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


What tangible benefits have you seen as a result of this technology use?

One example of how T.C. Williams has used online courses to result in tangible benefits was to condense the Night School courses that were not filled and to collapse them into four content-specific classrooms with students taking courses online. Students have the benefit of a content-specific teacher as well as an online teacher, and they are working in a self-paced, competency-based course to recover the credit necessary for them to graduate on time.
In addition, we now have the ability to run all of our testing online in a small testing window. This allows for a greater number of instructional days and fewer testing days.  The use of an online test delivery system also allows for us to obtain faster results, providing time for re-teaching opportunities that give students the time to retake tests successfully.

How have you financed your technology initiatives—through grants? eRate funds? Local funds? Corporate partnerships? Or some combination of these techniques?

Our school has financed its technology initiatives using all of the above. We have corporate partnerships with Verizon, local funding has played an important role, and E2T2 grant monies were awarded that allowed us to provide additional technologies to some of our neediest students and to further level the playing field for our scholars.

What ed-tech initiative are you most proud of, and why?

As the online learning coordinator, I am personally most proud of a project we did last year during the 2010-11 school year and are expanding again this year. We took a group of 20 students who were seniors and had failed the first semester of geometry, were in danger of failing the second semester, and as a result would not have graduated. We put them into a self-paced online credit recovery course in one classroom, with a highly qualified geometry teacher to support them as well as their online teacher. Seventeen of those students went on to graduate on time.
This year, we have expanded this program by implementing it again for our seniors but also for our Algebra 1 students at the ninth grade campus. Statistics show that 90 percent of students who pass Algebra 1 in ninth grade go on to graduate on time. We are using online learning to help those students stay on track with their credits and learning.

What have been your biggest challenges? How have you overcome them?

I think our biggest challenge has been administrative support and buy in. If administrators don’t require teachers to integrate technology on some level with consistency, then technology initiatives will often falter. To overcome this challenge, we have had to do some detailed data mining to show the benefits of true technology integration, not just technology for technology’s sake, and to have some candid conversations about where we feel our school has the potential to go.

What’s your best ed-tech advice for colleagues?

My best advice is to remember to keep the educational goals in mind and figure out the technology that will support these learning goals, instead of trying to fit the technology in to where it might not belong.
For more information about the ACPS Online Learning Program, see
http://www.acps.k12.va.us/technology/olp.

eSchool News Staff

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