An interesting case study was conducted at Harlem’s Ralph Bunche Elementary School in 2011. The student body at the school is made up of a culturally diverse group of kids, most of whom live below the national poverty level. 2011 test scores at the school revealed some disturbing numbers. Only 26% of third graders scored proficient in Language Arts and just 44% were proficient in Math. When the school received a grade of “D” when compared to their peers in other New York City schools for student performance levels, the administration of Ralph Bunche Elementary, also known as PS 125, decided to take action.
Beginning in March of 2012, the computer portion of C8 Sciences’ ACTIVATE™ program (formerly C8Kids) was incorporated into the curriculum for students in grades K-2. The faculty of PS 125 was impressed with the progress they observed before the end of the 2011 school year. Although participating students were not able to complete the recommended 36 sessions before the summer break, improvements were profound in the 14-18 lessons completed. PS 125 administration and faculty decided to implement the ACTIVATE™ program as part of the permanent curriculum for the 2012-2013 calendar year in an effort to help their struggling students achieve success.
Cognitive Exercises: The Initial Results
Initially, teachers reported difficulty in maintaining the student’s attention. The challenge was to keep students engaged through the National Institutes of Health cognitive toolbox assessments that are given at the beginning of the course. The students were unable to sit long enough to complete the assessments and subsequently get started on the program’s exercises and games. C8 Sciences staff, under the direction of C8’s Chief Scientist, Yale Professor Dr. Bruce Wexler, hopped into action. Allowing the kids to experience success, not frustration was their goal. The NIH testing was stopped and the computer sessions were reduced to manageable “bite-sized” chunks of 3-4 minutes to reduce the stress level for the students as they adapted to the program. Dr. Wexler recommended adding one minute per day to the duration of the exercises.
The Dramatic Changes
Within four weeks of the adaptive changes, the excited faculty of Ralph Bunche Elementary wanted more! They reported their students were not only able to complete exercises in the allotted time, but they were asking teachers if they could work longer. In no time, they were completing up to 17 minutes per session, and looking forward to the next time they could log on for more fun and games. Before the end of the school year, NIH assessments were presented to the students again. The results had improved dramatically in comparison to the poor scores at the beginning of the year. 8 out of 10 students were able to complete the Flanker test and 4 out of 10 scored 89% to 100% correct on the congruent trials index of sustained attention.
The study revealed the ACTIVATE™ program’s success was particularly remarkable with the Kindergarten special education group. At the inception of the program, the computer teacher reported she was unable to sustain the student’s attention, even with hands-on help from the classroom teacher. C8’s dedication to providing the help necessary to turn Ralph Bunche Elementary School around paid off.
The C8 staff worked on-site with the administration and staff of PS 125 to modify the ACTIVATE™ program to meet the needs of the students at Ralph Bunche Elementary. The goal was met, and the school continues to thrive. The program showed the staff of PS 125 a new way to teach, and gave the students a new and exciting way to learn.
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