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Interview: Jeannine DeFalco, Superintendent of Knowlton Township School District

Finding a Personalized Learning Platform That New Jersey Students and Teachers Love

Ryanne Bigelli

Principal at Harmony Township School

In this interview, Superintendent Jeannine DeFalco explains how new technology has helped her students and teachers achieve tremendous breakthroughs.

Q: How does eSpark make it easier to address the diverse learning needs of students in your district?

Here at Knowlton, we are finding eSpark to be a great asset to our classrooms. It gives the students the ability to work at their own level with a lot of success and independence. From my experience seeing eSpark in action in the classroom, teachers are easily able to identify if a student is struggling with a concept or skill and intervene to change the level to meet their needs and provide that student with more personalized instruction on that skill. They are not only able to intervene for those who are struggling, but also for those students who are excelling beyond grade level and need to be challenged, which goes right along with our district’s goal for differentiation.

Q: What do your teachers like most about eSpark?

The teachers are impressed with the apps and activities featured throughout eSpark. All of eSpark’s content is personalized to each student and super engaging. My teachers also tell me how much they love the weekly updates that highlight which students received high-fives and which students may need some additional support in certain areas. These notifications are really helpful and well received.

"eSpark’s approach to differentiation really takes out that frustration teachers face when trying to target a wide range of skill levels in one lesson."

Q: What do students at Knowlton like best about eSpark?

I’m very fortunate in my role as superintendent at Knowlton that I actually get the opportunity to be in the classroom very frequently to see students in action. Students as young as kindergarten have shared with me that they like how eSpark lets them work at their own level. This is something that their teachers are very transparent about, and I think it really makes students feel supported in the classroom. eSpark’s approach to differentiation really takes out that frustration teachers face when trying to target a wide range of skill levels in one lesson. With eSpark, every student is working on what they are capable of and often unaware that their peers might be working on a different level than them. Students are engaging and loving the program as a whole so much so that they even talk to their friends after class about what they had done on eSpark that day, which actually promotes student engagement outside of the program itself. In this day and age, students are doing less and less of this verbal communication with one another due to technology, but in this case, eSpark actually lends itself to many opportunities for students to communicate with one another, which I love to see.

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Q: When you think about growth, how are you evaluating this with eSpark?

Data plays a huge role in our district planning and evaluation of student success. We use eSpark as a part of our data analysis and are able to see each student’s progress across skill levels throughout the year. This helps us to identify areas of instruction that require more attention or intervention among students.

Q: How have you built the type of culture where your teachers are on board for this personalized learning strategy?

eSpark was actually brought forward by teachers to me, which meant that the buy-in around the program was already there. It became a joint effort in examining whether or not eSpark would be a good fit, which I think is important when bringing in a new program. We were able to see the program in action and meet with eSpark to get a full understanding of what this implementation would look like in our classrooms, which really brought unified support. We make sure to do surveys every year to evaluate our current products and their implementation in the classroom and it’s very clear that my teachers don’t want eSpark to go away.

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Q: Why would you recommend eSpark to other school districts?

I would definitely recommend eSpark! I have been able to witness firsthand how it addresses the diverse needs of my students. We often see many students who come into kindergarten with no preschool experience, but this type of program really allows teachers to identify their baseline skill level and set them on a path for success that meets their needs. I personally would recommend starting eSpark right away for kindergarteners, because you can really isolate where they are at and what they need so that, as they move throughout their academic careers, they can grow and succeed effectively.

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In Frontier, students give and recieve peer feedback through integrated tools.

Location

Warren County, Delaware, NJ

Demographics

20% free or reduced lunch

Technology

1:1 iPads

Implementation

eSpark used in grades K-2 in Math & ELA with whole class and center-based learning settings

Ready to see what eSpark could look in your district? Get started now