Students given a new online option

By Pat Sunderland

Delta County Joint School District #50 has launched a new educational alternative for students in grades 6-12. The Achieve Blended Learning Academy combines technology with traditional classroom experiences to keep students engaged and on track.

"Our school district is a district of opportunity, and this is another opportunity for our students," superintendent Caryn Gibson said.

The program was introduced at the August school board meeting, where Gibson said, "If we have five to 10 students, I would consider that a win [for the initial year]."

Early enrollment figures indicate that goal is already within reach.

Amelia Baldwin, a second year teacher at Delta Opportunity School, will be spending a half day at the Delta Center supervising the blended learning program.

As a math teacher at DOS, she individualizes learning paths for each student, recognizing that some need help to catch up on certain concepts, while others want to spend time studying a particular topic in-depth.

The Achieve Blended Academy follows the same individualized learning track using teacher-designed online courses. Students determine when and where they will access the program, so it's critical they be self-motivated.

Prime candidates are students who are ambitious, with parents who are active in their child's education. Pre-enrollment interviews are conducted with both students and their parents to ensure they're a good fit for the program.

Each Tuesday, students are expected to show up for class at the Delta Center. If they fall behind the pacing guidelines for the semester or the school year, they are required to attend additional sessions.

Some of the in-seat sessions will be strictly for classwork, while others may be used for social activities, field trips or group projects. Input is invited from the students, and Baldwin says she's already been impressed by the amount of "ownership" students are taking in the program.

"I love to see them excited about it, and as you can tell, I'm pretty excited about it too," Baldwin said.

Fulltime students are required to take a minimum number of classes as well as the state assessments required at each grade level. If they wish to participate in extracurricular activities at the traditional schools, they must maintain a minimum GPA.

In addition to fulltime students, the program is being used as an online platform for traditional students who have scheduling conflicts or who wish to take additional AP courses. Some may wish to graduate early or to strengthen scholarship/college applications.

The school district is using Edgenuity software, which allows Baldwin to monitor each student's progress. She can see what lesson her students were on and how long they were on it. She can add an extra assignment or worksheet to address problem areas. The interactive courses require occasional prompts, so she can also tell when students are logged in but not engaged. Student progress falls into one of three categories: on target, ahead or behind.

Courses include the standard subjects such as science, math and language arts, as well as electives like art history, psychology, sociology, digital citizenship and health/physical education.

More information about the Achieve Blended Learning Academy can be obtained from the district office at 874-4438.