Transformation Award: For transforming education through innovative engagement.
The Washington Online School Utah has taken a unique approach to improving the education of public school students across the entire state of Utah. Despite tight budget constraints they were able to deliver a high quality online education to students across the state in an intimate manner. In doing so, they improved the education experience and motivated students with several innovative techniques that resulted in a tremendous improvement in state test scores.
Under the tireless direction of Laura Belnap, Washington Online is able to serve over 1,000 K–8 students every year throughout Utah. Laura and her staff strategically hire teachers by geography so students can regularly connect with their teachers, including many opportunities for face-to-face interaction. They offer Elluminate sessions every week for Math and Language arts that refer back to curriculum, monthly classroom activities, and many options for field trips. The increased time spent with students in person and virtually has lead to more engaged students. Laura’s staff of teachers goes above and beyond their standard roles in pursuit of improving the education of their students.
The students are also offered incentives for attending supplemental classes, taking practice tests, and progressing through the course. As a result students have felt more comfortable with their instructors and with taking assessments. This past year, state test scores in 95 percent of subjects went up over 10 percent, including 28–29 percent in Pre-Algebra and Algebra. Their success in transforming education for K–8 students in Utah has opened the door for Washington Online to serve 9–12 students this year as well, where they undoubtedly will improve the education of students in that program as well.