Q&A: Mindset shifts and the impact of blended learning on students

Disclaimer: This initiative initially was launched and coordinated by the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation, which in 2022 merged with and became the Charles Butt Foundation.

Our Voices from the Field series features students, teachers, and school leaders who make an impact in Texas public schools.

Nottingham Elementary School in Spring Branch ISD is working to promote student agency and support improved academic performance for all students in their K-5 classrooms. Through the thoughtful use of growth based assessment data and the flexible instructional groupings, the team is giving students ownership over their own learning, leading to the development of agency.

Roy Moore the principal of Nottingham is leading his campus in implementing blended and personalized learning. Moore describes this work as a “movement,” and says it has reignited his passion as an educator.

Raise Your Hand sat down with Moore to learn how the Raising Blended Learners initiative has transformed Moore as a leader, and the students he serves. Read the full Q&A below and watch Moore in this “Voices from the Field” video featured right.

(Video) Voices from the Field: Improving Outcomes by Empowering Students

Raise Your Hand Texas: What made you decide to do this work?

Moore: I’ve been in Spring Branch six years, six years at Nottingham, six years as a principal. When Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri came to the district he talked a lot about the “what if.” Listening to the “what if” and listening to what he was saying, it sounded great, but also new. I came from a traditional model. Some of the things that he was talking about just seemed so far out there.

Then I was awarded an opportunity to go see what the “what if” was. I had the opportunity to visit Clear Creek ISD. That’s when everything changed for me.

When I came back, I had an excitement that I haven’t had before as a principal. I knew right there, this is the next work for me. This is the next work for our kids at Nottingham.

What was it about the visit to Clear Lake Elementary School that changed your mindset?

Moore: What changed my thoughts was talking to the kids. When you talk to a kid and they can actually tell you, “This is what I’m doing. This is why I am doing it. I know what to do next.” It’s amazing.

The teachers had put structures in place, but they weren’t the driver of the learning. The students were. That visit, I saw about 98% of kids truly engaged in what they were doing. To me, that was, “Okay, this is what we need to be trying.”

And that particular school mirrored us. The principal, Jepsey Kimble, talked about his demographics–48% low socio-economic. We’re 46%. I have a group that are low, but I also have a group of students with parents that are very affluent. To be at a school that mirrored what we look like solidified the work.

I’ll be honest, with some of the things that Dr. Muri was talking about, I would think well maybe he’s talking about schools that don’t look like us, but actually, he was talking about something that works for kids. It was just a different mindset.

You are only a few months into implementation. What type of growth have you started to see in students?

Moore: Today we went into a fifth-grade classroom. There was a student that we started to talk last summer about alternative placement for when he comes back to school. We looked at his behaviors because we knew he could be very disruptive.

Today when I spoke with him in the classroom, my question to him was, “What’s different?” Know this–he hasn’t been into my office but twice this whole year. This is a kid I needed moved. Today he told me that he has a choice in what he is learning. He has a voice in what he is learning, and he feels ownership.

“I have ownership, I’m accountable. I don’t have to wait on my teacher to tell me what’s next. I don’t have to wait to be told to come in. I know exactly what I need to do. She’s checking it, but I get to choose if I start A,B, or C first, that’s my decision.”

That’s what it’s truly about.

He’s gotten involved, and his grades are better. We looked at his data, it’s better. Behavior is better. His teacher is actually hearing what he has to say, giving him voice, choice, and agency.

Now we’re watching him take off.

What impact has this work made on you personally?

Moore: I’ve never grown in this way before. This work that we’re doing now, has truly saved me in some ways. To be honest with you, I got stagnant. Yes, we were growing, but we weren’t meeting everybody’s needs. I feel like this is a way that we can truly do that.

If we put this model together the right way and go about it the way we are supposed to which is planning for every kid, I think we are headed in the right direction.

I feel the movement here. I feel like we are getting ready to do something really special at Nottingham. Even though I’ve been here six years it’s like we’re just getting started.