Bright ideas for tech-savvy educators, right to your inbox

Success Story: Abilene Independent School District

Thursday, September 5, 2013 -- Kristin Flynn

Abilene’s director of the extended school program, Heath  Wright, was brought on board beginning with the 2010-11 school year to build and deliver a new extended school program to students that included—but also went beyond— credit recovery.  After the 2009-2010 school year, Abilene Independent School District was rated “academically unacceptable” according to the Texas Education Agency accountability ratings system because its completion rate for the Hispanic population subgroup within the district had dipped below 95 percent, one of four criteria in the overall rating.

Heath shares the success Abilene ISD has experienced since implementing Plato Courseware during the 2010-11 school year including an increased graduation rate from 80.3% in 2009-10 to 94.4% in 2012-13. 

Edmentum: What are the strengths of your online learning solution?

Wright:  When exploring online learning partners, Abilene identified three main goals: increase the graduation rate, build a program for students beyond the school day, and ensure the flexibility to customize courses to meet the district’s unique needs. With flexible courses, a flexible license structure, and flexible opportunities for students, Edmentum proved to be the partner to attain these goals and more. 

Edmentum: Describe who you’re serving and what unique needs they have that this solution addresses?

Wright:  Abilene uses Edmentum’s Plato Courseware in a variety of ways throughout the day, both in and out of the classroom. The extended school program now has over 400 students enrolled. What initially began as an evening offering for students to recover credits, has expanded into use for classroom instruction, state test preparation, grade recovery and students with special circumstances, including homebound and students in rehabilitation. In addition, Abilene has implemented both a summer school program serving 300 students as well as a special winter “mini-mester” with over 100 students.

Edmentum: What results can you share about the success of this implementation?

Wright:  With the help of Plato Courseware, Abilene Independent School District experienced improvement in several ways. Abilene went from being “academically unacceptable” to “acceptable” in one school year by increasing its completion rate. The district graduation rate increased to 94.4% percent in 2012-13 from 80.3 percent in 2009-10 and 19 former students who had dropped out are now reenrolled in the district. Over 1000 semester credits were earned using Plato Courseware during the 2010-11 school year, nearly 1500 semester credits during 2011-12, and another 1600 semester credits were earned in this past 2012-13 school year.

In one of the more remarkable examples of Plato’s abilities with struggling learners, Abilene ISD actually conducted their own comparison study. For students who fail the Algebra I EOC at the end of their 8th grade year, it is district policy that those students be enrolled in a double-block of Algebra I in their freshman year of high school. In the 2012 school year, one high school, “B”, used Plato Courseware to supplement the instruction. Another high school, “A”, did not. When it came time for these students to take the EOC again, High School B outperformed A’s pass rate by 23 percentage points. The difference was so striking that High School A adopted Plato for next year’s crop of double-blocked Algebra I. In fall

2013 make-ups, High School A had increased their pass rate 24 points!

As the program continues to evolve, teachers at Cooper High School have embraced the use of Plato Courseware and are using it for a blended learning program in a station rotation model. Students are highly engaged and enjoy the balance of both supplemental practice and whole group instruction in math and Spanish. Lastly, Abilene expanded the use of Plato Courseware into four middle schools for first time credit of both Health and Spanish courses.

Thank you to Heath Wright for sharing the success.  Read their full story here.