Blended Learning Programs Help At-risk High School Students Graduate

Mooresville students working on laptops

During this season of high school graduations, I’ve developed a new appreciation for the important role that alternative education programs play in helping at-risk students achieve their goals. Alternative education programs have been around for a while, serving students who are credit deficient or who don’t feel comfortable in a traditional high school setting. But some of the more innovative programs have found success using a blended learning model incorporating digital learning solutions, like Pearson’s GradPointTM, to give struggling students additional opportunities to earn their high school diploma.

Options High School in Bellingham, Washington, is one such example. Seventy-five percent of students attending the alternative school use GradPoint, either for credit recovery, acceleration, or electives. Jami Aeschliman, extended learning teacher, especially appreciates the continuous enrollment feature of the digital learning solution: “It’s flexible….So our seniors, who are very motivated and need to get to graduation, don’t have to be stuck in a semester timeline. If they want to work extra hard and put in the effort, they can complete a course much more quickly.”

Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina has also seen success using GradPoint in its Mi-Waye alternative program. The digital learning solution has increased student engagement because it allows students who demonstrate mastery of a topic on a pretest to move on to the next topic. “The fact that it can be so customized is really valuable for us and we feel like it is fair to the kids and keeps them motivated, so they don’t have to repeat something they already know,” explained Melanie Allen, guidance counselor. Since GradPoint was implemented in 2010, Mi-Waye graduation rates have increased by 10 to 15 percent.

A third example of success is the Gateway to College program at Camden County College in New Jersey, which has achieved a 100 percent high school graduation rate for seniors in the past three years. This unique program offers teenagers a second opportunity to earn a high school diploma while simultaneously earning credits toward an associate’s degree or certificate. Ninety-five percent of students in the program are assigned at least one GradPoint course as they complete the requirements for their high school diploma. The digital learning program enables students to work remotely at their own pace, a particularly helpful feature for students who work part-time or who contend with difficult circumstances that prevent them from attending classes on location.

Digital learning solutions also empower students to take responsibility for their own learning. Mackenzie Covert, a student in the Community Opportunity Responsibility Education (CORE) alternative education program in Indiana, explained that GradPoint personalized learning for her and allowed her to “take control” of her own education. Because the courses are self-paced, she was able to accelerate her learning and graduated from high school a year early.

Congratulations and thanks to all the alternative education programs throughout the country that have provided the support and flexibility to enable at-risk students to graduate from high school this year.