Harvard Education Letter Looks at “Hybrid” ChartersPosted 2 March 2011 by K12Reboot
An article in the current (March-April, 2011) Harvard Education Letter (published by the Graduate School of Education) looks at “blended” or “flex” schools that combine individualized online learning with a ”bricks and mortar” school that students attend on a daily basis. Currently, there is only a handful of these schools, which try to combine the traditional, face-to-face instruction with the best of the cutting-edge online curriculum available to virtual schools. The result is something education experts are calling a “hybrid”, “blended”, or “bricks-and-clicks” school.
At these hybrid schools, students work independently at their computers, learning core subjects or electives through online coursework aligned to state standards. They wear ear buds to use the online programs, which are interactive and multimodal—comprising audio, video vignettes, Flash animation, quizzes, and games. Paraprofessionals called “assistant coaches” walk through the center to make sure kids are doing their work, fix computer glitches, help with academic questions, and—most important, administrators say—check in emotionally with the students, talking with them about anything at home or at school that might be affecting their learning. Using “daily achievement data” from the students’ online work, teachers meet with students individually or in small groups, either to give extra remedial help or to facilitate enrichment projects. Grouped roughly by age, students rotate through their individual learning station, small-group workshops, one-on-ones, or science labs throughout the end of the day.
One of the first of these schools, Carpe Diem in Yuma, AZ, has seen considerable success. For two consecutive years, this majority minority school (more than half of all students qualify for free or reduced lunches), led the state in the amount of growth students showed on test scores. Arizona has designated it a “highly performing” school. Its graduation rate continues to increase, as does the number of students going to college. It has won rave reviews from parents at greatschools.org, kudos from Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and a bronze-star ranking from U.S. News and World Report.
Readers of K12Reboot may recall a post from last December, describing a visit to the San Francisco Flex Academy, which follows this blended model. According to that school’s founder, Mark Kusshner, the students’ experience will sound quite familiar to many working parents. “Going to a hybrid school is just like going to work,” he says. “The kids go to their desks, they turn on their computers, they read things, they read e-mails, they go online, they go to meetings—only these meetings are classes designed for them.”