Indiana is a "Course Choice" state where students choose which school they attend. Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) was losing students to other districts that provided more course options at more convenient times.
- Increase on-time graduation rate.
- Establish a virtual school to attract and retain students.
- Select a partner to provide rigorous, standards-based courses that address the learning needs of all students.
- Expand learning options and provide scheduling flexibility for students with a virtual school program.
- Launch a credit recovery program that supports academic success for students who are reading below proficient.
- 2011-12 graduation rate increased 3.5% due in part to the Virtual Academy option.
- 6% more seniors graduated on time.
- 95% of enrolled students mastered the material and earned credit.
- Students earned more than 300 credits through the Virtual Academy.
Providing Academic Choice
Providing academic choice is a priority for Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC). When Indiana ruled that a computer could be considered a textbook, EVSC saw an opportunity to incorporate digital learning into its academic strategy. As district leaders evaluated digital curriculum providers, they crossed paths with Curtis Johnson, coauthor of Disrupting Class. Johnson recommended that schools partner with experienced, credible digital curriculum providers like Apex Learning.
Increasing On-Time Graduation
The district selected Apex Learning courses and implemented a summer school program in a blended learning environment, where students used online courses to recover credits or earn initial credit. This enabled an additional 6% of the senior cohort to graduate on-time.
Establishing a Virtual Academy
Building on the success of the summer school, the district established the EVSC Virtual Academy using Apex Learning courses. Students could enroll in the Virtual Academy and take online courses for credit recovery, academic advancement, early graduation, and grade replacement (to increase GPA). The Virtual Academy provided schedule flexibility and students could enroll full-time, part-time, while being homeschooled, or while attending a high school in or outside of the school district.
Enrolling Students, Engaging Parents
Janet Leistner was tapped to lead the Virtual Academy. When a student enrolled, Leistner required the student and his or her parent or guardian to attend a goal-setting meeting where she set expectations. Leistner expected parents and teachers to work together to keep the student on track. "It's critical and challenging to make sure parents stay involved," said Leistner. Parents received automated, weekly progress reports from teachers, and were encouraged to be mentors or cheerleaders for their students.
Expanding Learning Options
Students liked learning online and working at their own pace. They could "rewind the teacher" if they missed or didn't understand part of the lesson. Students who are capable of accelerating can take additional courses or take advanced courses. Leistner reports that more students are graduating on time because they can make up credits and fit more classes into their schedule.