Personalized learning helps students in an independent-study school flourish


Personalized learning helps students in an independent-study school flourish

Hart-Ransom Academic Charter High School, Modesto, California

Heart Ransom student learning
Photograph by Maureen Lemos

Hart-Ransom Academic Charter School is a public homeschool program for students in grades TK–8. Established in 1995, the school is located in a small, rural district in Modesto, California. At the urging of parents who were pleased with their children’s educational experiences at the school, Hart-Ransom created an independent-study high school to meet student needs.

Launched in 2012, the independent-study high school uses Connections Learning®, a set of online courses and services now part of the Pearson Connexus suite of offerings, to provide flexible, personalized learning to a diverse student body. Students from traditional schools, as well as homeschooled students, attend the school.

The online curriculum provides both rigor and relevance for students. Bradford Phelps, an 11th grader who attended the charter school and was homeschooled through the 8th grade, likes the fact that his courses are academically challenging. His mother, Antionetta Phelps, appreciates the videos and Internet resources that are part of the curriculum, commenting that Bradford’s geography class was “like going on a field trip every day.”

The broad course of study that is available with Connections Learning is phenomenal, and the content is up-to-date. Our students are engaged in the learning, and it’s meaningful and applicable.

David Cline, Principal

The online courses provide great flexibility, enabling students to work at their own pace. Students can do their classwork whenever and wherever they want, although the school holds them accountable for meeting deadlines and the pacing can be challenging for some students.

All students at Hart-Ransom engage in blended learning. The school offers on-site wet labs for biology and chemistry, enabling students to fulfill the thirty-six hours of lab time prescribed by the A–G requirements for admission to the University of California and California State University. The school is also offering an earth science lab for the first time this year. In addition, students can take physical education and electives such as studio art, band, choir, and theater arts on-site.

Students must be independent learners who take charge of their education to succeed in the school. However, there is “a whole team of people monitoring each student,” noted David Cline, the principal of Hart-Ransom Academic Charter School. Students receive support both on-site and at home from the Hart-Ransom faculty. Off-site, Leslie Brennecke, the science and advisory teacher, is “constantly in communication with students to keep nudging them forward, giving them encouragement.” Talking on the phone or meeting virtually in the LiveLesson® room, the Connections Learning teachers provide personal attention.

I really like how involved the teachers are with the students. If you have any problems with the classes, you can just call a teacher and they’re always available for you.

Bradford Phelps, 11th Grader

Since the high school program opened, enrollment has more than doubled, testifying to the school’s success. In the past two years, every senior graduated (no seniors were enrolled in the school’s first year of operation). Half of the 2015 graduates were accepted at four-year higher education institutions. The other graduates chose to enroll in junior college or directly entered the workforce.

As the school has grown to include students with diverse needs, the administration is using Connections Learning to provide personalized learning and help them achieve success. This past summer, students were able to use Connections courses for credit recovery so they could stay on track to graduate. Six students benefited from this opportunity and recovered credits.

Hart-Ransom is also expanding its use of Connections Learning by introducing Connections courses into the middle school. This year, one 8th grader is enrolled in Algebra I, and another is taking all core 8th-grade classes through Connections Learning.

Bradford has taken advantage of the flexibility and personalized learning afforded by the Connections classes to enroll in courses at Modesto Junior College while attending Hart-Ransom. He has already earned 21.5 units. He hopes to obtain an associate’s degree by the time he graduates from high school.

Bradford’s current career goal is to become a teacher. “I’ve seen how much good teachers influence my education, especially the Connections Learning teachers at Hart-Ransom,” he explained. “And so I’d like to be that kind of influence for other students and help the students who aren’t generally motivated in high school to become motivated and do well.”

To learn more about Hart-Ransom’s use of a blended learning model to provide personalized learning, read the full success story.

Read the full success story

Hero space photograph by Maureen Lemos

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