Langhorne for The 74, “At D.C.’s Ingenuity Prep, Personalized Learning Hasn’t Replaced Teacher Time; It’s Put the Focus Back on Small Groups”

When Aaron Cuny and Will Stoetzer were thinking about how they wanted to structure their own D.C. charter school back in 2012, they kept returning to the same question: “When were we doing the best work for kids?”

“For both of us, it came down to teaching in a small group setting, where you could think about how to reach kids individually rather than spending the majority of time and mental energy thinking about classroom management,” says Stoetzer.

Stoetzer was a special education teacher and Cuny a resident principal-in-training at D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School, a top-ranked elementary school in one of Washington’s middle-income neighborhoods. Both felt the city lacked quality educational options for kids in the neighborhoods that needed them most.

“In pockets across D.C., some schools had shown that when adults got it right, there was success at educating low-income kids,” says Stoetzer. “Schools like KIPP and D.C. Prep have been very purposeful about producing academic results for low-income kids. Their success inspired us, but we had differences in perspective about how that success might be accomplished.”

When they opened Ingenuity Prep a year later with Cuny as CEO and Stoetzer as COO, they located it in Ward 8, Washington’s poorest neighborhood, and built two essential components into the school’s design so that small group learning could be its main focus: co-teaching and computer-based learning.

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