Putnam County’s Virtual Instruction to Accentuate Learning (VITAL) program serves as the district’s core online instruction and personalized learning program. VITAL is used for dual enrollment, credit recovery, blended learning and distance learning for students in grades 6-12.

District leaders implemented the program to model personalized learning throughout schools. A personalized learning task force of 32 people gathers regularly to evaluate the district’s personalized learning goals and ensure its structure mirrors the state-level personalized learning structure.

As a result, Brooks said Putnam County has seen a 50 percent decrease in disciplinary problems, as well as a 50 percent decrease in the need for credit recovery as a result of using online coursework and early intervention strategies. Between 2008 and 2014, the district’s graduation rate increased from 86 percent to 92.6 percent.

VITAL supports students as young as sixth grade if they want to take high school courses, and many dual enrollment students graduate high school with a diploma and an associate degree.

Blended learning is able to expand across districts in part because the technology to support it has improved, and also because educators see opportunities for different student populations to truly benefit from a blended model.

As technology prices dropped in the years after the VITAL program was established, district leaders took the opportunity to purchase more classroom devices and expand the district’s personalized learning offerings.

In just the last three years, 59 school districts have arranged visits to Putnam to learn more about the VITAL program.

“[Those visits] spawned partnership with other districts,” Brooks said. “Anytime we bring someone in to visit, we end up learning something, too.”

Brooks said the district works hard to help students who may not be headed to a four-year college or university after graduation.

“We were doing some great things to help kids who were going to college, but I didn’t feel like we were doing a lot for the skills-based kids,” he said. “In the last couple of years we’ve tried to promote CTE options for students.”

That includes connecting students with opportunities for industry education and training and the chance to earn industry certifications.

“We’re promoting students who are college- and career-ready. That’s our goal,” Brooks said.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura