Giving Students a Second Chance at Alaska Military Youth Academy in Anchorage, AK
Giving Students a Second Chance at Alaska Military Youth Academy in Anchorage, AK
Alaska Military Youth Academy - Anchorage, AK
The National Guard Alaska Military Youth Academy (AMYA) ChallenNGe program in Anchorage, Alaska, was founded in 1994 to help Alaskan youth between the ages of 16 and 18 who are not in school and who have not graduated or earned a GED® credential. The goal of the program is to “help intervene in and reclaim the lives of Alaska’s at-risk youth and produce graduates with the values, skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as adults.”
The quasi-military, voluntary program runs two cycles per year, each 22 weeks long with about 200 cadets per cycle. During their time in the ChalleNGe program, cadets learn and improve important life skills and work toward recovering credits so that they can return to high school on track to graduate, obtain GED credentials, or earn a high school diploma from AMYA.
Because the ChalleNGe program is so unique, the faculty at AMYA needed to find a curriculum that could adapt to its schedule and support the varied needs of each cadet. Courseware was implemented as a part of the ChalleNGe program curriculum several years ago for credit recovery while current principal Scott Monroe was working as the program’s science teacher. Over time, the Edmentum implementation has expanded to include more widespread use of Courseware and to incorporate educational Edmentum Assessments.
Classwork and Credit Recovery
At the beginning of the program, all cadets take the TABE® (Tests of Adult Basic Education), and based on the results, cadets are grouped into teams with students who are at similar academic levels, which helps instructors focus on the students’ needs. There are eight teams total, and the teams rotate through four class periods each day on an alternating schedule.
For six of the eight total class periods, students attend academic subject classes taught by the six primary instructors. The instructors design a curriculum for each group based on the students’ needs using a variety of offline and online resources, including Courseware. Utilizing Courseware makes it easier to tailor instruction and saves the instructors time.
“If we use [Courseware] to augment portions or sections of our curriculum or areas in which maybe our facilities weren't allowing us to address curriculum, as well as what Edmentum has already designed, what we found is that it really gave us better real-time feedback without us having to necessarily go through and grade everything by hand,” Mr. Monroe explained. “So, in a 22-week program, you can understand how valuable that is to an instructor that might have to grade 200 papers in one day. So, that is a huge plus for them.”
For the other two class periods, students attend a class called Interdisciplinary Studies and a class called Integrated Studies.
In the Interdisciplinary Studies class, students work on the online content from their six academic subject classes or utilize Edmentum Assessments Test Packs to prepare for assessments like the GED test and the ASVAB. During Integrated Studies, cadets also work on their online coursework, but they also receive one-on-one assistance from an instructor.
“So, the kids, as you can see, are getting a lot of computer time,” said Mr. Monroe. “But, more importantly, they're getting [instruction] multiple different ways with different teaching methodologies and different communication styles and priorities for that matter. . . . That information gets fed to the instructor or gets fed to Interdisciplinary Studies or to Integrated Studies. Then, it's implemented in those classes as well. So, the kid is really getting a threefold individualized learning plan without even knowing it with your curriculum.”
GED Test Preparation
When the new GED test was released in 2014, many students struggled to earn a passing score. The 2014 edition of the GED test is more rigorous than the previous version, making it much more difficult for students to pass the test and earn their GED credentials. In fact, the national GED test passing rate dropped from 76% in 2013 to 59% in 2014. To make sure the ChalleNGe program cadets were prepared for the new test, Mr. Monroe and the ChalleNGe program staff intensified their GED preparation efforts and used Edmentum Assessments for GED preparation even more than they had before.
“We kind of have this saying that, ‘We'd rather practice like we play,’ instead of taking it easy and then you get in the game and you're not prepared for what needs to really happen,” said Mr. Monroe. “We felt [Edmentum Assessments] was very difficult, very challenging for a student. And, we found that if we offered them the assessments through [Edmentum Assessments], by the time they take the real GED[test], they're not just prepped in all the things that they're going to see on a computer, but the difficulty level of it really set up the kid to be confident when they took the real GED [test].”
Now, the ChalleNGe program’s GED preparation approach consists mainly of a custom curriculum designed by ChalleNGe program faculty and Edmentum Assessments Test Packs. The faculty has found that students who scored between 35% and 45% on the Edmentum Assessments Test Packs passed the GED test almost 80% to 85% of the time. Mr. Monroe and his faculty use this metric to help them determine when students are ready to sit for the actual GED test, which minimizes the amount of money that is spent and the discouragement that students may face when they take the test before they are equipped to pass it.
Through the hard work of the ChalleNGe program faculty and the use of its in-house designed curriculum, Courseware, and Edmentum Assessments, the ChalleNGe program is extremely successful in helping improve educational outcomes for at-risk students.
One way the ChalleNGe program measures success is through improvements on students’ TABE scores from the time they begin the program until the time they exit. The expectation is that by the end of the program, cadets’ TABE grade-level-equivalency scores should improve by at least .5 points; the ChalleNGE program cadets achieve three times that on average.
Another measure of success is how much easier it is to get students up and running and earning credits in preparation of going back to high school. And, the number of students who complete their credit requirements and earn a diploma from Alaska Military Youth Academy through the ChalleNGe program has increased as well.
“Our credit recovery is seamless,” said Mr. Monroe. “It used to be a lot more cumbersome for setup, for paperwork, for tracking. . . . Using Edmentum is easy. We can preset up everything with our rosters, we can assign things quickly, we can give them the custom courses they need. The school districts in Alaska all accept your credits when [students] do credit recovery, and we put it on their transcript. Then, what makes it easy for us is we can just do the reports, put it as part of their records, and make sure it's documented for the transcript.
“That sounds like a small thing, but when you go from offering 5 to 10 diplomas a cycle to around 15 to 30—I mean—that's a huge jump.”
When it comes to the GED attainment, the ChalleNGe program is a standout in the state. Prior to the release of the new 2014 test, about 10% of the GED credentials in Alaska were obtained by cadets in the ChalleNGe program. Now, 25% of the GED credentials in Alaska are obtained by ChalleNGe program cadets. The difficulty of the test has caused the number of people earning GED credentials in Alaska to decline dramatically; despite this, the AMYA ChalleNGe program continues to improve on the number of cadets who earn GED credentials because of the program’s highly effective GED test-preparation approach.
“If we use [Courseware] to augment portions or sections of our curriculum or areas in which maybe our facilities weren't allowing us to address curriculum as well as what Edmentum has already designed, what we found is that it really gave us better real-time feedback without us having to necessarily go through and grade everything by hand.”