Education

One school year later, how did veteran LA teacher's experiment work out?

Lisa Alva, a teacher at Bravo Medical Magnet High School in the L.A. Unified School District, leads her last lessons of the school year before finals on Fri., June 1, 2017.
Lisa Alva, a teacher at Bravo Medical Magnet High School in the L.A. Unified School District, leads her last lessons of the school year before finals on Fri., June 1, 2017.
Kyle Stokes/KPCC

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Last August, with a new school year about to begin, high school English teacher Lisa Alva was making plans to solve an age-old problem.

"The 'A student' will always get an A," said Alva, "and then you have students who will always get a 'fail' … They always, always, always do that. So I wanted to find a way to challenge both ends of the spectrum."

When she spoke to KPCC last August, Alva — who has taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District for two decades and at Bravo Medical Magnet High School for the last two years — was preparing an experiment that would reorganize her classes.

Alva's plan, in a nutshell: mix "A" students with struggling students into carefully-crafted groups and have group members rate each others' work. She would then grade students, in part, on the strength of their group's work.

Alva hoped stagnant A students would no longer be able to skate through her classes with ease and that the small group setting might force low-performing students to engage with the work more seriously.

Now that school's out for the summer, we wondered: how did Alva's experiment work out?