Note: The information in this profile represents SY2010-11 unless otherwise indicated.

School/organization overview

Name School for Integrated Academics and Technologies (SIATech)
Type Charter Management Organization
Headquarters Oceanside, California
School locations Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, New Mexico
First year of operation
Grades served 9-12
% FRL 100%
% Black or Hispanic ~75%
Per-pupil funding Varies by state

Blended-learning program

Name N/A
Focus Dropout prevention/recovery
Year launched
Outside investments/grants
Enrollment 4,800 (SY2009-10)
Blended grades
Blended subjects
Math, English Language Arts, History/Social Studies, Science
Content PLATO Learning, BrainPOP, Self-developed
SIS PowerSchool
Independent LMS Blackboard
Independent gradebook Blackboard
Independent assessment  Blackboard
Professional development

Program model

Program model: Flex

Model description
Students use proprietary SIATech online content with face-to-face instruction and as-needed support for all academic core courses. Meanwhile, the Job Corps program provides face-to-face vocational training.

Program background

History and context
The School for Integrated Academics and Technologies (SIATech) is a charter management organization that partners with the federal Job Corps program and other Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs to help high school dropouts in Arizona, California, Florida, and New Mexico earn high school diplomas and prepare for post-secondary careers and/or college. SIATech has co-located schools at 14 Job Corps Centers to provide the core academics (English/language arts, math, science, social science, and technology), while Job Corps provides such things as the career technical program, career readiness training, student housing, medical, dental, social development, and evening activities.

Most of the students who attend a SIATech school have dropped out of traditional high schools and then joined Job Corps. Prior to the SIATech-Job Corps partnership, Job Corps students were limited to obtaining their GEDs as part of the Job Corps program, rather than obtaining a standard diploma. Most Job Corps students live full-time in dormitories at the Job Corps centers. The rest commute to the centers to attend their classes. Because of the two-year time constraint that the federal government places on Job Corps to serve students, SIATech is technically an 11th- and 12th-grade accredited school, although in practice it serves dropouts ages 16 to 24 who represent a range of grade levels.

Eleven years ago SIATech officials recognized that they needed to rethink the traditional education delivery model because that approach had failed too many students. They understood that the most essential “must keep” from their traditional model was the strong one-to-one relationship between a committed teacher and the disadvantaged student. They hypothesized, however, that blending online learning into the required academic core program could offer a new, more customizable format to motivate and accelerate academic learning.

Blended model
The blended model that SIATech now has in place centers around every student having an individual learning plan and a computer workstation with high-speed connectivity, more similar to an office environment than a traditional classroom. “This format supports active rather than passive learning,” said Linda Dawson, superintendent and CEO of SIATech. Students participate in an eight-hour training day, divided into four hours of academics, which SIATech provides, and four hours of career technical training, which Job Corps delivers. Most of the Job Corps portion is face-to-face. The school year extends to 230 days.

The entire SIATech portion of the curriculum is available online. SIATech has created four content specialist teams that design all of its program content, combining the best and most appropriate elements from myriad content sources. SIATech outsources much of the online development of these courses to India, where engineers use a proprietary SIATech flash-based technique to make the content highly interactive. Despite its development of self-made content, SIATech has limited the licensing of its program. SIATech officials feel that because the content delivery is dependent upon effective teaching, the content itself might not be as successful or useful if used outside the SIATech instructional process.

SIATech uses Blackboard ANGEL edition for the learning management system, including the platform for chatting, discussion boards, emails, and storing gradebook information. Highly qualified, subject-certified teachers and their paraprofessional assistants are physically present in the learning labs as students work both online and offline to complete their courses. The staff maintains at least a 2-to-30 adult-to-student ratio in the classroom. Students submit work to these adults online through the learning management system, where teachers access it, review it, and then report grades. The face-to-face staff provides synchronous, as-needed help and instruction to complement the online learning. Students complete the program at an individually determined pace based on their individual learning plans. Resources are available “just in time” to allow for either an accelerated or remedial pace.

SIATech integrates several software programs into its academic program to help students prepare for future employment. These programs include AutoCAD, Microsoft Office, several Adobe products, Macromedia Dreamweaver, and others.

Rather than adhere to seat-time metrics, SIATech focuses on students demonstrating competency. A course is complete when a student achieves 80 percent mastery based on benchmark assessments and summative evaluations. Students get real-time feedback on skill mastery through the short-cycle assessments built into the learning management system. In addition, fully online courses are available for high-stakes test preparation.

Notable results
Because SIATech students tend to be highly transient, the “point in time” measures that presume continuous enrollment from September through June do not work for an open entry/exit model. Thus, high-stake tests arguably are not appropriate for SIATech because they tend to measure institutional growth rather than individual student growth. SIATech prefers a value-added model, which measures individual student growth in literacy and numeracy from the time they enter a SIATech school until they leave. Using this metric, SIATech has reported that on average, students achieve greater than two years of growth in one year in math, reading, and writing.

Since 1998, nearly 10,000 out-of -school youth have earned their high school diploma at SIATech’s 14 school sites.

SIATech officials reported that to the extent its blended model saves money, the school redeploys the funds in software, equipment, the extended school year, smaller class sizes, and research and development.

On the horizon
SIATech hopes to scale to 10,000 students by 2015. Dawson said that charter laws can make scaling difficult, so SIATech is reformulating its delivery model to try to scale without being totally charter dependent. This will involve enhanced partnerships with Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs, school districts, colleges, and community-based organizations.

Among the top needs for SIATech scalability is access to more mobile computing devices—such as netbooks, smartphones, and iPads, for students who need to work remotely. Currently SIATech is piloting a program of issuing netbooks to students at its El Centro, Calif., campus to meet the needs of students whose schedules do not accommodate traditional school hours.

In addition SIATech hopes to develop even more collaboration across its schools, both in terms of students accessing great SIATech teachers at other schools and student-to-student collaboration. “Leveraging technology for program delivery together with highly active and interactive learning based on media-rich content, ‘just in time’ learning, and expert teaching is key to future success,” Dawson said. “SIATech continues to actively pursue policy changes at the federal, state, and local levels to get rid of archaic practices that cling to seat-time and impose accountability systems that do not meaningfully assess individual student growth. The success of public education depends on how we address these needed changes. The transformation of dropouts to graduates is the prize!”


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