In its new series, “Research: Outcomes of Blended/Online Learning Programs,” the Evergreen Education Group takes an in-depth look at successful programs across the nation to examine the best practices that have created tangible results. We are pleased to share with you some highlights from the first study to be released in the series.
Blended Learning Success Results
Using a specialized blended curriculum, a comfortable learning environment, and strong teacher-student relationships, Poudre School District Global Academy (PGA), a full-time hybrid school for grades K-12 in Ft. Collins, Colorado, was able to show incredible gains in student academic progress in both reading and math. In 2014-15, for grades K-8 the school achieved student growth scores between 140-240 percent of national norms.
Assessments from the NWEA MAP (Northwest Evaluation Association: Measures of Academic Progress®) showed PGA met their mission of continuous improvement with the following results (See Table).
In addition to the success in student academic growth, PGA has been recognized for numerous awards including, but not limited to:
- Top 5% of all Colorado Schools for Student Growth (2013-2014)
- Transformation Award School (2014)
- Named a "District of Distinction" (March 2015 District Administration magazine)
- Nationally recognized as an APQC "K-12 Best Practices School" (2010)
The History behind the Success
In 2009, PGA began as an all-virtual K-12 school focusing on struggling students from a traditional brick-and-mortar school. Evolving from 2010 through 2013, PGA transitioned into a model for any student seeking a non-traditional school and they began enrolling advanced and accelerated students. Evolving once again in 2014, PGA moved away from the all-virtual instructional model to become a blended model.
Today at PGA, there is a wait list for students at all grade levels wanting to attend this successful non-traditional school. With over eighty percent of the spring 2015 students re-enrolled for the fall 2015 semester, and with teachers reporting the highest course passing rate in PGA school history for grades 9-12 in English, Math, Social Studies, and Science, there is no wonder why there is such a desire to attend.
PGA Methods for Success
With a blended model, PGA students spend two days per week in the school building working with their teachers and other students in various instructional activities, and the other three days at home with their learning coach, often a parent. These coaches are required to mentor their students through accessing online assignments, communicating with teachers, and signing off on work completed at home. See PGA’s weekly class schedule below.
Heather Hiebsch, PGA’s principal, shares three keys to growth in student achievement:
- Comprehensive and well-designed student performance reports from Fuel Education
- One-to-one mentoring that teachers provide to each student
- The parental or guardian role as learning coaches
Because there is a 13.3:1 student to teacher ratio, students and teachers can meet and interact within dynamic and flexible individual and group settings. Students at PGA say that they take tests seriously and want to do the best they can for themselves and their teachers. PGA teachers believe that these strong, positive relationships are one of the main reasons for PGA’s success.
PGA’s Blended Learning Curriculum
For students in grades K-8, PGA utilizes FuelEd’s partner, K12, for courses within the Online School (OLS) course management tool. The 6-8th graders also use FuelEd content from the Middle School catalog in combination with other district approved and adopted programs.
For grades 9-12, PGA uses FuelEd’s Full-Time School Comprehensive Program (FTS) which includes:
PGA combines teacher led courses using FuelEd content, available to students 24/7 with on-campus face-to-face instruction. PGA focuses on continuous improvement and is always looking for new means to improve student achievement. Using data from FuelEd platforms, combined with qualitative data from teachers, students, and learning coaches, PGA is able to succeed in its mission to continuous improvement.