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Geek Out 2018

May 17, 2018

This week, New Classrooms held its third annual Geek Out, a gathering of supporters and advocates for personalized learning. The evening event included a dynamic lineup of speakers, and we’re excited to share some of the highlights. Keep reading for a recap of prepared remarks from Jamaal Bowman, the founding principal at the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action. You’ll also hear a story of perseverance from Aylinn, a fifth grade student in New Jersey.


Man speaking at a conference

Jamaal Bowman: Creating a More Serious and Focused Learning Culture

“There is an education revolution happening in classrooms, schools and communities all over the world, and New Classrooms is poised to lead that revolution along with the brilliant students at CASA Middle School. CASA is located in the North Bronx and serves 270 students and families. CASA students represent the rich history and culture of the Bronx and has a vision to use education for sustained community transformation. I stand before you today as the proud founding principal of CASA Middle School.

New Classrooms aims to meet the needs of every student while embracing the teacher as an integral part of the process. In a truly personalized classroom, students are engaging with multiple modalities which includes technology, their peers, and the teacher, while remaining clear as to where they need to go academically.

CASA Middle School’s mission is to be a leader in innovative education, so our partnership with New Classrooms is a match made in heaven. With digital technology, and new ways of thinking about ourselves and the world, the old ways of learning and engaging with one another are obsolete. Digital technology demands that we do things differently, and we are excited to embrace that challenge. CASA Middle School knows that every child has unlimited potential, and it’s about time that we nourish their potential to create a more just and equitable world.

New Classrooms has helped us to create a more serious and focused learning culture overall, but especially in the discipline of mathematics. Last year only 17% of our students had an 80 or above on their first marking period report card. This year that number has jumped to 34%. Because of TTO’s targeted instruction, we were bold enough to give 30 of our students the high school algebra exam after only half a year of instruction. Fifty-two percent of the students passed. According to our daily formative data, all of our students are making steady progress, and by the end of the year they will know exactly how much they have grown and the exact skills they still need to work on.

And this is only the beginning. With technology, the world is our classroom and learning can happen anywhere at anytime. Technology helps parents and community members to get back into the game as well, by helping them to complete their education or upskill while in the workforce. New Classrooms is breaking down the walls of inequity and over-standardization and providing the flexibility necessary to inspire students toward metacognition and life-long learning. CASA is proud to be on this journey with New Classrooms and we are looking forward to continued innovation that will empower our highest need communities for generations to come.

Thank you all for being here and let’s continue to do whatever it takes to take our kids to the next level.”

Fifth grade student speaking at conference

Aylinn, Fifth Grade Student: A Story of Perseverance

Good evening, everyone. My name is Aylinn and it’s wonderful to see all of you.

My family came from Mexico to the United States when they were young. My mom arrived with my grandpa and grandma when she was 21 years old. My uncle and mom started working to earn money to buy plane tickets for my grandma to go back and bring over my other uncles and aunts. She faced a really hard childhood.

My dad, on the other hand, also came from Mexico when he was in his early twenties to earn some money because when he was about 10 years old when his dad died. Without any other money in the family, he and my uncle started working to take care of their six siblings.

My parents met in a factory in Passaic and then they dated for five years before getting married and then having my sister Belen. I was born six years after her. Now, 16 years later, my mom works as a lunch lady in a charter school and my dad works in construction. My parents worked hard and bought our house and my sister goes to Passaic County Technical Institute. I am proud to say that I am related to them because they are so amazing. They faced all those difficulties when they were small and still got past it and started a family.

Currently I am a fifth-grade student at Passaic Gifted and Talented Academy. In my opinion, we are by far the smartest children in the district. I started using Teach to One (we call it TTO) this school year and at first I felt a little weird because I was used to my teacher writing on the Smartboard and me taking notes and solving problems in my notebook. My cousins had been using TTO and told me I had to work with different teachers and on my computer. I was really excited, but a little nervous because it was SO different.

But it ended up being super helpful…and I felt great. What’s been different (but fun) about TTO from my previous experiences in math class is that now I can learn at my own pace and not have to wait for my classmates. For me, that means that I can have more advanced math. Before we had TTO we had to wait for our classmates to understand the skill for us to move on, but now it is different and I like that new freedom.

One of my dreams when I grow up is to become a lawyer and help people who are innocent. TTO helps me become a lawyer because everyone studying in college and law school needs a good understanding of complex math. TTO also helps me because it teaches me problem-solving. When you are a lawyer you are going to need to problem-solve and come to an agreement either with the judge or the other person—depending on the case. My experience with TTO math also influenced me to persevere because even if I get a “Room for Growth” on the exit slip, the next day I work on the same skill until I get it right. I have to keep pushing and TTO helps make sure I succeed.

I would like to thank you for allowing me to speak tonight at Geek Out. I have enjoyed being here. I am honored to represent all the TTO students. Thank you and goodnight.