Note: The information in this profile represents SY2011-12 unless otherwise indicated.

School/organization overview

Name Youth Connection Charter School Virtual High School
Type Charter School
Locale Urban
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois
First year of operation Before 2000
Grades served 11-12
% FRL 98%
% Black or Hispanic 100%
Per-pupil funding $6,137

Blended-learning program

Name N/A
Focus Credit recovery, dropout prevention/recovery
Year launched
Outside investments/grants
Enrollment 164
Blended grades
Blended subjects
Math, English Language Arts, History/Social Studies, Science, Electives
Content K12 Inc.
SIS K12 Inc.
Independent LMS None
Independent gradebook None
Independent assessment  None
Professional development

Program model

Program model: Enriched Virtual

Model description
Students learn online remotely, but attend a learning center for 3 hours per day to receive face-to-face supplemental instruction.

Program background

History and context
Youth Connection Charter School (YCCS) opened in 1997 and is the only charter school in the State of Illinois that offers academic choices to students who have dropped out of traditional high schools, but show desire for a better future. YCCS is a tuition-free, public school program of Chicago Public Schools, and a partnership between Youth Connection Charter School, Malcolm X College, and K12, Inc. To qualify for admission into YCCS Virtual High School, students must be between 18 and 21 with 12 or more credits already completed toward achieving their high school diploma.

In addition to the blended-learning program, YCCS Virtual High School provides students with many support services, including career counseling, academic counseling, mentoring, social service referrals, tutoring, job referrals and internships, and Students in Transitional Living Situations (STLS) services. Also, students may use all or part of the additional two hour per day instruction requirement to participate in the YCCS Virtual High School Work Study Program. Students must be approved to participate in this program and may earn up to 0.5 credit per semester for a maximum of one full credit per academic year.

Blended model
The program is designed to give students the choices they need, such as flexibility in scheduling to allow for job and family responsibilities and a robust collection of course offerings to fulfill needed requirements. An individualized program is designed for each student by the YCCS Virtual High School team. Due to varying skill levels and credit needs, no two students have the same learning plan.

Students attend class five days a week at the YCCS Virtual High School Learning Center at Malcolm X College. They spend three hours in the classroom per day and two hours working independently online per day. New students are required to take a foundations course to introduce them to YCCS’s values, policies, and mission and to acclimate them to the online-learning environment. Students work at their own pace through K12’s virtual courses, with the help of YCCS teachers. YCCS employs four core teachers, in addition to several paraprofessionals, to work in three classrooms with 25 students each. In the classroom, students work through their online courses while teachers work with them variably on assessments, small group instruction and practice, discussion and instruction, depending on students’ needs. Students can choose between three different blocks of time to attend their face-to-face classes. They complete their required two hours of independent work time either on or off campus. By demonstrating a perfect attendance record, students can earn their own laptop.

YCCS Virtual High School offers K12, Inc.’s robust offerings of over 130 core and elective courses. K12, Inc.’s math, English, science, and history courses are offered in multiple versions to meet the needs of diverse learners with diverse goals. Up to four levels of five different world languages and multiple electives are offered as well.

The pace of the program is flexible, but important benchmarks must be reached within a timely fashion including earning a minimum of 5 credits per year (or 2.5 credits per semester), completing the TABE pre- and post-test every year, and demonstrating at least one month of academic gains for each month enrolled in the program. Workshops, ongoing development, and face-to-face tutoring is available to students to assist in reaching these important benchmarks. YCCS’s “Learn to Earn” scholarship program offers financial incentives for excellent academic performance.

A large part of YCCS’s program is providing students with non-academic support to help remove roadblocks that have prevented graduation. Therapy, mentoring, childcare and housing resources, and internships are made available, and an ongoing speaker series engages students in important conversations about improving their lives outside of school.

Notable results
In its first year, the YCCS Virtual High School program saw immediate success with improved enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. Enrollment from first to second semester increased 250 percent, from 38 to 150 students, and the retention rate was high at 70 percent. Fifty percent of students graduated after their first semester at YCCS, and sixty students (92 percent of those eligible) graduated from the program in June 2010.

On the horizon
YCCS Virtual High School hopes to expand beyond Malcolm X College to other community colleges and eventually universities offering dual enrollment. They also plan to offer more robust co-op and work study programs in the future. One wish for technology improvement moving forward is an offering of virtual classes to teach non-academic, post-secondary life skills. YCCS hopes that policymakers will continue to provide for more flexibility to allow greater online and blended-learning opportunities.


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