An online adaptive learning program known as Front Row Education is being utilized in area elementary schools, not intending to replace teachers but to help them.

Nineteen schools and more than 300 K-8 teachers in the Dysart School District in El Mirage will be using Front Row Education in the 2016-2017 school year. There are more than 35,000 schools that are using Front Row Education in the United States and Canada. It is primarily used for math and English Language Arts (ELA) and aligns with Common Core Standards.

The program begins with a pretest and places each student in the level in which they are tested. From there, it offers different learning opportunities that practice the material that students are struggling with while presenting it a way that each student can understand based on the level they test into.

It’s really hard when you just use the fall/winter and spring testing that all schools mandate because it doesn’t specify what students don’t know or where they exactly are,” says Brittany Barnes, a third grade teacher at Wood Elementary School in Tempe. “It just gives them a number and compares them to the norm, but it doesn’t say where they’re missing things. Front Row is really nice because it actually helps me figure out where to go next.”

Barnes uses Front Row in her classroom to identify where students are struggling. It allows her to budget her time wisely so she can pin point those who do need extra attention while still allowing those who don’t time to practice and learn the material.

The program is not only beneficial to those who are struggling but also to those who are ahead in school. Students who are advanced learners are still able to be challenged while using front row. This is because the questions or passages they are working on will be set at their individual level. Each student is learning the same material and concepts, but at different levels so the student who is behind won’t feel frustrated or lost and the student who is ahead will still feel challenged.

“We’re freeing up teachers to use their time wisely and spend it the way that they want to,” says Phil Sharp, Front Row’s vice president of marketing.

Sharp, along with the rest of the people involved in creating Front Row, were all former teachers. This allows them to understand the perspective of both the teacher and the student and make it accessible and useful for both. Front Row helps teachers with different aspects of their job like planning and grading so they have more time to actually teach. 

“Front Row helps me to ensure that I take my students to a higher level of thinking by the type of questions they are asking and making sure I’m asking that type of question,” says Liliana Grijalva, a second-grade teacher at Arizona State University Preparatory Academy.

Grijalva finds her students coming to class excited to use Front Row because it makes learning subjects like math fun for them. Front Row’s inquiry based lessons connect math to the real world so students are able to learn concepts in math through activities like planning a birthday party.

It also rewards students for getting questions right by giving them virtual money to spend on their avatar. This motivates students to want to do well which is already half the battle.