Local: Education

D.C. charter school would teach all but math and English online

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Local,DC,Education,Rachel Baye

A controversial computer-based learning model is competing with eight other proposals to be one of the next charter schools approved for the District.

The proposed Nexus Academy of DC, run by a subsidiary of publishing giant Pearson, would offer grades 9 through 12 in Ward 2, eventually serving up to 600 students.

English and math would be taught by teachers at the school, while every other subject -- from science and social studies to foreign languages and electives -- would be taught online by an expert on various subjects. Some of these experts would be dedicated to the school full time, while others would not.

Proposed charter schools
On Monday, the D.C. Public Charter School Board is scheduled to vote on nine school proposals. Under D.C. law, the board cannot approve more than 10 new charter schools in a single year.
Academy of Hope Public Charter School
Model: Career pathways program -- academic instruction combined with workforce training
Grades: Adult education
Total enrollment: 260
Location: Wards 5 and 8
Crossway Community DC Montessori Public Charter School
Model: Montessori
Grades: PreK-3
Total enrollment: 210
Location: NoMa
DC Voice Empowerment Public Charter School
Model: Alternative high school and accompanying early childhood center for at-risk children and young adults; aims specifically to help teen mothers
Grades: Preschool (6 weeks to age 4), PreK and 9-12
Total enrollment: 250
Location: Ward 4
Lee Montessori Public Charter School
Model: Montessori
Grades: PreK-6
Total enrollment: 228
Location: Ward 5 or Ward 7
Existing schools: The Montessori program at Marshall Elementary School, a public school slated to close in July
Nannie Helen Burroughs Public Charter School
Model: Converting the private Nannie Helen Burroughs School into a public charter school
Grades: K-5
Total enrollment in 2018: 279
Location: Ward 7
New Pathways Academy Public Charter School
Model: "Street Academy," modeled after former Dix Street Academy High School in Ward 7
Grades: 9-12
Total enrollment: 350
Location: Not given
Nexus Academy of DC
Model: Blended learning
Grades: 9-12
Total enrollment: 600
Location: Ward 2
One World Public Charter School
Model: Individualized learning plans
Grades: 5-8
Total enrollment: 300
Location: Ward 4
Organizing an Urban Revolution (O.U.R.) Leadership Academy Public Charter School
Model: A nontraditional high school for disconnected youth who have not been successful in traditional schools
Grades: 9-12
Total enrollment: 200
Location: Ward 5 or Ward 6, near Navy Yard

While students take online classes, they would be supervised by a "success coach" who would be assigned between 35 and 40 students at a time, according to the school's application to the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which is scheduled to vote on which proposals to accept Monday night.

All students would receive laptop computers so they can access their coursework at school and at home.

"In the current Nexus Academy approach to true blended learning, the schools are using face-to-face teacher resources in the most universal, most needed and highest stakes areas, which are math and English," explained Mickey Revenaugh, executive vice president of Connections Learning, which is behind the proposed Nexus Academy of DC.

The Baltimore company operates five Nexus Academy schools in Michigan and Ohio and plans to open two more this fall in Indianapolis and Royal Oak, Mich.

Nexus' model is similar to one that would have been offered at DC Flex, a proposed charter school the Public Charter School Board rejected in February.

But the charter board has approved other schools with blended learning models, like Rocketship Education D.C., which was approved in February, said Robert Cane, executive director of the charter school advocacy group Friends of Choice in Urban Schools. Cane's group worked with Connections Learning to help it prepare the Nexus application.

In rejecting Flex, the charter board wasn't making a ruling on the blended learning model, but on the specific proposal, he said.

The blended learning model has been gaining steam across the country, with hundreds of thousands of students using it.

The method is a good option for at-risk students because it allows them to benefit from an individualized curriculum, said Judy Bauernschmidt, executive director of eLearning Network of Colorado, a consortium of schools offering blended learning.

But the model also has been heavily criticized.

Virtual schools and blended learning schools tend to serve fewer black and Hispanic students, fewer students from low-income families and fewer special education students, according to a recent report from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. Despite serving fewer at-risk students, the report found that graduation rates and other performance measures tend to lag those of traditional public schools.

"Children learn less in virtual-school kinds of arrangements," said center Managing Director Bill Mathis.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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