COA Staff and CCPS Board
In the first year of Catoosa County Online Academy, a pilot program to offer alternative technology-based high school courses, enrollment has doubled between the first semester and second semester.
The program’s popularity, coupled with an award of excellence from Apex Learning, is evidence of the program’s success.
Approximately 61 students enrolled in the program for the first semester, beginning in August. Of those students, 23 were full-time students studying only with the Catoosa Online Academy (COA) and 38 were blended, doing a combination of courses with the COA and their local high school. For the most recent semester, approximately 115 students enrolled in the program. Students doing blended studies have almost tripled at 95, and full-time online students are about the same at 20 students.
Catoosa County schools’ virtual learning coordinator Kyra Rhyne attributes the increase in participation to success rate of students in the program and increased word of mouth. The COA has set a goal to have 185 students enrolled in the program for the upcoming school year, Rhyne said.
Based on the need of students, lab times have been added in the morning as well as the afternoon three days a week. Instructors are available around the clock to provide instruction to students when needed.
In addition to higher enrollment, the COA is expanding its services by offering summer school. There are 21 courses available this summer for students to catch up, take a prerequisite course or get ahead. Summer school begins June 2 and runs through July 18.
COA coordinators Steve Sawyer and Rhyne chose to use the Apex online curriculum as the core of the academy. Instructors add to the online studies with additional resources and assignments, blending the program to cover all course requirements.
“We offer a blended model, where some students will take one course with us and three at the school,” Rhyne said. “This benefits students with medical needs or financial needs.”
The COA was chosen to receive the ApexLearning Award of excellence for its proven success and unique implementation of the curriculum. The COA was one of six schools across the nation that demonstrated extraordinary vision and dedication to increasing student achievement.
Selection criteria for the award are based on innovative practices to achieve goals. These practices include meaningful impact to students, potential to be replicated or adapted in other instructional settings and proven results, such as increased student engagement, improved test scores, or increased graduation rates.
Sawyer presented the Catoosa County Board of Education with the award at the board meeting April 8. Sawyer gave a presentation that highlighted the programs growth and future potential.
“The Apex Learning Award of Excellence recognizes innovative schools and districts across the country for excellence in implementing blended and virtual learning programs that result in higher student achievement,” according to schools superintendent Denia Reese in the board bulletin. “Apex Learning commended our system for our vision and commitment to new approaches that have meaningful impact on student engagement, academic achievement and graduation rates.”
In June, Rhyne will travel to Seattle, Wash., representing Catoosa County schools at the ApexLearning Blended Learning Conference. She will present the COA program results and offer feedback on the digital curriculum.
“I am so excited,” Rhyne said about the program’s success. “We have a vision of how big this program can be. It can expand the opportunities for homebound students. Eventually all high school students will take at least one online course and even middle school students. Some day we may have the need for a full-time staff and more teachers.”
Growth for the program is made ever more possible with the receipt of an $82,000 grant from the department of education. The budget year 2014 technology grant will provide for digital learning and high-speed internet connections.
In the new Catoosa County schools’ strategic plan the online academy has an instrumental role in student achievement. The plan states that the COA can help the high school vision by providing alternate, extremely flexible methods for student achievement.
“I’m excited for the students to have online learning opportunities and be prepared for the next steps in life,” Rhyne said.
Story courtesy of catwalkchatt.com