Classroom Technology Opinion

Alpine Advances Online and in Blended Learning

By Tom Vander Ark — January 29, 2014 3 min read
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Alpine School District
, the largest in Utah, serves more than 73,000 students in 80 schools in a sprawling area south of Salt Lake City. It has among the lowest per-pupil-funding in the country, but strong academic results. The district has several partnerships with local companies resulting in school-wide improvements and
individual student success stories.

PLC improvement strategy.
Academic results were mediocre when Garrick Peterson became principal of Lakeridge Junior High.

The school is now recognized as ‘elite’ by the state. A stakeholder report monitoring
progress over the last decade shows that English proficiency rates grew from 65 percent to 95 percent. Math proficiency improved from 55 percent to 92 percent. Professional Learning
Communities (PLC) were at the heart of the data-driven improvement strategy.

Peterson now directs professional development for the district where he introduced MasteryConnect powered PLCs.
A platform for sharing assessment items, MasteryConnect Powers Solution Tree PLCs and many school and
district formative assessment systems.

When Joseph Jensen became principal of Orem Junior High in 2009, he followed the same formula and created professional learning communities and used data
to inform instruction. “He has changed the culture of Orem Junior High by using compelling data, holding everyone at the school to high expectations and
tirelessly working to improve student achievement,” said Superintendent Vernon Henshaw. Jensen was named one of the
2014 Utah Secondary Principals of the Year.

Online innovations.
The district built 50 digital courses that are delivered on BrainHoney from Agilix (headquartered in the district). Agilix
and Mastery Connect are completing an integration to support the growing number of teachers to leverage MasteryConnect content within a blended course.

East Shore Online High School
had over 14,000 course enrollments last year, its first year of operation. Most enrollments, and the associated funding, remains at their home school.
Alpine high schools provide a classroom where students can take as many online courses as they would like.

“Students come to us within a variety of contexts,” said McKay Jensen. “Many do need to make up a failed class; many are trying to make room in their
schedules for other subjects or extracurricular activities, other are simply looking for a different experience than they are getting in there traditional
classroom.” Jensen adds, “The unifying feature is that the students need an online or asynchronous option, and we are prepared to deliver that option for
students in a variety of contexts.”

Credits are awarded in 1/8 units. “Students are more likely to come away with something if the enduring record (credit on a transcript) happens earlier and
more often,” said Jensen. The micro-credits add flexibility and boosts student motivation

This helps student in a variety of contexts—remediation, acceleration, etc. It’s primary affect is in motivation—the road to the praise earned by
accomplishment is shorter, and encouragement to go a little bit further is easier to communicate because the students are generating a tangible take-away.

“We help students generate skills and credit—and the student, with help from their counselor, is able to apply those skills and credits into whatever
context the student needs,” said Jensen.

Alpine Online
is a full time K-8 school that features Rosetta Stone and K¹² World Language

The Alpine School District is a good example of a district innovating with local ed-tech partners to better serve students.

MasteryConnect is a Learn Capital Company where Tom is a partner.

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.