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New opportunity for struggling students at DDHS

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DELAVAN — Spending too much time in unstructured study hall will be a thing of the past for some Delavan-Darien High School students this coming school year.

The school will launch a new program in September called Personalized Blended Learning Labs. It's a program for students who are identified as struggling core subjects, particularly reading or math, Principal Mark Schmitt said.

More than 60 incoming freshmen students have been identified as needing the program based on their achievement results from academic testing in middle school. They can earn up to a half-credit for completion in the lab course if they sufficiently progress in it the entire semester.

Other students, primarily sophomores and juniors, will use the lab for credit recovery for classes they failed to pass last school year.

Additionally, some students may use the lab temporarily to catch up on their work and learning when they've fallen behind, Schmitt said.

In the lab, students will use a personalized online-based learning tool called Odyssey, by Compass Learning. Michelle Minton is the program's coordinator. An aide and regular classroom teachers, including core subject teachers, special education teachers and English language learner teachers (as time allows) will provide support and supervision in the lab.

“It's really a very personalized experience and our staff members will be working with the kids constantly,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt said he modeled the lab after work being done at the Regan International Baccalaureate High School in Milwaukee. The school was a silver medal winner and ranked second in Wisconsin in the 2014 U.S. News & World Report's list of the country's best high schools.

“Although Reagan is in an urban environment, their student-body is much like ours,” Schmitt said. “They are closing the achievement gap that exists between groups of students and that's something we strive to do here at DDHS. The Personalized Blended Learning Labs will help us reach that goal.”

School staff will look at student data and work closely with regular classroom teachers to identify areas where extra support is needed. The Odyssey program can then be tailored to suit the student's individual learning needs for a variety of different subjects, including reading, English, algebra, geometry, physical science, biology, U.S. history and more, Schmitt said.

“This program is designed to get all our students up to grade level,” Schmitt said. “For students learning in the lab, it will get them prepared in an intense, focused and supportive place so they can be ready to excel — not just catch up — but excel and leave DDHS as graduates who are ready to make a positive difference in the world.”

The program will be added at zero net-cost to the district as it replaces an older online tutoring program, Schmitt said. Also, the support staff will come from teachers who are already a part of the school staff. Most of the teachers who work in the lab will do so when they have unscheduled time for other classes.
The school board unanimously approved the new program at its August meeting.

“We have a lot of programs in the district that are designed to close achievement gaps and prepare our students,” Schmitt said, listing such programs as the district's one-to-one initiative, co-teaching in classrooms, the alternative DDHS graduation track (known as RISE) and others. “I am excited to add the new Personalized Blended Learning Labs to our toolbox to help students reach their full potential.”



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