Reaching Special Subgroup Populations Through Differentiated Methods
Reaching Special Subgroup Populations Through Differentiated Methods
Implementation of the Multiple Inputs Learning Concept (MILC)
Falling test scores, decreasing graduation rates and diminished college readiness during
times of decreased funding and government mandates are putting drastic pressure on state education agencies, superintendents, administrators, teachers and especially students to create educational strategies that really work. In this environment, the subgroups [Special Education, Limited English Proficiency (LEP), 504, Economically Disadvantaged, and Minorities], make up the students most at risk of failing to pass state standardized tests, resulting in multiple re-tests and expanding the list of High School drop-outs.
Among all states, Texas is ranked in the bottom half, where students are consistently scoring lower than the national average on science proficiency tests. And, globally, the United States has fallen behind the Asian block countries. In China today, over 40 percent of college undergraduates earn engineering and science degrees, while in the U.S., this number is only 5 percent. (McGee et al. 2008).
Furthermore the standard “students read the textbook, hear a lecture, and complete the test” method is not working. Students, like never before, are accessing multiple sources for information. The Internet has taken learning to a different level. With this phenomenon, there is an increased need for impactful virtual programs to teach all students and specifically the most challenging subgroups at the High School and College levels.
With all this said, administrators and teachers understand that implementing a new program into any school district is extremely difficult! For many educators, change comes with many adjustments and the proof always lies in the test scores. However, when school districts are facing dismal test scores, new mechanisms of delivering lessons must be explored in order to achieve dramatic results.
Birth of A New Multiple Inputs Learning Concept
In the fall of 1989, after teaching High School science for eleven years, Paul O. Briones embarked on the journey to complete his graduate work and along with this, to find a way to use his intuitive teaching approach utilizing original music to teach biological concepts. Mr. Briones had taught previously at a Texas 5A school, with large numbers of Biology students of which an increasing number had extreme difficulty learning the science topics. Along with this, there was significant pressure from the community to have a winning football team. But, with the “no pass, no play” rule, critical members of the team were failing science and would have to sit out, risking the Texas 5A championship. This inspired Briones to experiment with music and lesson delivery (Multiple Inputs Learning Concept) on such topics as the Kreb’s Cycle, for which he created a song called “Thirty Eight ATPS”.
After presenting the lesson and song, the following Wednesday, 80% of his students did better on this test than on any previous tests. Students told him they found it easier to remember the lyrics to the song…and consequently, the lesson. Briones realized from this example and countless others, that phenomenal results could be achieved with the use of music in lesson delivery. After discussions with Professor of Science Education, John E. Hurn, Ph., at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, and visiting Robert Yager, Ph. D., at the University of Iowa, Mr. Briones was even more intrigued by the research which concluded that all students learn through three inputs - auditory, kinesthetic, and visual. (Yager et al. 1987).
Briones received his Master’s Degree in Life Sciences and for the next 28 years, implemented his unique learning concept through his teaching of Biology, Chemistry and Physics across many school districts in Texas, with improved science test scores recorded at every school he taught. Briones imagined spreading the word about the effectiveness of teaching utilizing multiple inputs, specifically music.
Mr. Briones dream came to fruition through collaboration with Dr. Arnulfo Tarin Carrasco, M.D., a practicing physician and educational philanthropist. In August of 2008, the pair began work on a video, CD, and online program to teach biological concepts utilizing multiple inputs and branded it Virtual Science University (VSU). When it was all said-and-done, they created 28 videos each complete with a CD containing lectures, labs and tests, all featuring original science songs, hand-on-learning aids, real-life scenarios and helpful hints – tools all students and teachers could use. The objectives of the National Science Foundation and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge Skills (TAKS) objectives were used to create concise lectures based on the multiple inputs learning concept Briones developed which featured him bearing the stage name “Professor Paul.” The internet was chosen as an effective method of making these materials available through the website... www.virtualscienceuniversity.com .
The Proof Is In The Results
2008-2009 – Sophomore Re-testers
During the latter part of the 2008-2009 school year, Mr. Briones was contacted by his High School alma mater. The Science department was in distress and his help was needed to prepare the seniors who had failed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge Skills (TAKS) multiple times and who needed to pass in order to graduate. (1) The state-mandated exit exams, known in Texas as TAKS, contained a “Science” specific exam that was known to be difficult to pass. This provided the perfect opportunity to pilot VSU, as the school needed a program that would be effective in the five weeks of instruction available before the test in late April. VSU was employed to teach not only the seniors, but also junior and sophomore re-testers. The TAKS test was only a month away!
The VSU program was utilized in the classroom, in the library, and online access was provided to 20% of the students (those who were able to utilize this option). Students were benchmarked to determine the concepts on which they were deficient. To the administrators’ dismay, only 25% of the students scored above a 70 on the benchmarks. The task seemed daunting. Once the test was administered in April, the Superintendent and Mr. Briones waited in anticipation of the test scores from the Texas Education Agency. They were ecstatic to learn that, with only five weeks of instruction before the exam, the school reported a 47% passing rate for sophomores (with 3 commended). This represented an 8% improvement from the previous year. (3)
2009-2010 School Year – All Re-testers
Impressed with the improvement in test scores, the Superintendent hired Mr. Briones to serve as Science Department Chair and concluded, along with the High School Principal, that the VSU program should be implemented school-wide. The goal was to make improvements in student performance in both TAKS Scores and benchmarks despite the serious dilemma of low student performance and frequent turnover of science teachers.
The strategy for the year included subscribing all students having difficulty keeping up with the regular pace of the class, to VSU online so they could work independently at home or during study period, along with exposing them to the VSU video lectures in the classroom. The results were phenomenal! The sophomores achieved a passing rate of 86% on the next Texas science exit exam that was administered. (4)
Senior and Junior Re-Testers
It was hypothesized that the full-year implementation of VSU among, not only sophomores, but also junior and senior re-testers, would increase overall passing rates on the TAKS test by at least 10% overall. The strategy was modified to have all students benchmarked three times - in early September, early October and in mid-January. The school attacked every Biology TEK Objective deficiency using DMAC Analysis (Data Management Software for Assessment and Curriculum). (5) With the analysis capabilities of DMAC and the VSU program, the school canvased the problem using the scientific method. Each student was instructed to complete all the VSU lectures in which they were weak, until they achieved a post-test score of ‘85’ on each one. On the October TAKS test, 42% of all senior re-testers passed. Those that did not pass continued with the VSU learning program. In addition, all junior students who took and failed the January benchmark were required to attend a TAKS Boot Camp during their homeroom period for a period of four weeks after spring break. Ideally the school would have preferred to implement the Boot Camp school-wide, but not all of the science teachers cooperated. Again the results were overwhelmingly positive!
2010-2011 – Senior Re-testers And All Subgroups
The following academic year (2010-2011), the new superintendent was extremely cooperative and supportive. A general overview of what was included in the strategy included:
• A letter of expectations was distributed to get students’ buy in.
• Briones administered the Seven Intelligences Checklist of the Multiple Intelligence Model by Howard Gardner Ph.D., and graded it to identify strengths among students. (8)
• Lab groups were set up with high scoring students utilized as facilitators. The groups included students classified as special education, English as a Second Language (ESL), and one 504 student (some special education and the 504 student were also Limited English Proficient students). Each lab facilitator exhibited strength in different intellects: a) Group1 - strong mathematical-logical intellect; b) Group 2 - strong linguistic intellect; c) Group 3 - strong musical-rhythmic intellect; d) Group 4 - strong spatial intellect, e) Group 5 -strong kinesthetic intellect; and f) Group 6 - strong interpersonal intellect. Each group had representation from the special population students who were set up on their own individualized programs. (2)
• The Science Department Chair utilized Virtual Science University’s program, to present all the topics previously covered using traditional methods, watching grades and benchmark scores rise. The TAKS Boot Camp was reinstated, allowing all high school students to rotate among four teachers each week for four weeks and senior re-testers to work independently.
• Once the students scored above an ‘85’ on an objective, they moved on to the next topic, and if they scored below an ‘85’, they had to repeat the same lesson on their own on computers available in the library (with assistance by a paraprofessional, if needed).
This strategy worked extremely well. The data and graphs of the results are as follows:
• Senior TAKS Re-Testers (2010-2011 School Year Tests)
TAKS Objective Benchmark Score
(Avg. of 2 Scores) TAKS Scores (Oct - Mar.)
(Avg. of Both Tests)
1 46% 54.7%
2 50% 70.87%
3 56% 70.87%
4 43% 40%
5 50% 44.5%
Senior Students On Individual TAKS Objectives
Examining this data, it is clear that the program produced results:
Subgroup Without VSU With VSU % Improved
(Prior to ’09) (After ’09)
Senior Re-Testers 35% 95% 60%
Economically Disad 52% 67% (Soph) 15%
Economically Disad 61% 80% (Juniors) 19%
Special Education 07% 60% (Soph) 53%
Special Education 14% 42% (Juniors) 28%
Sophomores (All) 45% 58% 13%
Juniors (All) 67% 83% 16%
All groups showed an improvement with VSU. The greatest gain was among Senior-Re-Testers and only one student from the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 science exit exams failed the test. In most studies, a gain of 5% is considered to be exceptional. Among the subgroups listed above more than 90% of each subgroup was made up of Hispanic students and significant gains were made among the Economically Disadvantaged and Special Education students. In fact, economically disadvantaged students reported passing gains from 58% in 2010 to 71% in 2011; special education students from less than 1% in 2010 to 60% in 2011. (4), (6) & (7)
These results served as motivation for Mr. Briones to continue his quest to bring the VSU program to more students as he concluded that using the VSU program increased the chance of passing the TAKS test and could prove equally effective on the new Texas exit exam [State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR)], which now required passage of an end of course Biology exam. After further review of the National Science Education standards, he saw the implications for use of VSU on other state and national science exams as very promising.
Work Continues To Bring VSU To More Students
The VSU program was created for any student taking a course in Biology at the high school or junior college level or anyone interested in learning about Biology. This instructional program also helps schools trying to make the connection between the school and the home and can be effective with students that miss school due to illness, participation in extracurricular activities, or are in an alternative learning environment. For teachers, it provides ready-made lesson plans for substitutes and an added tool for students who fall behind for whatever reason and need to work independently to catch up.
In today’s climate of public pressure and government mandates, there is a demand for an increase in test scores, an increase in graduation rates, and college readiness. The pressure to produce is hampered by decreased school funding, increased student-teacher ratios, increased pressure to improve results from the special student populations (special education, economically disadvantaged, at risk and 504’s), and declining graduation rates and college readiness. School districts are now faced with finding affordable methods of implementing virtual learning and promoting independent learning tools.
The hypothesis made at the beginning of at least 10% more students would pass the Science TAKS Test by using the VSU program proved to be correct. Also, it can be surmised that Virtual Science University’s learning program helps all students. Other High Schools in Texas, using the VSU program, have reported noticeable increases in their test scores, providing further proof that the program has general applicability. And, since the Biology objectives in VSU’s learning program are aligned with objectives of the National Science Education Standards (National Science Foundation), objectives across multiple states, and the new Texas STAAR Biology objectives, Briones’ surmised that VSU program has applicability among various student populations (including subgroups), and therefore, it can be utilized across the U.S. and internationally. (3) (4) (7)
Even though the numbers of the subgroup populations in schools is small in comparison to the overall numbers, the success or failure of these subgroups can make a big impact in the evaluation of campuses. School districts across the nation work to find a solution because it is a big deal to the community and, more specifically, to the parent and child who has been tagged as 504, special education, or economically disadvantaged. Briones’ has pledged to work to bring VSU to the masses, however grant funding and other available funding sources are needed to get this program in as many schools as possible to help students learn Biology coursework, whether they are traditional learners, or special student populations. In the interim, Briones shares his expertise as an Edutopia community member, responding to inquiries from educators across the world, unselfishly sharing his unique teaching methods.
Briones, Paul BS, M.S., Carrasco Arnulfo T. M.D., Scientific Analysis
and Environmental Stewardship, Virtual Science University, San
Antonio, Texas, February 2009
McGee, Gail, Texas’ Top Scientific, Academic and Corporate Experts
Issue United Call for World-Class Math and Science Education,
The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas
(TAMEST), Austin, Texas, December 9, 2008
Yager, Robert Ph. D. Achieving the Visions of the National Science
Education Standards, University of Iowa – 1987 & 2002
On the web:
Education Agency, AEIS Report 2008
(2) Gardner, Howard, Multiple Intelligences Theory
Education Agency, AEIS Report 2009
Education Agency, AEIS Report 2010
(5) Region 7, DMAC Analysis, DMAC Solutions
(6) Director of Special Programs, Director of Special Programs
Cooperative, Kermit ISD,
Education Agency, AEIS Report 2011
(8) Boulder Center for Accelerated Learning