The Charles Hamilton Houston Alternative High School is a campus of the Youth Connections Charter School (YCCS), which has served as the leading provider of alternative education programs in the Chicago area since 1997. The transformation of Houston into its current version, although still in very early stages, is inspiring and early results are highly promising. It would not be possible without both outstanding leadership and the widespread use of blended learning.
Chicago is well known for its many sites and attractions, including theaters, sports arenas, and the downtown stores of its “Magnificent Mile.” The city’s South Side lies just a few miles away, but represents a different world. Away from the tourists and attractions is an area that is at best working class, and at worst is characterized by high levels of economic inequality, homelessness, and violence. In this section of the city, the schools struggle to serve students who are trying to escape poverty, avoid gangs, and survive the streets. For educators in these schools, serving the whole student is not some elaborate educational theory. It is, instead, the only possible way to succeed, because students here need support from caring adults as a precondition to learning.
At the Houston Alternative High School, students are receiving this attention. The high level of personal touch is being facilitated by Fuel Education (FuelEd) technology and an instructional model that blends online teachers and curriculum with onsite teachers, administrators, and support. By shifting some instructional responsibilities to the online teachers and curriculum, Houston’s leaders ensure that the school’s onsite teachers and facilitators can focus on their students’ greatest needs and see students through to success.