Over the past year, Georgia Center for Opportunity has hosted a series of luncheons aimed at encouraging local educators and business leaders to think outside of the traditional education reform box. Past keynote speakers have shared ways educators can work within their schools to become “cage-busting” leaders, and how business professionals can form coalitions to support quality education.

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In this same vein, GCO recently had the pleasure to host Sajan George, the founder and CEO of Matchbook Learning. Sajan not only introduced the unique Matchbook blended-learning model, but he also shared ways his “turnaround” methodology can be applied to even the most underperforming schools in Georgia.

What is different about Matchbook Learning?

For students at a Matchbook school, grades are virtually irrelevant. Instead, the emphasis is placed on instructional levels of learning. Rather than go through curriculums associated with the grade they are in (i.e., 3rd grade), students begin lessons based on their skill level, which may be higher or lower than the actual grade they are in (e.g., they may be at a 1st or 4th grade level). Students advance from their individual starting points based on their ability to master a skill at a pace that is independent of other students’ progress in the classroom. This concept is commonly referred to as competency-based education.

By using online learning platforms, Matchbook Learning has created a revolutionary learning system that does not just treat the symptoms of failing schools, but addresses the root cause of failure. Far too often schools focus on one-size-fits all instruction and traditional seat-time to improve student outcomes. However, what is truly needed is the ability to customize learning paths to meet students where they are. This system has already proven its ability to propel struggling students to new heights academically by not overwhelming them with instruction far beyond their ability and by allowing them to progress at their own pace.

What is special about Matchbook Learning is that is does not just give struggling students the autonomy to work independently, it also frees up teachers to work with students on a more engaged level.  Through the online platform, teachers always know where their students are in their learning and can arrange their classes with ease to provide more help to students who need it.

Matchbook has already scaled turnaround success in classrooms, schools, and school systems in places like Detroit, MI and Newark, NJ.

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Can the Matchbook model turnaround Georgia?

To apply these turnaround methods in Georgia, Sajan noted that a more innovative vision of education is needed across the state. One possible starting point, however, could be Gov. Deal’s proposed recovery schools districts. Looking to the Matchbook Learning system as a best practice for these would-be state charter schools could provide the much needed guidance to transform low-performing schools into student-centered learning environments.

Through collaboration with innovators such as Sajan George, Georgia Center for Opportunity continues to remove barriers to quality education by promoting solutions that have been proven to work. Considering models like that of Matchbook Learning are a much needed step in the right direction for giving Georgia a real chance to prosper.