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Keeping Teachers In the Know While Students Are On the Move in Apple Valley, Minnesota

Keeping Teachers In the Know While Students Are On the Move in Apple Valley, Minnesota

FIT Academy, Apple Valley, MN
Claud Allaire
Founder and Executive Director
275 students
Grades K to 9
Study Island
Exact Path
25% students with IEPs
11% English language learners
40% students on free/reduced lunch
The Challenge: 

Educators are familiar with the idea of the kinesthetic learner, a student who learns better through movement. Many studies have concluded that, in truth, most students are kinesthetically inclined and that implementing movement as part of the process of learning helps the brain gather and store information.

Recognizing this need, FIT Academy founder Claud Allaire set out to develop a school in which movement was as central to learning as paper and pencils. Utilizing the latest research and thought leadership behind learning through movement, the FIT Academy in Apple Valley, Minnesota, was born. Its focus is on integrating the three developmental areas of fitness, intellect, and teamwork, which make up the “FIT” acronym. But, the charter school’s curriculum is not all about physical education.

“FIT teachers are excellent academic teachers,” said Claud Allaire, executive director of FIT Academy. “We don’t want them to worry about changing what they do to fit the health and physical activity mission. We needed a curriculum aligned with state standards, practicing proven best practices in [the] classroom in terms of class management, instructional practices, etc. Then, teachers are freed up to naturally incorporate more movement in the class time.”

As lifestyles become more sedentary and health and wellness become growing concerns nationwide, parents are looking for school options that educate their child’s mind and body. This is the mission of FIT Academy, a charter school in Minnesota. But, when you have dedicated a significant portion of the school day to activity, your curriculum has to be able to keep up with the needs of the students wherever they are and however fast they are moving.
How They Did it: 

The Approach:

At FIT Academy, movement is more than just a tool for teachers to generate engagement—it’s key to learning. By utilizing Exact Path and Study Island, the school’s staff can make sure that assessment and instructional time are maximized so that movement- and wellness-based activities can be incorporated.

Every hour, students and their teacher take a “brain break,” a short, three- to five-minute active break to get their blood flowing and better activate their brains. These brain breaks are incorporated in every classroom, but there is no required format; instead, the school’s administration encourages teachers to explore their creativity during this time, experiment with different approaches, and find what works best for their students and themselves.

FIT Academy also incorporates movement by ensuring that every student has at least one 15-minute recess, as well as a dedicated period every day that alternates between a health course and physical education. Health courses are designed to broaden the students’ horizons when it comes to self-care like nutrition, general wellness, and of course, activity, sometimes bringing in taekwondo or aerobics instructors. Additionally, every Wednesday, students in 3rd grade and above are taken to an indoor park or athletic facility to participate in different kinds of sports, games, and other physical activity—an offering that is especially valuable during Minnesota’s harsh winters.

Implementing Edmentum:

Needless to say, with FIT Academy students and staff so frequently on the move, streamlining as many processes as possible is crucial to academic success.

“Our goal in partnering with Edmentum was to bring all formative and summative assessments into one platform and be able to support with training,” Mr. Allaire stated. “Then, teachers can be brought back to those assessments to verify progress. Having all the solutions in one family gives the products continuity with the teachers.”

Accurate and timely assessment is one part of FIT Academy’s successful approach, but what the school’s staff does after those assessments is equally critical for students to make the most progress possible.

“Teachers struggle if they’re just looking at numbers. [Exact Path’s] learning paths provide guidance and content,” Mr. Allaire said.” Exact Path does not just streamline it—it guides the process for them.”

This prescription of content and lessons tailored to individual students’ needs allows FIT Academy teachers to provide a much more personalized learning experience. But, classroom technology is not all about automation. The real success of the school’s Edmentum implementation lies in the way it helps teachers dig deeper into each students’ specific knowledge and needs. By pairing Exact Path’s in-depth diagnostic assessment data with shorter-form practice and assessment in Study Island, teachers and administrators can answer that critical “what’s next” question.

“Incorporating formative assessments is a good way to keep teachers engaged, know what’s going on, and be an active part of the process, and make their own tweaks as needed,” Mr. Allaire commented.

Teachers sometimes struggle if they’re just looking at meaningless data. [Edmentum’s] learning path streamlines the data and provides meaningful information.
Claud Allaire
Founder and Executive Director

FIT Academy opened its doors in the fall of 2017 as a K–8 school, with the plan being to add a high school grade every year for four years, until the school is K–12. So far, enrollment is exceeding forecasts as the school prepares to welcome its first 10th graders. Parents are gravitating to the school for multiple reasons.

“Most come for two reasons,” Mr. Allaire explained. “One, the mission of incorporating health and fitness. Today’s students aren’t naturally getting a highly active lifestyle. Parents recognize that. The other reason is a smaller school community. From a leadership standpoint, all decisions made are solely in the best interest of their school, their one building, and one group of students. It allows for more rapid and impactful decision-making.”

Although early in its establishment, FIT Academy’s academic success so far is impressive. In its first year, 15 percent more students met standards during spring testing, compared to the fall’s baseline tests. Especially considering that many of the school’s students have a history of struggles in the classroom, that level of academic gain is considerable.

Having all the solutions in one family gives the products continuity with the teachers.
Claud Allaire
Founder and Executive Director
The Future: 

Lessons Learned

Mr. Allaire was already a veteran of many technology rollouts at other schools when he started FIT Academy, so he realized the power of effective, ongoing staff training to ensure that technology supports student success.

“You can’t overwhelm staff with new info,” he said. “Take it slow, break down the true purpose, and introduce [the program] strategically. You also need to provide really strong training and support along the way.”

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