Serving the community's education needs through multiple online and blended learning programs.
Evergreen Public Schools in Vancouver, WA, serves more than 26,000 students and is one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state. The district had experimented for years with different online education programs. But when the school board decided that online learning was a cost-effective way to meet the diverse education needs of the entire community, the board mapped out a plan for a more comprehensive online program.
“Our view is that our school system should service the educational needs of the community, but to do so, we needed to look at different ways to provide schooling,” says Ted Feller, the district’s director of secondary education. “Online learning is a great option because it exposes students to skills that are necessary to prepare them for higher education and to compete in a 21st century global economy.”
In concert with its plan, the district also needed to rally support from teachers. Negating any fear of reducing the number of positions, the district decided its staff would be the teachers of record for all online courses. In fact, district leaders felt the success of the new online initiatives depended on teacher buy-in.
“We really believe in ‘owning’ the learning process,” explains Feller. “Using experienced teachers who work for our district allows us to provide more focused instruction and ensures that we have true accountability.”
After experimenting with various vendor-supplied curricula, the district selected a suite of online learning solutions from Fuel Education and Middlebury Interactive Languages that delivered the targeted and diverse curriculum, technology tools, and services to support the district’s ambitious community-wide education programs.
“We worked with several different vendors for about five years,” Feller says. “But as we started to grow the last two years, we really saw the need to bring all of our online initiatives together. FuelEd provides the platform where we can create multiple and different types of blended learning experiences—all under one roof.” The district’s blended and online learning programs now include:
Full- or Part-Time Online Learning for Middle and High School Students
Washington students in grades 6–12 can choose the district’s IQ Academy as an alternative to the traditional classroom-based learning. The academy is an option for students within the district—and throughout the state—who have scheduling conflicts, or who have found that a traditional school does not meet their needs. The program is designed for students who prefer a full- or part-time online learning environment, and uses the curriculum from FuelEd’s content partner, K12, supported by Evergreen district teachers who regularly engage students in one-to-one sessions. The curriculum offers core courses, art and music, world languages, advanced placement, and technology courses. More than 600 students currently participate in the academy.
Blended Learning for Students in Grades K–8
The Evergreen Flex Academy serves Vancouver’s families that choose the district’s blended option. In this program, students use the full-time curriculum at home three days a week, where parents serve as learning facilitators. Students also attend a district brick-andmortar school two days a week for electives or assistance with specific subjects. Currently, more than 300 students participate in this program.
Prior to launching the district’s blended-learning expansion, administrators researched the optimum blended learning environment for students. “We spent a lot of time just trying to figure it out—and we received a lot of support from FuelEd. Their experience and technical expertise implementing online learning was invaluable,” notes Feller.
Credit Recovery for High School Students
The district’s Twilight Program uses FuelEd’s online credit recovery solution for all students who need to make up credits to get back on track to graduate. Expelled students also are enrolled in the program immediately after their expulsion to ensure learning continues throughout their expulsion period. Approximately 350 students participate in the Twilight Program annually.
Alternative High School
Evergreen district students have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma in a smaller, more personal alternative school environment at Legacy High School. The school serves more than 230 students and uses the FuelEd credit recovery solution to provide individualized learning plans to meet each student’s personal needs and goals. This model is successfully replicated in smaller “academy” programs at each of the district’s high schools. Students attend an anchor class together, usually English, and take other online or traditional courses based on individual needs. Evergreen’s Union High School boasts a 96 percent graduation rate, which it largely attributes to the flexibility and effectiveness of its online learning program.
Middle School World Languages
Eighth-grade middle school students have three online language options—Chinese, French, and German—through FuelEd’s content partner, Middlebury Interactive Languages™, developed in part by and Middlebury College, the recognized international leader in language pedagogy. Students attend a computer lab for one period during the day and complete the course online, with the assistance of a lab monitor. As an added incentive for middle school students to take a world language, students can earn high school credit. In 2013, more than 320 middle school students successfully completed a language course and earned a high school credit—before they entered high school. While most of Evergreen Public Schools’ online initiatives were launched as a means to expand and enhance the district’s education mission, a key reason Middlebury Interactive Languages was selected is because it is more cost-effective than traditional world language programs.
“We really wanted to maximize choices for students without the constraints of having to fill a traditional class of 25 to 30 students,” says Feller. “When you add online languages, it doesn’t matter if you have two kids or 30 kids taking Mandarin. You can’t do that in the traditional way of teaching. That’s why we went to the online model rather than hire teachers. Now kids have four different languages to choose from.”
World Languages for Health and Bioscience Magnet High School
Students at Henrietta Lacks (HeLa) Health and Bioscience High School can choose from four world languages. Spanish is taught in a traditional environment, while French, German, and Chinese are taught online. Students attend a language lab during one class period and complete the course online.
Online Courses for District-Mandated Graduation Requirement
Beginning with the 2015 graduation class, students must complete an online or hybrid course to earn a diploma. To satisfy the requirement, students can choose from numerous flexible online courses from FuelEd. Or they take a hybrid course—such as Health, Web Design, Digital Photo, and Multimedia—that features 50 percent online instruction and 50 percent classroom instruction.
Mathematics Intervention for 9th- and 10th- Grade Students
The district’s mathematics intervention initiative targets ninth- and tenth-grade students for remediation who failed first-semester mathematics. At the start of the second-semester mathematics course, students are placed in a credit recovery course to master key concepts and principles they initially failed to grasp. After demonstrating proficiency, the students are placed back in the second-semester course, confident they can stay on track. “We used to just recycle students back into, say, algebra the next year, and we found that was not very successful,” explains Feller. “Now, once they master the concepts that caused their failure in the first semester, we can put them back in the second-semester course, and off they go.”
More than 2,000 students are now engaged in online learning throughout the district. The rapid acceptance of online education during the past two years is the main indicator of success, according to Feller. Other indicators include:
- 3,983 credit recovery courses completed in 2013
- 100 students enrolled in 125 courses in the 2013 summer school program at a cost of just $2,450
- 323 eighth-grade students earned a high school world language credit in 2013
- 225 students enrolled in a blended learning experience