Online summer learning aims to get students back on track for graduation

High school students earn credits at their own pace with Edgenuity

8/21/2017 | TACOMA, Washington

Hundreds of Tacoma students seized a second chance at success this summer, thanks to an online learning tool called Edgenuity.

All five Tacoma Public Schools comprehensive high schools offer a free summer opportunity for students who fell behind in credits to catch up using the tool, which features multimedia instruction and the opportunity for students to work at their own pace while completing work that will put them back on track for graduation. 
This summer the program enrolled at least 600 students.

“Edgenuity is a valuable tool both in summer session and year-round for helping our students earn the credits they need to graduate,” said Doug Hostetter, executive director of secondary education for Tacoma Public Schools. “We’re now reaching students earlier in their high school years so they don’t enter their senior year behind in credits.”

Step-by-step guidance

Students work independently on laptop computers with a teacher available in the classroom to answer questions, offer encouragement and track each student’s learning with an online tool that gives them real-time information on each student’s progress. 

The computer technology allows students to pause an instructional video to take notes, rewind to hear something they may have missed the first time or click on a new vocabulary word to learn its definition. 

Science classes might ask a student to perform a lab experiment and record observations. An English class could guide a student through pre-writing exercises and a final polished essay. (See slideshow below for sample screens from a Washington state history course from Edgenuity.)

Students finish a unit, then take a quiz on the content. They must pass the quiz before they can advance to the next part of the course.
For five weeks, four days a week, students could attend a three-hour morning summer session or a three-hour afternoon session. 
Or both.

Student Jaylah White works online​ ​​​​
Jaylah White, heading into her junior year at Foss IB World School, chose to double up and attend both sessions so she could complete her English course.

“It’s good because you can pace yourself,” she said. “You have to get it done. You have to do it on your own.”

Jonathan Hill, a sophomore at Foss this fall, said he wanted to pass his summer algebra course so he could continue to qualify to play Falcon sports.

Jonathan said he found tackling polynomials and quadratic equations “scary at first,” but the design of the online course helped.

“They have steps to guide you through it,” he said, noting he had two chances to pass a pre-test before moving to a final unit test during the course. He also got help from classroom teachers.

He, too, chose to attend both morning and afternoon sessions so he could master the subject.

“I haven’t missed a day,” Jonathan said.

Tacoma’s Willie Stewart Academy, a re-engagement center for students with significant credit deficiency, pioneered the use of Edgenuity in its blended learning program and it has since migrated to other Tacoma high schools.

Hostetter said he’s confident Edgenuity delivers quality instruction.

That’s because the courses developed by Arizona-based Edgenuity Inc. link to the Washington State Standards used by school districts across Washington state and around the nation. Courses offered through Edgenuity include core classes in English Language Arts, math, science and social studies, along with electives such as Washington State history.

“If a student passes an Edgenuity course, no matter what the course is, we know they have met the standards that the (state) has set for that particular subject,” Hostetter said. 

He said students who pass the online courses should be well-prepared for the Smarter Balanced Assessments, taken by students throughout Washington.

Need to catch up? Here's how it works

Students who assume that taking a class online will be easy are in for a surprise.

“It’s a rigorous online program,” Hostetter said. “Some students think they can hammer it out in a weekend. Then they realize that this is real work.”

But Edgenuity also allows students to earn credits on a compressed schedule. They take a diagnostic test at the beginning of a course that identifies which standards they have mastered, and which they haven’t yet met. 

Then they receive an online curriculum that focuses on what they’re missing. How long it takes to finish a class depends on their previous level of success.
Hostetter said most students can recapture at least one lost credit over the course of the summer.

More than ever, students must make sure they stay on track to earning credits needed to graduate.

Beginning with the graduating class of 2019–students who now entering their junior year¬–students must earn 24 credits to graduate from high schools in Washington. The legislature increased the requirement from 21 credits.

That means a tighter credit-earning schedule, where failing just one class can derail graduation plans.

Students also can take Edgenuity online courses during the school year. Interested students can learn more through their school counseling office.