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Cincinnati Catholic Schools Raising Test Scores With New Teaching Model

Ann Thompson
Jr. high students at St. Francis working on their computers, one part of blended learning at the school.

A handful of Cincinnati's inner city and low-income Catholic schools have higher test scores thanks to a partnership with a national firm.

St. Teresa in West Price Hill is the latest school to sign on with Seton Education Partners. St. Francis de Sales in Walnut Hills is already signed up, and seeing results from Seton's blended learning initiative, which combines small groups with specialized computer programs. 

St. Francis middle school social studies and language arts teacher Caleb Allen uses a mix of very specific computer learning and small groups. "With this blended learning model, what I've actually been able to do is see what specific strengths and weaknesses students have so that I can target instruction specifically for them."

For example, Allen could have seven students in a small group, seven others trying to raise their reading level, and seven others watching educational videos.

National scores from NWEA MAP show about 75 percent of St. Francis students made one or more years of progress in math and reading -- the average is 50 percent. These results are on par with or outpace that of many high-performing charter networks, according to Seton.

Principal Joanne Browarsky says teachers were so excited about the program they came in weeks ahead of time to prepare. "Which is unheard of right? That you're going to ask a teacher to return the first week of August to prepare to do this well."

Teacher Ann Boyle sounds out words with students at St. Francis. Principal Joanne Browarsky says Boyle is really energized by the Seton program.

Seton manager Tom Loughead says his company looks to partner with schools who do serve students in need and are ready to take their students to the next level. "And our sort of secret sauce that we bring is a suite of technology that empower teachers to have more meaningful interactions with their students."

Hear more about St. Francis and Seton.

Of the schools Seton partners with nationwide, a third are in Cincinnati. In addition to St. Teresa and St. Francis there is St. Joseph and St. Cecilia.

Seton plans to expand to schools in Cleveland next.