More flipping, less failing

“Flipping the classroom” — students watch video lessons at home and practice skills in class — has cut the failure rate at Clintondale High near Detroit, reports Tina Rosenberg in the New York Times.

Teachers record video lessons, which students watch on their smartphones, home computers or at lunch in the school’s tech lab. In class, they do projects, exercises or lab experiments in small groups while the teacher circulates.

Principal Greg Green had been using videos to demonstrate baseball techniques to his son’s team, leaving “more time for hands-on work at practices,” Rosenberg writes.

In spring of 2010, he asked a social studies teachers to flip one of his classes. The flipped class had more students who’d failed before, but after 20 weeks, they were outperforming the traditional class.

In the fall, Green flipped all ninth-grade classes.

The results were dramatic: the failure rate in English dropped from 52 percent to 19 percent; in math, it dropped from 44 percent to 13 percent; in science, from 41 percent to 19 percent; and in social studies, from 28 percent to 9 percent.

The next year, the fall of 2011, Clintondale became the first high school in the U.S. to flip every class in every grade.

“On average we approximated a 30 percent failure rate,” said Green. “With flipping, it dropped to under 10 percent.” Graduation rates rose dramatically, and are now over 90 percent. College attendance went from 63 percent in 2010 to 80 percent in 2012.

Test scores went up in 2012 and then dropped. But state education officials say Clintondale added many more low-income, low-scoring students from Detroit.

At first, teachers assigned 20-minute videos, but now they run three to six minutes long to encourage rewatching. Teachers record bite-sized lessons or use videos from the Khan Academy, TED and other sources.

Robert Townsend, who teaches ninth-grade physical science, said only half of his students did traditional homework, but 75 to 80 percent watch the videos.

Flipping has helped failing students the most, teachers say. “It’s tough to fail a flipped class, because you’re doing the stuff in here,” said Rob Dameron, the head of the English department. “I used to have about a 30 percent failure rate in English – these kids come in a lot at third-grade, fourth-grade reading levels. Now, out of 130 kids, I have three who are failing — mostly due to attendance problems.”

Townsend said he feels like an “educational artist” who doesn’t just talk and hand out sheets. “I can create interactive lessons and exciting content. There’s so much more time to educate!”

But “flipped classrooms require more creativity and energy from the teacher,” said Dameron.

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  1. I wonder how much of the change in grades is a result of the format, and how much is a result of the format not allowing for a homework component to grades.

    How does this work in areas where not every student has internet access at home?

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      I wonder how much of the success could be attributed to just doing the work. If class time is devoted to what traditionally we’d call “homework” then the kids are WORKING during class instead of spacing out or dozing off and then “forgetting” to do their homework. If they come to class with some preparation via the videos – great. If not, they may learn while doing, I’m sure with some assistance from peers and teachers along the way. I’m afraid Nike may have had it partially correct – JUST DO IT.

  2. palisadesk says:

    I always have a hearty belly laugh at this whole “flipping the classroom” nonsense. It may work in private schools, charter schools with their iPads and whatnot, or affluent neighborhood schools, but it ain’t coming my way for many years. If ever.

    As Paul pointed out –“How does this work in areas where not every student has internet access at home? ”

    Try “hardly any student,” not simply a small minority. My district gets demographic data on elementary schools on a regular basis. My school is a majority working poor (with family incomes below what they would make on welfare), and fewer than 30% have any kind of internet access at home — and often that access is not available to the children (it may be limited to a smartphone a parent has for work purposes). In those families that do have internet access, they never have more than one computer, and may have 5 kids who would need to watch the “flipped” assignments. Not gonna happen.

    The whole thing is ridiculous. It’s simply an aspect of the digital divide, and fortunately seems to work in our favor. I was happy to see our student achievement, despite the school being 99% visible minority and 80% ELL, outperforms most of the leafy suburbs. We don’t do much artsy “project” work, we do a lot of focused instruction, and kids are busy and working hard pretty well all the time. Old fashioned teaching goes a long way; OTOH, technology is valuable for some things and for students with disabilities. No need to be Luddites.

    • Of course it’ll happen. It’s in the process of happening and classroom “flipping” is just the latest, but probably most successful, attempt to use technology to improve the efficiency of education.

      The difference between all previous attempts to use technology to improve the efficiency of public education is that the public education system’s exhausted the public’s patience and faith so a new batch of educators, people with no allegiance to the current system, are getting their crack at educating kids.

    • GoogleMaster says:

      I know where you’re coming from. I have started tutoring at a Jesuit high school whose students fall into this demographic. Their tuition is paid for about 75% by work-study, some by corporate scholarships, and the rest by the students’ families, some of whom pitch in as little as $30 a month because that’s all they can afford. The students (all of them, from freshman on up) work at a sponsoring company 5 school days a month. The rest of the school days, they are in class from 7:30 until 4:00. Tutoring and study period happen in the library from 4:00 to 5:30, so yeah, if you’re counting, that’s a 10 hour day. One of the teachers told us that some of the kids would stay at the school all night if they could. One of the students I was tutoring was writing a paper; she said she couldn’t finish it at home because they didn’t have X, where X was MS Word, I think. The students all check out laptops from the library and turn them in at the end of the tutoring/study period. Flipped classrooms wouldn’t work with this crowd.

    • Clintondale, which has flipped every class, is a high-poverty school. Some kids use a school lab to watch the videos, but apparently most can watch them at home.

  3. Maybe I just don’t get it, but it sounds like all that they are doing is shortening the lecture and then having the students do their work in the classroom. Even if you have an 8-20 minute lecture during class, the students would still have at least 30 minutes to do work during class. This seems like a digital version of ‘read chapter 6 before you come to class tomorrow’, at which point the students do an assignment dealing with material from chapter 6. That doesn’t seem like a new concept, and it seems that teachers quit assigning reading at home because…students didn’t do it. It seems unsurprising that, if students do some work at home and some more in class, however it is divided (reading, lecture, writing), they will do better because, at a minimum, they are putting more time into learning the subject. For subjects like math or science that involves problems (parts of chemistry and physics, and genetics) then doing some of the problems in class would give the teacher a chance to help the kids, though.

  4. cranberry says:

    According to Great Schools, the test scores dropped in every subject,(for 2012), except writing. In math, the scores dropped from 31% passing to 13% passing (state average 29%.) It’s a “priority school,” which means it’s in the lowest 5% of all schools in the state. (According to the 2013 Annual Education Report available on their website.)

    This does not look like success. I will be a skeptic, and ask, “what constitutes failing or passing?” Are we talking of teacher-created tests? Shouldn’t any improved comprehension or skills show up in test scores?

    Are the students reading anything, at any time? Do they do any independent assignments without a teacher in the room? I would not send a child to college who needed academic content presented to her in 3-minute video clips.

    • I had the same reaction about actual reading and about 3″ videos (because kids couldn’t handle 18-20″ of actually paying attention !). It sounds as if they’re enabling the attention span of a gnat.

    • palisadesk says:

      Typically, when they talk about the “flipped classroom” (perhaps not in this particular case) they are suggesting students watching videos of longer than 3 minutes,. either videos of the teacher’s presentation which would have heretofore been delivered in class, or professional videos on the topic of study.

      My district has on its internal website a cache of instructional videos that teachers can assign (or use in class) on a wide range of topics; they average 8-15 minutes long (some are longer).

      I’d have to look it up, but some cognitive research has found that adults (college students) have an attention span for lectures etc. of about 15 minutes; longer lectures are more effective if broken up with brief pauses for questions, etc. The trouble with the “flipping” from the learning point of view is that the student is not interacting with the material, or with other students about it, until the next day. That’s bound to cause learning loss.

      Still, it will be a frosty day in July before school districts provide home internet and computers for poor kids to experience the “flipped classroom.” They can’t find the money for classroom supplies, let alone high-tech home resources. It will be a middle-class phenomenon for however long it lasts. Like most fads this one too will probably die a natural death, only to be replaced by an equally unproven one that is more sizzle than steak..

      • Roger Sweeny says:

        As more and more telephone and cable companies offer discounted “bundles” of phone, tv, and internet service, I predict that the proportion of homes without internet access will steadily decrease.

  5. I started my own version of a flipped classroom last year that does not involve videos. I started having my students copy content notes at home so we can then discuss and use the information in class the next day. I started doing this because the middle schoolers write quite slowly and, like many of us, could not think and discuss the information while also trying to copy it. This has resulted in getting a lot more done in class. I’ve done one video flipped classroom” assignment with my 8th graders and I found that I had the same outcome as I normally do. I found two videos that other teachers made on writing formal hypotheses. After/while viewing the students were to convert a few basic statements into hypotheses. My smartest/hardest working students understood the assignment and wrote formal hypotheses that were totally correct or close to it. My students who often do not do their homework and put in little effort did watch the videos but they did not follow the directions at all. I do think it can be useful for introducing/reinforcing content, but it took a lot of time to find and screen videos and I do not have the software for making my own (or the outside of class time to do this either). Townsend’s comment that “…now I can create interactive lessons and exciting lessons…” is lame. Since when can this only be done through a video that kids watch at home?

  6. Clintondale High’s results for the MEAP and MME tests went from bad to significantly worse in 2012:

    This was predictable because whenever the NYT tells some story about new school policies or techniques resulting in amazing improvements to education, they’re wrong.