The Academic Center of Excellence (ACE) was designed to give at-risk students in grades 7 – 12 an alternative to the traditional school setting.
The educators at ACE had several high-priority goals as they began their search for a digital curriculum:
Increase student retention among the high-risk population and decrease the dropout rate; provide academic support for students unable to attend the regular high school; identify and provide remediation to struggling students; Provide teachers with real-time data for tracking student performance; ensure adherence to the rigorous curriculum by providing teachers with real-time data for tracking individual student progress against standards.
ACE partnered with Apex Learning in order to create a blended learning environment that personalizes learning for each student. They use Comprehensive Courses to provide original credit to graduate from high school, for credit recovery, and for advanced placement. ACE chose Apex Learning in part because of the rigorous curriculum.
Results at ACE have been outstanding. The graduation rate for the 2015 – 2016 school year was 97 percent. Students are staying on track to graduate and meeting rigorous state standards, as well as enrolling in advanced placement classes.
Serving At-Risk Students
The Academic Center of Excellence opened in 2004 with about 30 students, and it now serves 250 students. In 2014, they added an additional program called ACE-North. Students come to ACE for a variety of reasons: they have previously been homeschooled or have medical conditions; they felt bullied on a traditional campus; they have children or full-time jobs that require a flexible schedule; or they want to graduate early. After earning the required credits at ACE, students graduate with a Cabot High School diploma. ACE partnered with Apex Learning to create a blended learning environment that would best serve these at-risk students. Principal Michele Evans says, “Apex Learning is motivating because it puts the responsibility for learning on the students. It gives the students some control over their education. Our at-risk students often do not have control over many issues in their lives. Students can move forward in a class when they are educationally ready, not when the class is ready.
Blended Learning Means Flexibility in Learning
The rigorous digital curriculum personalizes learning for every student’s needs. However, online instruction is only one component of the instructional day. Focus groups in all core subjects provide targeted and intense direct instruction. Students can access the high-quality digital curriculum anytime, anywhere. For many of these at-risk students, who must work to help support their families, this flexibility is invaluable.
Within this blended learning environment, students have ownership over their learning, and they are able to progress at their own pace. Students move up to the next assignments when they’ve demonstrated proficiency, allowing advanced students to proceed at an accelerated pace and enabling teachers to provide extra attention to those students who need help.
“We have replaced traditional student advancement based on ‘seat time’ with advancement based strictly on demonstrated mastery of a subject,” says Evans.
Rigorous Standards and High Expectations
Because Apex Learning is aligned to state standards, students master the concepts covered by state standards and are well prepared for the PARCC assessments. In addition, more students are choosing to take advanced placement classes.
ACE continues to receive well-deserved attention from students, parents, educators, and taxpayers, proving that the school is a very strong community asset for Cabot. The program continues to have success in producing high school graduates who were considered highly at-risk youth.