activities they were hooked! Our teachers are so excited about these new aspects of the program.
So you made the decision to reactivate Classworks?
(Laughs) Well, I was certainly excited about what Classworks could do for us. But, our instructional resource decisions are made as a team. Buy-in from our principals and teachers was key if we were going to reactivate our partnership with Classworks. Sometimes it’s harder to change an existing perception than it is to look at something new. I invited principals, instructional coaches, and lead teachers to review all of the updates and changes to confirm this fit with our instructional vision as a team. The team was completely on board about re-adopting Classworks ASAP.
What differentiates Classworks from other programs?
Classworks has evolved tremendously since the first time we implemented it. We are reinvigorated by your focus on classroom resources to support teachers combined with new partnerships that enhance the individualized learning. In addition, our district is focused on integrating technology into classroom learning. Our teachers can use Classworks on all the devices we have. We are a Google district so I was pleased to hear Classworks works with Google Classroom. It’s just one more example of how you continue to improve to meet districts’ needs.
Thank you for your confidence in Classworks. We are excited to be working with your team again and look forward to supporting your continued success.
You’re welcome. Classworks is a wonderful instructional resource and we’re happy to be working together again.
*Interview with Dr. Williamson conducted May 2016.
How are you using Classworks to support your math instruction?
I use Classworks in a variety of ways. If we are revisiting a skill from the previous year to scaffold on, I assign Classworks lessons that reteach that skill. I also use it to support teaching my on-grade level standards. I’ll assign Classworks instruction for my students to work on independently after I’ve taught a new concept to the whole group. Lastly, students work on individualized Classworks lessons in centers when they have finished their other center work.
Classworks instruction is standards-based, and my students can always use the extra instruction and practice to help them master their grade-level standards.
How has working on Classworks benefitted your students?
One benefit is that the students are building stamina. I like for my students to take their time working through their Classworks lessons, which include direct instruction, several activities to apply the skill, and a quiz. Digital lessons like this help students not only practice the skills they need to work on, but also develop the stamina and focus they need to be successful on their end of year tests.
I can see the growth in my students. I do feel that students thrive when they are working on a computer in this day in age. And although Classworks includes game-like activities, it also includes problem-solving activities and other types of lessons. The students benefit from learning skills in a variety of formats.
How do you motivate students to do their best when working in Classworks?
It is important that the students be in charge of their learning and understand how they are performing. With Classworks, they can see their lesson scores and have their own dashboard to keep up with their progress. That keeps them motivated. Also, reports like the Student Comprehensive Report, show me how my students are performing in Classworks. I use that data to conference with them. I present it to them on their level and share their growth and their struggles along with next steps for improvement.
How do you feel about having Classworks as a resource?
Classworks provides my students with well-developed lessons and activities that enhance my teaching, build their stamina, and help them master standards-based math skills. The higher grades in elementary school can be challenging because we pull away from learning through song and dance and focus more on facts, vocabulary, and reading. The transition can be difficult for 4th graders, but Classworks provides the right mix of activities to aid in that transition.
*Interview with Ms. Waters conduction March 2018.