I had the pleasure of attending a very informative discussion last week at ISTE 2015 delivered by one of our valued customers, Newport School District. This rural Pennsylvania district serves approximately 1,400 students, of whom 50 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch and 30 percent are on an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This forward thinking school district has a clear mission “to educate all students to become lifelong learners through partnerships with parents, educators and community.” District superintendent Ryan Neuhard and business manager Greg Longwell led a meaningful presentation on how the district created a sustainable blended learning program to offer expanded academic opportunities to their students.
These inspiring district leaders walked the audience through the collaborative process of implementing this program, highlighting key elements of what made the initiative successful for the district. Here are a few themes I collected from the presentation that I think might help other districts considering blended learning.
A successful program is best achieved when all key stakeholders agree on what the outcome should look like. In Newport SD, teachers, students, parents, and administrators all had a voice in designing the program and contributing to outlining a clear program vision and focused goals.
Once goals are identified, the process of working toward that set of goals must be collaborative. Mr. Longwell described his extensive involvement in the implementation process from attending the staff training to observing the students using the technology. This level of participation is atypical of a business manager, but it certainly added to Newport SD’s success.
Quality professional development and training can directly impact the success of a program. Mr. Neuhard described the many opportunities and challenges that Newport SD’s staff had in getting comfortable with the technology and learning to adjust teaching styles in order to ensure that they met their students’ unique needs.
A blended learning program cannot be developed overnight. Newport SD’s program was well planned and implemented across a span of several school years to ensure that students and staff were ready to engage with an ever-evolving classroom model.
Newport SD’s efforts to blend technology and teaching approaches have not only resulted in increased instructional offerings for the district but also improved outcomes across its diverse student population. Since partnering with Edmentum in 2008, the district has seen significant improvement in its state test scores and graduation rates, as well as a rebound in student enrollment. Want to learn more about Newport SD’s outstanding blended learning program? Check out the Success Story here!