One District’s Success with Virtual Summer School

Summer school offers students the opportunity to recover credits or get back on track, while others use this time to take advanced courses or pursue a second foreign language or other electives. But figuring out how to staff and pay for your program while giving students the flexibility to take courses from home can be difficult. Jeffrey Rothenberger, Program Administrator for the Montgomery Virtual Program in Pennsylvania, shares how the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit offers summer school options for students across the state.

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The Value in Taking Electives

The Value in Taking Electives article banner

Before students even reach senior year, there’s a lot of pressure to choose a career path or college major and have everything planned out by the time they graduate high school. As most people know from experience, this is oftentimes much easier said than done. Personally, I know more than a handful of 50+ year olds who are still trying to figure out what they want to do when they grow up. And I only figured out in the last couple of years what exactly I wanted to do (and who knows, that could change again in another few years!).

That’s why I’ve always seen a significant amount of value in taking electives. Thanks to the many I was able to explore in school, I had an easier time narrowing down the overwhelming number of potential career pathways that beckoned me upon graduation. At the middle and high school levels especially, electives are crucial to helping students discover their passions, weed out the subjects they’re not that interested in, and get the most out of their time in school.

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The Power of Adaptive Learning

So much is expected of both educators and students. Classroom teachers need to make sure students of all skill levels are prepared to be successful now and in the future, while also ensuring they perform well on high-stakes exams. And students need to fully understand what they’re learning so they can build on that foundation and advance to more complex concepts in higher grades. Easier said than done.

That’s why we created UpSmart®: to help students and teachers do all of that with ease. As class sizes grow and test scores remain important, finding a way to individualize instruction to support students’ varied knowledge bases can be difficult, and this is where UpSmart comes in. We designed UpSmart so teachers can easily incorporate the program into their regular classroom instruction. Teachers teach a lesson, then assign that specific topic in UpSmart, and UpSmart’s detailed and easy-to-understand data enables teachers to quickly identify which students are “getting it” and which need extra help.

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Deeper Dialogue around Digital Distractions

Since the dawn of time, students have gathered together to learn new skills from teaching figures–– and subsequently been distracted from the learning at hand. Today, technology has infiltrated our classrooms and increased the likelihood of student distraction, whether from a buzzing in a pocket or an update in a browser tab. A quick web search reveals a spectrum of responses to this challenge, ranging from free use to an outright ban of devices.

When deciding how to handle digital distractions, it’s often good to start by drafting a contract. This can outline when and where digital devices can be used in a classroom, what they can be used for, and consequences for not meeting expectations. Some elements of a contract may need to be set by a teacher based on school or district policies, particularly around safety and privacy. However, a great way to encourage student buy-in is to have them engage in creating this contract. Here are some conversation starters that can help deepen the dialogue around digital distractions:

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One District’s Success Establishing a Virtual School

Flexibility is important to modern students and families, and establishing a virtual school can help you provide quality curriculum while giving students a less rigid learning environment. But figuring out how to start one can be intimidating. When built using the right curriculum, virtual schools can help districts recapture lost students from competing charter schools, other virtual programs, or even home schooling. Jarret Coutee, Program Administrator at Lafayette Online Academy in Louisiana, shares how the district expanded from a blended learning program into a full-fledged virtual program that better serves all students.

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