Nearly a year and a half ago, Bloomington Jr. High School (BJHS) in Bloomington, Illinois, sought a solution to remedy its summer school struggles. BJHS’ traditional summer school program was in need of reengineering due to rising costs, scheduling issues, and curriculum inconsistencies. It was then that BJHS turned to Edmentum’s fully accredited virtual school, EdOptions Academy.
During the summer of 2014, BJHS enrolled its first group of junior high students in the EdOptions virtual program, which offered affordability, rigorous content, and flexible program management. BJHS saved more than $20,000 and saw 100 percent of students complete their summer school courses to recover needed credits. The BJHS administration is currently looking into increasing course offerings for students in need of enrichment, as well as creating an additional after-school credit recovery program during the fourth quarter of the school year.
BJHS assistant principal Leslie Alappattu shares some of her insights and reflections following the school’s first year of summer school transformation.
What were some of the challenges you experienced with your traditional summer school program?
Ms. Alappattu: What was really the headache was the scheduling part of it. I really had to be meticulous about the schedule to make sure that every kid was able to go to each of the classes that they needed, while also trying to keep the teachers here for the least amount of time needed.
[Students] were only able to miss two classes out of the total 19 days. If they missed more than that, they were automatically removed from the program, regardless of the grade that they had earned up to that point.
What did you see in EdOptions Academy that helped you determine that this was a solution that would alleviate your summer school struggles?
Ms. Alappattu: Students were able to work at their own pace. As long as the student did the work that they needed to do within the 19 days, we were okay with them working from home or wherever it may be. Students were able to access [EdOptions Academy] from anywhere. If parents had already made plans to go on summer vacation, they could. They wouldn’t have to worry about that attendance policy.
[Previously,] if I hired one of my 6th grade science teachers to do the summer school science class, she would pull material from 7th and 8th grade to identify what she thought were the most important things for them to learn. [With EdOptions Academy,] the curriculum was already set. I wasn’t paying a teacher to identify what students needed to learn as a result of summer school.
At BJHS, summer school was primarily put in place to meet credit recovery needs. What opportunities did you see to expand the use of EdOptions Academy for other summer school students?
Ms. Alappattu: We sent the [EdOptions Academy] course offerings out to all parents [during] third quarter. At that point, we were looking at this as an enrichment program. We had some kids that were taking British Literature or taking seventh grade math again just because their parents felt like, “I want them to keep being exposed to this.” In the future, there are some advanced courses that we don’t offer at our high school that might be an option for our kids to get some exposure to curriculum that isn’t currently available.
Tell us about the structure of your summer school program after partnering with Edmentum.
Ms. Alappattu: I would say 98 percent of our kids came to school. We provided transportation; we provided breakfast. We opened it up so they had 1 hour and 45 minutes per class to be supervised by an adult and to get assistance if they needed it in addition to what their EdOptions teacher on the virtual side was giving them. We did require them to come in and take the end-of-semester exam in the presence of our teachers for accountability purposes.
How did you measure the success of your virtual summer school program using EdOptions Academy?
Ms. Alappattu: The time that kids had to put in was a draw for us. When [students] came in on the first day, they took a pretest that identified what they already knew. EdOptions would then identify that, because they showed a deficit in certain areas, these were the actual assignments that [students] had to do [to recover that course credit].
We had two summer school teachers, which cost us far less money than the seven teachers we had [in previous years]. If a student had a question and they needed clarification, [those teachers] could provide that. [Otherwise, every student] was doing something different using EdOptions Academy.
Every child that went through the EdOptions Academy for summer school to move onto the next grade level completed it. As somebody who was not anywhere near familiar with what this online curriculum would look like, it was really nerve-racking going into it. [The Edmentum support team] was always available to answer questions. It definitely felt like being a first-timer going into this, I had support.
Interested in learning more about how Edmentum can partner with your school or district? Check out our Summer School Planning Checklist or watch our 10-minute On-Demand Webinar, 10 Ways a School or District Can Use a Virtual School.