Submitted by Lisa Lavoie, Principal
Note: The information in this profile represents 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated.
North Country Charter Academy (NCCA) was established in 2004 through the collaboration of 10 area school district superintendents and their school boards. The consortium of superintendents also served as executive members on the board of the North Country Education Service Agency (NCES). This agency wrote a grant to establish the charter school in two locations: Littleton and Lancaster, New Hampshire. At the time of establishment, NCCA contracted with a company to provide its core academics in which they used an online curriculum. Four years from opening, NCCA took over its own curriculum program and decided to keep the online concept. NCCA researched many options and decided to use the same company, but purchase a broader platform option.
Blended Learning Program
Program model: Flex
Students move on an individually customized schedule through the Edmentum online courses with the teacher-of-record on site. The teacher-of-record provides face-to-face support on a flexible basis by identifying students who are struggling and targeting them for individual or small-group face-to-face instruction. The face-to-face support, however, is minimal and students have control over not only the pacing of their learning but also what Edmentum subject material they choose to work on during any given school day.
How much time do students spend on campus in this blended-learning program? How much of this time do students spend learning online or using educational software?
The school requires students to be on campus Mondays through Fridays for three hours per day. Students spend roughly 75 percent of that time learning online or using educational software.
Briefly describe the offline components of this blended-learning program.
The offline components of the blended-learning program include individually targeted instruction with a teacher, small group instruction with a teacher, some project-based assignments, and some pen-and-paper worksheets that are used to support and supplement the online learning.
How are the online and offline components of the program connected to provide an integrated learning experience for students? How do data from different learning modalities inform each other?
The school uses data produced by Edmentum to not only monitor student progress, but also to inform offline and online teaching strategies. Teachers and administrators constantly collect and analyze data from Edmentum to determine where students are in terms of their progress in a particular subject. They also use the data to pinpoint students who are struggling with certain concepts so that teachers can offer them additional support or targeted instruction to ensure that they don’t fall too far behind in the coursework.
How does this blended-learning program fit into the rest of the students’ school day?
The school day is split into two sessions. The first session takes place from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and the second session from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The majority of the students come to campus for one of those sessions and the session they attend is dependent on geographic location. Students have the option of attending both sessions if they have a flexible schedule and want to receive additional instruction, but only a small number takes advantage of this option. The blended-learning aspect of the program takes up the majority of the session as students are seated at computers and progress through their online coursework for most of the day unless directed by the teacher to an offline-learning modality or called upon by the teacher to participate in more targeted or individual face-to-face instruction with the teacher.
What are the teachers’ roles and responsibilities in both the online and offline components of this blended-learning program?
Teachers have traditional responsibilities like leading whole group instruction, conducting breakout sessions for small group instruction, conducting assessments, assigning worksheets, and grading work. But they also have other responsibilities, such as collecting, analyzing, and acting on online and offline student data. Teachers help determine if students need individualized education plans and support students with their online content and instruction.
What other adults are involved in this blended-learning program (e.g., paraprofessionals, learning coaches, counselors) and what are their roles and responsibilities?
The school does not have on-site paraprofessionals or learning coaches because all of the instruction is done with the teachers. The school’s administrative assistant takes on many roles and is certified as a guidance counselor. The school also employs a part-time retired superintendent/principal.
The school has a unique relationship with its participating 10 school districts. IEP/504 meetings are held at the school or at sending districts. The school also works closely with all area agencies such as vocational rehabilitation, probation officers, health and human services, etc. Representatives from the sending schools and area agencies come into the schools as needed to meet with students.
Briefly describe the set-up of physical space for this blended-learning program.
The school has two locations, one in Littleton, N.H., and the other in Lancaster, N.H. At both locations, the learning centers are located in office buildings and are just one room comprised of 15 desktop computers set up in rows so that teachers can easily move between students.
How are students grouped within this blended-learning program?
Because the sessions are grouped by geographic location and the school uses a mastery-based platform, there is very little grouping of students within the blended-learning program. Teachers occasionally group students by achievement for small group instruction so that students who are struggling in the same areas can receive the same intervention and collaborate if necessary. For the most part, students progress through the coursework at their own pace and the Edmentum curriculum is individually customized to ensure that students start at the right level in the subject material based on their previous knowledge of the curriculum. Students have a modicum of control over what they wish to study on any given day, so it is possible that one session could contain 15 students in different age groups and grade levels who are working on completely different subjects based on their individual learning needs.
Do students have some element of control over the pacing of their learning? Are students tied to a semester-based course schedule or can they complete courses at any time? Briefly describe any requirements or benchmarks in place to ensure student progress.
Students must demonstrate mastery of a particular unit or lesson before they can move on to the next lesson, and the school defines mastery as scoring 80 percent or better on any of the assessments delivered by the Edmentum platform. Edmentum offers both pre-and-post assessments to students so that if a student can demonstrate mastery of a unit, she can place out of that unit and instantly move on to the next unit. The school also allows students to complete units at their own pace. Although the school has structured support in place to identify students who struggle and ensure they don’t fall too far behind the recommended schedule, it does allow students to take additional time to demonstrate mastery of a unit. If students don’t demonstrate mastery of a particular subject, they work with teachers to figure out where they are lacking and/or struggling and then try again to demonstrate mastery.
Describe the academic results of the program, using quantitative data where possible.
The following information is the most recent data available to North Country Charter School and it is a collection of data from the NWEA MAPS assessments that were administered during SY2012-13. Not all 2013 graduates were pre- and post-assessed in all areas for reasons including the coursework needed to complete diploma requirements and the amount of time students are enrolled. In math, 25 of the 36 graduates were pre- and post-assessed and 18 of those 25 increased their scores between 1 point and 14 points. The other seven students scored below their individual benchmarks. In English language arts, 28 of the 36 graduates were pre- and post-assessed and 15 of those 28 increased their scores between 1 point and 15 points. Four students scored the same on both assessments and nine students scored below their individual benchmarks. In writing, 28 of the 36 graduates were pre- and post-assessed and 16 of those 28 increased their scores between 2 and 17 points. One student scored the same on both assessments and 11 students scored below their individual benchmarks.
The school also had a 92 percent attendance rate for SY2012-13.
What have been the biggest obstacles in implementing this blended-learning program? What has needed adjustment along the way?
School leaders say they have been “blessed” to have the support of the district superintendents from the school districts partnering with North Country Charter and the primary obstacles they have faced have been related to infrastructure. For example, the platform used to be server-based, which meant that when the school set up its Internet connection in 2008, it had to physically dig a trench and contract a company to come to the school and lay the cable to set up the Internet. The school also has to constantly monitor bandwidth and has been forced on more than one occasion to purchase additional bandwidth to support the program.
Have you or are you planning to scale your program model to more/other schools?
The school has no plans to scale its program at this time