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Taking Online Learning Beyond Credit Recovery in Abilene, TX

Taking Online Learning Beyond Credit Recovery in Abilene, TX
School Name and Location: 
Abilene Independent School District
The Challenge: 

Abilene Independent School District is a 17,000-student district in West Texas. Like many districts in Texas, Abilene features a sizable Hispanic and economically disadvantaged student population. After the 2009–10 school year, the district was rated as “academically unacceptable” by the Texas Education Agency, in part due to graduation and completion rates in those subgroups.

The district brought Heath Wright on board during the 2010–11 school year to build and deliver a new extended school program to students that included—but also went beyond—credit recovery. “In creating this program, flexibility was key,” Wright said. “We wanted to be able to give our students every opportunity and allow them to participate in the different activities to help them get to where they wanted to be both in academics and personal interests.”

How They Did it: 

When exploring online learning partners, Abilene ISD identified three main goals: increase graduation rates, build a program for students that extended beyond the school day, and ensure flexibility to customize courses that meet the district’s unique needs.

With a diverse course catalog, a flexible license structure, and a broad range of options for students, Edmentum proved to be the partner to help Abilene ISD attain these goals and more. Abilene ISD uses Plato Courseware in its four high schools for credit recovery as well as initial semester credit. “We use Plato Courseware on our high school campuses in our extended school programs that run each evening from 4–6 to allow students to recover six weeks and semester grades, as well as earn initial credit for semesters,” explained Wright. “We also use it during extended breaks for recovery and initial credit. This would include our winter mini-mester held during winter break, in which we have averaged over 120 participants each year since inception in 2010–11, as well as our morning and afternoon sessions throughout the summer.”

The district also uses Plato Courseware as an intervention solution for 9th graders struggling with math. Students who struggled in 8th grade math classes are placed in a double-block algebra class in 9th grade and use Plato Courseware to practice their skills for half of each class period.

Success: 

The track record of Abilene ISD’s extended school and flexible coursework programs speaks for itself. The district went from being "academically unacceptable" to "acceptable" by increasing its completion rate in one school year with the help of Plato Courseware.

Since 2010–11, the district’s overall graduation rate has improved by more than seven points to 93.6 percent. In 2013–14, 1,276 unique learners earned 2,635 semester credits through Abilene ISD’s Edmentum programs.

The district has also seen great success with its 9th grade double-block remediation classes for algebra. The most recent cohort of students in that class took 8th grade math assessments during the 2012–13 school year and had a passing rate of only 62%. When they took the Algebra I end-of-course (EOC) exam after completing the double-block class with Plato Courseware during the 2013–14 school year, they achieved an 87% passing rate. This outpaced the district’s overall passing rate of 82.87% on the Algebra I EOC.

“We originally started the program to help students at risk, but it has become so much more,” exuded Wright. “Web-based and online learning is now embedded into the culture of our district. We have helped kids that are behind to those that want to free up their schedule to take courses that better match their career goals.”

The Future: 

Thanks to the success of Abilene ISD’s Plato Courseware programs, the district chose to expand its partnership with Edmentum for the 2014–15 school year. The district implemented Study Island at three campuses as an additional option for supplemental classroom instruction and test preparation, and it is looking forward to seeing results.

For Abilene ISD, the breadth and flexibility of options that Edmentum’s comprehensive suite of solutions offers have been some of the greatest benefits of the partnership. This being the case, Wright is confident that Edmentum products will remain the backbone of Abilene ISD’s extended learning programs as they continue to evolve and expand. Wright explained, “Edmentum provides diverse and strong curriculum options in a format that can be easily customizable to meet direct scope and sequence needs, as well as meet the needs of supplemental instruction to differentiate learning in the classroom.” 

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