Blue Engine is an innovative education service model working in partnership with public high schools serving low-income communities to give teachers access to trained Blue Engine Teaching Assistants (BETAs) for an entire school year. Working alongside teams of 3-4 BETAs, teachers have the instructional bandwidth and efficiency to teach a more rigorous academic curriculum that equips students with the college ready skills in mathematics, literacy, and social cognition. Our unique instructional program focuses on building strong academic foundations in high school in order to ensure that high school graduates from low-income communities are prepared for the intellectual challenges of higher education.
Teams of 3-4 BETAs work in Math and Literacy classrooms alongside teachers for one full year, dramatically reducing the instructor-to-student ratios from 1:30 to 1:7 on average. Unlike a typical classroom where a single teacher delivers instruction to an entire class of students, Blue Engine’s model breaks students into small groups led by BETAs for a portion of each class period. In these small groups, BETAs customize instruction to the specific needs of students and give students quick, personalized feedback on their work. The small group structure allows the teacher and BETAs to address the wide variation in student achievement, academic needs, and learning styles within a single classroom. Intimate settings, greater levels of individual attention, and strong relationships with BETAs enable students to feel comfortable as they engage with rigorous course materials and push the boundaries of their academic potential. BETA teams work with entire grade levels (currently 9th and 10th), providing personalized instruction to all students–not just high achievers, low performers, or students who opt into the program. Over the course of a year, Blue Engine’s small group instructional model dramatically accelerates the pace of learning and increases college readiness for students of all academic levels.
BETAs and teachers deliver assessments and collect data about students to monitor learning, track progress, and inform instruction. State- and nationally-recognized assessments administered quarterly enable teachers and BETAs to track student progress towards college-ready skills throughout the year. Working with small groups of students, BETAs can focus extensively on each student and have the capacity to collect quantitative and qualitative data about student progress regularly. This individualized attention enables more personalized, data-informed instruction: BETAs can quickly detect cognitive caps and breakdowns in the learning process of a particular student and, in turn, tailor instruction to address the specific issues that inhibit that student’s academic mastery.
With the aim of boosting academic achievement in partner classrooms, Blue Engine has developed a social cognitive curriculum focused on helping students build the non-cognitive skills they need to be academically successful. The curriculum represents cutting-edge research in social, educational psychology and is grounded in teacher and BETA feedback emphasizing student motivation as one of the top issues most closely tied to academic success. The curriculum was designed to fundamentally change students’ attitudes and mindsets about learning, encourages students to become self-regulated learners who take ownership of their own education, through high school and beyond.
BETAs provide additional instruction and support during off periods and after school hours (3-6 p.m.), interventions that increase instructional time without increasing costs. BETAs lead after-school programming each day, engaging with students in a variety of extracurricular contexts that range from academic tutoring and test preparation to coaching sports teams and directing school musicals.
The Blue Engine Model
Produced by Kornhaber | Brown, this mini-documentary provides an explanation of Blue Engine’s model and approach.
One BETA’s story
Produced by Kornhaber | Brown, this mini-documentary tells the powerful story of the relationships between a BETA and her students.