The Clarksville Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) in Tennessee has been using the A+nyWhere Learning System® (A+LS™) courseware from American Education Corporation since 2003. CMCSS uses A+LS in its Alternative School, Virtual School, Credit Recovery, and Summer Intervention programs, and also for ACT and GED preparation.
The primary challenge to education in CMCSS is unmistakable. “We’re a district with more than 45 percent poverty,” says Dr. Kimi Sucharski, accountability supervisor, K-12 at-risk programs supervisor, for CMCSS. “In some schools, poverty approaches 90 percent.” Along with poverty is mobility, with its disruptive effect on learning. “We have schools with more than 70 percent turnover,” says Sucharski. “In some grade levels, it’s 90 percent.”
“We wanted to provide our kids with access to one flexible curriculum that allows them to move from place to place and also lets them continue learning,” explains Sucharski. Since many students may start a grade in one school and finish in another, ongoing, accurate assessments with results that can be compared between schools is critical—both to maintain state standards and to give teachers a quick understanding of each student’s strengths and weaknesses. “After extensive research, A+LS was selected because it includes a study component, pre- and post-assessments, and can be realigned to meet our specific needs.”
“We use the A+LS assessments differently in different programs,” says Sucharski. “For example, in Credit Recovery, our assessments are mainly summative. Our purpose is to evaluate mastery. Assessments are made after each module and upon completion of each content package. In ACT and GED prep, we make more use of pre-assessments to establish what the student already knows and to build on that, and to focus on what the student doesn’t know.”
For Sucharski, the bottom line is the success of individual students. But individual student success often depends on solving district-wide problems in educational management. “In our Alternative School program alone,” says Sucharski, “we have six high schools and seven middle schools. So we have the potential for 13 or 14 curriculums. Imagine being the teacher in the classroom who has to address that. To streamline the process and ensure curriculum continuity, we decided to standardize on A+LS.”
The results of Sucharski’s strategies are well documented. “For instance,” says Sucharski, “100 percent of the students coming to our Virtual High Schools were identified as being unable to graduate on time in their traditional high school programs. In the last two years, 90 percent of Virtual School students graduated high school on time with regular diplomas—that’s a huge percentage.” And in the CMCSS Credit Recovery Program, 93 percent of more than 200 students recovered their credits.
Sucharski values not only the A+LS courseware but also the company that stands behind it. “When you have 400 kids signing on to technology,” says Sucharski, “it has to work perfectly. The American Education Corporation has always been responsive. All our phone calls and emails are answered promptly. They’ve always resolved even our most difficult problems. They work closely with us—that’s a big plus.”