Blended Learning: The Road to Success for At-Risk Students

Blended Learning: The Road to Success for At-Risk Students

Would you ever guess that a NASA engineer once questioned whether or not he would even graduate from high school?

Six years ago, Paul Hamilton’s future looked bleak. A disengaged high school student who grappled with poor grades, Hamilton ended up being suspended from his home campus and sent to his school district’s alternative school for discipline.

Last month, Paul Hamilton accepted a job as a communications systems engineer for NASA, demonstrating a successful transition from a student at risk of not earning a diploma, to a high-achieving graduate with a promising future.

Paul Hamilton is just one of many previously at-risk students in grades K-12 who managed to reach success as a result of self-determination and the aid of personalized, blended learning options.

At-risk students can range from hospitalized and homebound students to incarcerated youth. For the most part however, students who are at risk tend to fall behind in the classroom, require working at a different pace from their peers, or need a more individualized learning method.

Fortunately for students like Paul Hamilton, Northside Independent School District (NISD), like some other districts, offers an approach that’s different from the traditional classroom. This new approach takes into account the student’s learning style by integrating blended learning programs, combining digital content and e-learning with traditional face-to-face teaching methods-- all wrapped up into a proven, hybrid education model.

As the principal at Irene L. Chavez Excel Academy in San Antonio, Texas, a school that allows flexible class schedules, I work closely with at-risk students and have dedicated my life to help them succeed. NISD’s Chavez Excel Academy implemented blended learning in 2003, and since then has moved forward to offer a fully on-line curriculum for its students.

Our students have the flexibility to shape their own schedules in order to meet attendance requirements and manage responsibilities outside of school when necessary. Students are empowered when given the ability to learn in an independent yet collaborative environment, motivating them to work harder and build confidence in and out of the classroom.

High-quality, accredited digital learning solutions offered by GradPoint®, from the global learning company Pearson, have given our teachers and students access to rigorous and standards-based curriculum, as well as a digital platform to communicate and track student progress. The online interface also allows students and teachers to build relationships by communicating one-on-one more frequently and in real-time, which is crucial to an at-risk student’s success.

Last year, 312 students crossed the stage to graduate from Irene L. Chavez Excel Academy; 87 percent were initially considered at-risk students. For students like Paul, who were once struggling, academic success is still attainable through personalized blended learning programs that truly meet the needs of individual students.

Darren Calvert is the Principal of Irene L. Chavez Excel Academy in San Antonio, Texas.