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Virginia high school uses technology to increase learning time, boost graduation rates

Educators aim to extend learning time and boost graduation rates.

T.C. Williams High School, in Virginia’s Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), uses technology to create online and blended-learning environments that provide extra support to students who need it. Two of the school’s primary goals are to extend the amount of learning time and ensure that more students graduate—and early results from these programs are encouraging.

For these reasons, we’ve chosen T.C. Williams as our “eSchool of the Month” for April. Here, Mary Fluharty, the school’s online learning coordinator, describes some of her school’s accomplishments—and the challenges it overcame in the process.
(Editor’s note: To nominate your school or district for our “eSchool of the Month” feature, and to read about past winners, go to: http://www.eschoolnews.com/eschool-of-the-month.)

How do you use technology to advance student learning?

As our school goes through the transformation process, we have become recommitted to engaging students through the integration of technology to increase and sustain student learning. In our 3,000-student high school, we have approximately 10 percent of the student population taking courses online using K12/Aventa and 100 percent of the students learning in a blended learning environment via Blackboard.
Online courses have been integrated into the school day for some students and are helping to meet some of the primary goals of the T.C. Transformation project: to extend learning time and to increase graduation rates. In addition to using Blackboard, our classroom teachers use DyKnow software to manage and monitor student laptop use, SMART Sync to engage students and increase data-driven instruction, and BrainFuse online tutoring that gives students access to a live tutor 24-7 via an online chatroom, to name just a few.
Grant monies were used to roll out the ACPS Academic Access resource that connects students and families to the tools they need to help their students succeed. Academic Access can be used to retrieve course content, grades, assignments, and online tutoring.  Students and parents can also view real-time grades, schedules, and attendance data—all designed to increase engagement in academic and school life.

How do you use technology to streamline school administration and aid in decision-making?

T.C. Williams administrators use iPads to collect data on curriculum implementation during walk-throughs and for formal observations. They use Google Docs to collaborate and to collect and analyze data using Google forms. They use Blackboard surveys and discussion boards to reach the staff and students to ask for feedback and suggestions on how systemic improvements can be made. Administrators also use the Blackboard Journal feature a for creating professional learning plans. All this is done to meet our goal of improving instruction and to build relationships with staff and students.

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