St. Francis Catholic School joins the Seton Blended Learning Network

Cleveland is joining the growing list of cities utilizing a novel approach to education with a track record of improved student learning.

The Seton Blended Learning Initiative helps urban Catholic schools across the country ensure that students achieve at their highest level. Blended learning brings together small group, teacher-led instruction with high-tech computer software that allows students to learn at their own pace. This approach provides more teacher-student interaction and the flexibility for students to move forward according to their ability. Urban Catholic schools have a long tradition of providing personalized attention to underprivileged students and now technology can be leveraged to both build on that tradition and help these schools and their students thrive.

St. Francis Catholic School on Myron Avenue on Cleveland’s East Side is the first local member of the Seton Blended Learning Network, which is an innovative network of 14 urban Catholic schools in nine cities driven by results, smart collaboration and character formation that serves more than 4,000 students, 98 percent of whom are minorities and over two-thirds of whom qualify for the federal meals program. Seton provides partner schools with the know-how, training and fundraising required to convert to blended learning. The goal is to substantially improve the academic performance and reduce the operating costs of financially struggling urban Catholic schools.

“For this to work, the use of technology needs to be robust. To be worth doing, it must also be done in a classically Catholic way that prioritizes relationships and character development just as much as academic achievement,” said Stephanie Saroki de García, the co-founder and managing director of Seton Education Partners. “Seton launched its signature Blended Learning Initiative to show what is possible by helping Catholic schools transform into cutting-edge learning centers that help students build knowledge, good character, and faith in an economically sustainable way.”

“The use of technology to individualize learning is not new, but what is happening at St. Francis School is more than just the implementation of a program. It is the complete transformation of the culture and learning environment with expert teaching at the center, supported by high-tech learning at the student’s own pace,” said Dr. Frank W. O’Linn, interim superintendent of schools in the Office of Catechetical Formation and Education for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. “The seeds of innovation are falling on good soil at St. Francis which is known for its caring community environment and high expectations.”

Rachel Marchand serves as the new Seton Blended Learning manager at St. Francis School.  “My responsibility is to coach teachers in how best to implement Seton Blended Learning techniques.  Having a full-time support person on-site ensures that teachers and students have the help they need to succeed,” Marchand said.

Seton blended learning techniques will be implemented in all grades, kindergarten through eighth grade. “Our goal is to ensure that this model works for every student, every day,” said Emily Gilbride, director of the Seton Blended Learning Network.

“This approach to learning allows the classroom teacher to present a basic lesson plan. Then the student’s individual interaction with the specialized computer software helps the student grow and learn at their own pace, significantly improving student achievement,” said Scott Embacher, principal of St. Francis School. Costs for the initiative are just under $700,000 with about half coming from local philanthropic giving and half from national donors.

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