Blended Learning Grows in Yuma

July 3, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Don Soifer has a very interesting piece on how the Yuma Elementary District is going all in on personalized learning. Yuma of course is also the home of Carpe Diem, so the district is getting in on this trend. This bears watching. The reason you get to do something other than subsistence farming is because people figured out how to leverage technology in order to improve the productivity of farmers. It sure would be helpful if someone figured out how to do something similar in education-especially in Arizona.

Arizona is a relatively poor state with an unusually small working age population and a vise that looks to tighten in future years. Having lots of people too young to work or else on fixed incomes is not a recipe for lavishing money on schools, but it just might make pretty good primordial soup for innovation.  We have public school teacher shortages, which starts with the fact that only 19% of the public school Class of 2006 earned any kind of BA degree in six years.



Carpe Diem Blended Learning

May 11, 2011


(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I will be taking a delegation to see Carpe Diem tomorrow, thought you might like to see this local newscast story on the school:

Have I Lost My Counter Culture Street Cred?

March 2, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Teacher Beat Blog over at Ed Week has written on the Bill Gates endorsement of the Rock Star Pay for Rock Star Teachers concept. Teacher Beat notes that the Goldwater Institute published a study promoting this concept a couple of years ago, noting:

But the endorsement by Gates, reinforced by his NGA presentation, will presumably push the class-size proposal into mainstream thought, given the level of support shown him by his primary audience.

Wait, I thought I was mainstream. Does this make me a crossover?

Or someone who sold out?

Maudlin existential crisis alert!

I need to let Mr. Gates know about Carpe Diem. I still think this idea has merit, but practioners have already advanced beyond this concept.

The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning

February 11, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Michael Horn has been busy: a study on blended learning from Innosight on blended learning. The study features my favorite school, Carpe Diem of Yuma:

Seize the potential


The Carpe Diem Collegiate High School (Carpe Diem) in Yuma, Ariz., is one of the schools that we profiled that exemplified these traits. It provides a glimpse into just one way blended-learning models can reinvent themselves to be both more productive and personalized for the betterment of the students, who, in the case of Carpe Diem, perform at high levels. With 60 percent of its students on free or reduced-price lunch and 48 percent minorities, in 2010 Carpe Diem ranked first in its county in student performance in math and reading and ranked among the top 10 percent of Arizona charter schools.

Driving productivity
Carpe Diem began as a traditional, state charter school serving 280 students in grades 6 to 12. But when it lost its building lease eight years ago, Carpe Diem had to slash its budget and question every assumption about what a “school” should look like. It turned to blended learning.

A large room filled with 280 cubicles with computers—similar in layout to a call center—sits in the middle of Carpe Diem’s current building. Students rotate every 55 minutes between self-paced online learning in this large learning center and face-to-face instruction in traditional classrooms. When students are learning online in

the learning center, paraprofessionals offer instant direction and help as students encounter difficulties. In the traditional classroom, a teacher re-teaches, enhances, and applies the material introduced online. Students attend class four days a week, although the days are longer (7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Only students who need extra assistance come to the school on Friday.


Carpe Diem hires only six full-time certified teachers: one each for math, language arts, science, physical education, social studies, and electives. Each teacher assumes responsibility for all of the students in the school for his or her subject expertise; for example, the math teacher alone provides all face-to-face math instruction that the 273 students receive throughout the week, no matter the course. With only six certified teachers plus the support staff of assistant coaches, guidance counselors, aides, and administrators, the savings are substantial, which allows Carpe Diem to pay its teachers at or above district salaries with a better benefit plan than that of other schools in the area.
In addition, Carpe Diem’s new building, opened in 2006, only includes five traditional classrooms, which is fewer than half as many as a traditional school requires for a similar enrollment level. The building cost $2.7 million to build, whereas a nearby school building currently in the planning stages will cost roughly $12 million and accommodate only 200 more students than Carpe Diem—over 2.5 times more expensive per student.



Anyone want to guess the academic outcomes of that $12m building are likely to compare to Carpe Diem?


The Way of the Future: Carpe Diem

May 27, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Last week I visited the Carpe Diem charter school in Yuma Arizona. Yuma is off the beaten path, in far western Arizona near the borders of California and Mexico.
Carpe Diem is a 6-12 school with 240 students. A value added analysis of test scores found that they have the biggest gains in the state of Arizona. Their math results are really off the chart, with some grades averaging at the 98th percentile on Terra Nova.
Carpe Diem is a hybrid model school, rotating kids between self-paced instruction on the computer and classroom instruction. Their building is laid out with one large computer lab, with classroom space in the back. They had 240 students working on computers when I walked in, and you could have heard a pin drop.
Carpe Diem has successfully substituted technology for labor. With seven grade levels and 240 students they have only 1 math teacher and one aide who focuses on math. Covering 6-12 and 240 students and getting the best results with a demographically challenging student body = no problem for Carpe Diem. Their founder, Rick Ogston, told me they use less staff than a typical model, and have cash reserves in the bank despite relatively low per pupil funding in AZ. They have never received support from philanthropic foundations, making due with state funding, but their model seems like it could be brought to scale with the right investment. 
They have a classic innovation story in that they tried this radically different approach because they lost their space they were renting some years ago, and the only one available did not lend itself to a traditional approach. The only space they could find was at a University of Phoenix campus. The available space did not lend itself to the traditional 22 kids in multiple classroom model, so they innovated.

Mr. Ogston and his team have created a much more sophisticated version of the Rock Star Pay for Rock Star Teachers model I have written about over the last two years. One math teacher, seven grade levels, 240 students, best value added gains in the state, 90th plus percentile ranking, diverse student body. Check, check, check, check and check!

When I first bounced the idea of the Rock Star Pay for Rock Star Teachers model off of Gisele Huff some years ago, she told me in her delightful French accent “Matthew, you must incorporate TECHNOLOGY into this model. Then the teachers would be SOCRATES!” I knew she was right, and Rick Ogston has proved it.

You are the value-added champion of the year dude!

I want to congratulate the Carpe Diem team for creating a truly innovative school, and encourage others to make the trek from San Diego or Phoenix to see the school for themselves.