Alternatives to Homeschooling: Personalized Learning Programs

January 28, 2014

 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 - 1:00am

Students and their families choose homeschooling alternatives over district schools for many reasons.  Learning outside of the traditional school environment can help allay problems or provide additional support for students who have experienced bullying, have learning disabilities or health related issues, or who have decided not to go the traditional route for personal family reasons.  However, many parents are challenged with meeting the educational needs of their students and often don’t have the proper tools available to them.

As districts are faced with students and families choosing to homeschool, they are exploring new ways to create alternative programs to address the issues of the students and support parents that are struggling with homeschooling options. Ted Feller, the director of secondary education for Evergreen School District, believes that programs should support the community at-large. “Our view is that our school system should service the educational needs of the community, and so we felt that we should look to provide schooling in a different way,” he said.

Feller’s district provides a large variety of tailored programs to nearly 26,000 K-12 students. To support parents who want to keep their children in a home environment, the Evergreen District provides a blended learning environment. The Evergreen Flex Academy serves Vancouver’s families that choose the district’s blended option, with the majority of learning taking place at home. More than 130 K-8th grade students use the Fuel Education curriculum at home three days a week, where parents serve as learning facilitators. Students also attend a district brick-and-mortar school two days a week for electives or assistance with specific subjects.

Prior to the district’s blended learning expansion, administrators conducted research to develop  the optimum blended learning environment for students. “We spent a lot of time just trying to figure it out, and we had a lot of support from Fuel Education because they had the experience and technical expertise in implementing online learning,” noted Feller.

By leveraging a curriculum that is tailored to a student’s needs, districts can now offer a personalized learning experience both inside and outside of a classroom environment. Online courses progress based on assessments, allowing students to learn at their own pace, master key concepts and then progress on to the next level.

“Our view is that if technology meets students’ needs, they’ll use it; if not, they won’t. Our online learning program enrollment tells us that it is truly meeting students’ needs,” explained Feller. “You can measure success by the number of kids migrating to these different online areas because they are solving their individual learning problems.”

Additionally, by accommodating their families’ alternative education requirements, the district is meeting the goal of keeping students engaged, progressing on-track, with less than a three percent drop out rate and an average graduation rate of 85 percent.

Want to learn more on how Evergreen School District is meeting the needs of its diverse student population? Click here to register for a webinar with Ted Feller on February 6th at 2 PM ET. 

 

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