By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Anderson Preparatory Academy junior Marina Garrison can be sitting in her chemistry class but, in her spare time, work on biology with the charter school’s online program.
It, along with smaller class sizes and individualized learning, is what’s helped her get ahead so that she can graduate early this year, she said.
“It grabs your attention,” she said. “It focuses on things you need to learn and makes it fun.”
APA will be able to expand that program, Compass’ Odyssey, with a $5,000 national innovation grant the school received from Compass Learning.
Lt. Jill Barker and Title I data analyst Genevieve Phillips wrote the grant that competed against more than 40 schools across the country to be named as one of three winners in the contest.
Barker, a 10th-grade English teacher, said APA will use the money for curriculum materials and looking at resources.
Compass’ Odyssey is an online program that APA uses along with teacher and small-group instruction for a “blended, rotation approach” to education.
“(Odyssey) allows students to work at their individual grade level,” Phillips said.
And it allows teachers to see where students are excelling and falling between the cracks in real time so that teachers can give the help needed faster, she added.
Seventh-grader Jasmine Ingram said she was failing her English class but, with the help of her teachers and Odyssey, raised that grade to an A.
Besides working hard, she said the program allows her to look over past lessons and work she’s already done.
While Odyssey works at an individual’s pace, Barker said it will challenge students. And teachers can customize the program to make their own assignments and games.
Students who don’t pass their grade level will be held back, but, with Odyssey’s individualized lessons, be able to move with their peers to avoid any social stigmas, Phillips said.
“It’s like a one-room school house,” Barker added.
Senior Katelynn Roberts had spinal surgery and could only go to school for half days.
Because of the online learning program, she said she was able to watch videos and learn lessons at home to keep up.
“It really helped me, not being at school, to still know the info,” she said.
While students like Roberts and Garrison said the program is engaging with fun videos and games, it still requires effort to do well.
Garrison said she can tell who cares about their grades and who doesn’t by the work put in.
“It’s kind of like either sink or swim,” Roberts added.
Barker said this is the first year the program has been fully implemented throughout the school, and that after seeing improved test scores last year, faculty and staff have high hopes for the middle school where ISTEP improvement is really needed.
“We’re trying to be different by being prescriptive in what we do and not teach by accident,” Barker said.
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