Summer school offers students the opportunity to recover credits or get back on track, while others use this time to take advanced courses or pursue a second foreign language or other electives. But figuring out how to staff and pay for your program while giving students the flexibility to take courses from home can be difficult. Jeffrey Rothenberger, Program Administrator for the Montgomery Virtual Program in Pennsylvania, shares how the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit offers summer school options for students across the state.
Where Learning Clicks: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your program?
Jeffrey Rothenberger: I was a classroom teacher for 22 years, then became an instructional technology coach, then the secondary technology coordinator for technology and instruction, and then worked at Berks County Intermediate Unit as a program administrator. [Pennsylvania has 29 Intermediate Units (IU) to support local school districts and provide special services as needed by the educational community in their service area.] At Berks IU, we began to notice that we were losing too many students to cyber charter schools. The superintendents tasked our team with establishing a virtual option that would help retain students. We had a very successful program. Three years ago, I joined the Montgomery County IU to establish the Montgomery Virtual Program (MVP), a virtual solution for students. MVP partners with school districts and schools to provide quality online education for students in grades K–12. We pride ourselves on meeting the individual needs of diverse learners, while keeping students enrolled in their local school. In just two years, we have expanded to offer virtual instruction for students in a number of other counties and districts in Pennsylvania.
WLC: Tell me about your virtual program and how your summer school program first began?
JR: After meeting with local districts and explaining our program, several schools signed on with MVP as they were looking for a better solution than their current offerings.
Our summer school program was actually the initial way we rolled out virtual learning as part of MVP. We were so excited to begin with 323 students in our credit recovery program and 50 students taking credit advancement courses. We used Edgenuity’s® credit recovery courses and PA Core–aligned courses for credit advancement with Pennsylvania-certified teachers via Instructional Services to support our students.
Online courses also offer students tremendous flexibility in when and where they learn, as well as flexibility for the school in terms of staffing, scheduling, and their course offerings.
WLC: What makes your summer school program unique?
JR: MVP offers an 8-week summer school program. Because of Edgenuity’s pretesting and prescriptive testing options, we are able to offer a differentiated approach to instruction for our students. This is especially helpful for our students enrolled in credit recovery—they start with the prescriptive assessment to determine what skills they are missing. The courses then customize around the content students need practice with so they don’t have to waste precious time on topics they have already learned and mastered previously.
Additionally, because we are using online courses and Edgenuity’s virtual instructors, we are now able to offer a wide range of courses for students to choose from over the summer—credit recovery, credit advancement, world languages, and electives. This provides our students with a flexible way to take courses that might not be offered in their brick-and-mortar school or even work from home over the summer in order to get ahead. In fact, this past summer we had about 400 students enrolled in credit recovery courses, and over 450 students enrolled in a credit advancement option.
WLC: How do you ensure students are successful over the summer?
JR: We treat summer school no differently than we treat the regular academic year. We work with our partner schools to establish high expectations for students and put in a number of checks and balances in order to ensure students meet their goals.
I would say that the majority of students who take a summer credit recovery course via MVP are students who typically attend a traditional brick-and-mortar school. So establishing policies around success is crucial for these students. Nearly every partner school establishes guidelines for attendance, as well as acceptable progress, completion metrics, and assessment scores.
Additionally, some partner schools will hire a few teachers for summer school to further support students in the school setting. In addition to Edgenuity’s virtual instructors, these teachers are available as needed on-site at the school’s library or computer lab to provide additional help or one-on-one support. If a student is scoring below the set threshold on quizzes or exams, it is suggested they come in and meet with an on-site teacher.
WLC: What type of success have your students experienced in summer school?
JR: We are proud of the work both our credit recovery and credit advancement students are able to achieve within our summer school program. For our credit recovery students, 84% of our students finished 90% of their coursework. And of those students who finished 90% of the coursework, 94% of them were successful in passing the course with a 60% or better. This means that the vast majority of students who take a credit recovery course with MVP are able to recover the credit and are ready to move on to the next course or grade.
Partnering with Edgenuity also allows us to offer flexibility with our courses, not just in the courses we offer, but how we can support students who are enrolled in these courses.
WLC: Any final thoughts or advice for school looking to implement a virtual summer school program?
JR: A successful summer school program and a successful virtual program are one in the same. At MVP we follow three key tenets that drive our success: service, flexibility, and partnership. Our staff is online every day checking student progress and sending progress reports to parents, guidance counselors, and central building administrators. It takes a village to make sure students are successful and it’s important to commit to this type of ongoing monitoring and communications.
Online courses also offer students tremendous flexibility in when and where they learn, as well as flexibility for the school in terms of staffing, scheduling, and their course offerings. Partnering with Edgenuity also allows us to offer flexibility with our courses, not just in the courses we offer, but how we can support students who are enrolled in these courses. We can make modifications to the scope and sequence, give extra time or attempts on assessments per students’ IEPs, and more. This allows MVP to meet the ever-changing needs of the schools and students we support.
And finally, as part of our partnership with schools across Pennsylvania, we have learned a tremendous amount about how to ensure students are successful. We can provide a number of recommendations around best practices, policies, and procedures. Ultimately, our virtual program provides a great amount of opportunity and flexibility for students, but it has to be the right setting for the student to be successful. With the support of the MVP team, Edgenuity’s virtual instructors, concept coaches, and success coaches, and the school’s administration, guidance counselors, and parents, we can come together to give students the opportunity to recover credits or get ahead over the summer, and support their academic success throughout the entire school year.
If you’re interested in learning about offering your students more opportunities in the summer, click here for more information.