Alexandria City Public Schools, VA - 2012 Transformation Award Winner

Mary Kate Appel

Transformation Award: For increasing learning options and graduation rates by further extending learning opportunities.

Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia is no stranger to online learning. Since 2007, the city’s renowned T.C. Williams High School—which is featured in the film, “Remember the Titans”—has offered a successful program for students wanting to take electives online. When the program started, the school had no idea how important online learning would become.

In 2010, the Virginia Department of Education designated Alexandria-based T.C. Williams High School a persistently low achieving (PLA) school. Although not a failing school, more than half of students are eligible for free or reduced meals and more than 20 percent require English Language Learners (ELL) services. Further, the school has experienced very high growth in its student population over the past 5 years. As part of the school’s “reform and transformation” plan to address the PLA issues, administrators decided that online learning could help solve some real challenges.

As part of its PLA transformation strategy, one of the school’s primary goals was to extend learning and to increase graduation rates. With the strong support of district administration, T.C. Williams now offers a full program of online courses that include AP®, core, electives, world languages, online tutoring, and health and life skills using the FuelEd curricula portfolio.

In addition, this fall ACPS launched the T.C. Satellite Campus, the first comprehensive, non-traditional satellite high school campus in Northern Virginia. The satellite offers FuelEd Online Courses (formerly Aventa), flexible scheduling, internships, and one-on-one interaction with Content-Specific Learning Coaches. The T.C. Satellite Campus is designed to meet the needs of students who require additional schedule flexibility because of family or work obligations, or students who want to accelerate their learning and get to college faster. With the addition of the satellite, the school now believes it can truly meet the individual needs of every student.

Recent efforts have begun to show results. For example, last year’s dropout rate fell, and 84 percent of last year’s graduates went on to college. This year AP enrollment is at an all-time high. And while the PLA transformation strategy is not yet complete, ACPS is certainly on the right track.

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