Six steps for a successful online summer school

Focus on needs and standards

AYP results and state- and district-level testing data can help decision makers choose where to focus limited resources and how to make best use of time in the short summer-school session. District leaders can use survey tools such as Google Forms to gather information from principals and guidance counselors about areas of need in individual buildings. And, to some extent, the curricula and support provided by the courseware company can provide a structure within which districts can make informed decisions about content offerings.
Districts also need to ascertain the content’s alignment to state standards and benchmarks, and to be prepared to address any gaps using teacher-generated or other content. Increasingly, there are fewer gaps as states move to common core standards and software companies strive to align to those standards.

Offer rigorous, relevant, differentiated learning

The best-case scenario for credit recovery learners includes a diagnostic-prescriptive option, allowing learners to test out of material already mastered. Decision points, lock-outs, and gating mechanisms further ensure that learners will not simply fail a lesson or unit and move on. Decision points route the learner back through failed content and then, if a second time through the content does not lead to mastery, lock the learner out of the course until the instructor is contacted. Gating requires a learner to complete all assigned content or meet other expectations before continuing.

Learning object repositories (LOR) often include these features, and, as the district becomes accustomed to online programs, LORs can generate learning paths to meet very specific individual learning goals. LORs also ensure maximum alignment to state standards within any given course. Using an LOR rather than buying a pre-packaged or out-of-the-box course requires training for online teachers, but the benefits include a deeper knowledge of the curriculum and greater educator buy-in to the program.

Make it engaging and easy

Regardless of the scope of content offerings, real learning occurs when learners find the material engaging and relevant. The desire to avoid retention will bring the horse to the water, as the saying goes, but students must drink deeply of their studies in order to be successful in summer school — and the following school year. An interactive learning experience can maintain students’ attention and enthusiasm at any time of year.

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