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Online and Blended Approaches to Meet Needs of At-Risk Students

Online and onground schools are showing success at closing achievement gaps for students at risk for dropping out and students with disabilities in online and blended education programs.

Cathy Cavanaugh

on 26 April 2010

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Transcript of Online and Blended Approaches to Meet Needs of At-Risk Students

Online and Blended Approaches
to Meet Needs of At-Risk Students

Cathy Cavanaugh
University of Florida

coe.ufl.edu Who are at-risk students? Academic
Lack of progress/struggling to keep up
High absenteeism
Not meeting grade level requirements/risk of dropping out Personal/Family
Special needs
Racial/ethnic minority groups (may be proxy for low SES)
Behavior issues
English as a second language
Frequent moves/transiency
Teen pregnancy
Absentee parents How are online and blended programs succeeding with at-risk students? Supportive teachers and staff
Continuous communication and support from teachers, learning coaches, counselors, tutors, and special education coordinators.
Faculty/staff taking a direct role in overseeing student progress and success throughout the program Individualizing instruction
Differentiating with technology and curriculum
Using one-to-one and small group direct instruction to remediate key concepts
Online reading programs for comprehension and fluency
Mastery approach
Focus on learning rather than performance
Students can retry assignments and assessments based on specific feedback until they meet the targeted outcomes
Online classes offer flexibility and support expanded learning time Communication among school staff, students and families
Regular direct communication to explain program benefits and responsibilities
Specific explanation of expectations
Increased contact to support struggling students
Accountability to ensure communication occurs
Identifying at-risk students
Online academic assessments identify students early
Strategies are integrated into the students' programs immediately What successes have schools seen? Increased class completion from students who were not successful in face-to-face
Higher graduation rate
Less attrition
Closer ties between students and teachers/school
What needs remain to scale up the successes? Professional development for virtual teachers, tutors, facilitators, counselors, and other school support staff
Improved comprehensive data systems to inform and guide teaching practices
Increased access to online classes
Research focused on learning environments that support at-risk students
Mentoring and coaching
iMentors, supervising teacher, and school counselor; in addition to class teachers
Collaborative team effort regularly checking on student’s progress
Site-based tutoring sessions
Academic coaches
Online extra curricular activities Example student screening methods
Lexile Framework for Readingl
Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI)
Response to Intervention (RtI) – 3- tiered intervention approaches
Idenitification practices
Enrollment questionnaire
Teacher referral
Local school registration for students retaking courses
Recommendation from school districts
Intake interview
Consultation with parents and school personnel
A red-flag process including: attendance, progress, academic testing performance, IEP status on application
Intervention specialist More successful practices
Synchronous learning activities, including web conferences
Face-to-face meetings between teacher and student
Reduced courseload
Student assistance program coordinated by counselors and teachers
A team member to monitor work and facilitate solutions
Creating smaller pieces of assignments- “chunking”
Offering flexible setting and time to complete assignments
Building computer literacy skills to reduce technical skill barriers

Teachers who understand their needs and use strategies to differentiate
Course and program structures that provide flexibility, time, and attention
School supports to fill academic and other gaps
What helps at-risk students succeed? Connect practices
Senior seminar course to help students in goal-setting and planning for life after high school.
Preparing students for success in a technology-based economy,
Emphasizing life skills and work readiness.
Partnering with community organizations to provide trade skills to students
Climate practices
Focus on safety and respect
Weekly data reports to guide teachers in their student meetings, interventions, and contracts.
A team approach that includes instructional coaches and intervention teachers
Small group intervention classes or one-to-one interventions, based on each student’s academic data.
Control practices
Decreasing absence, truancy and other behavioral issues by identifying causes of these issues and developing action plans to correct them.
A Response to Intervention program and a life skills program to meet behavioral and emotional needs of students
Curriculum practices
Grouping students to provide specific skills and strategies for academic success.
Developing differentiated scaffolds for each student, monitored by a teacher-mentor, and supported by an orientation in time management and task prioritizing.
Caring community practices
Mentoring for student success.
Positive communication between teachers, students and parents.
Policies to ensure regular, proactive communication.
Helping teachers:
Specialists in at-risk student transition, ESE, and online learning are developing an online professional development course for online teachers who have at-risk and ESE students in their courses.
The PD course addresses strategies specific to each student group and their success in learning online.
Helping schools
Specialists in at-risk student transition, ESE, and online learning are developing an online orientation course for at-risk and ESE students who are new to online courses.
The orientation course addresses strategies specific to learning online.
How can leaders learn more? National Drop Out Prevention Center materials at
"Dropout risk factors and exemplary programs: A technical report"
iNACOL reports at
"Promising Practices in Online Learning: Using Online Learning for At-Risk Students and Credit Recovery"
"Access and Equity in Online Classes and Virtual Schools"
Chapter in book at ISTE Bookstore:
Exceptional learners: differentiated instruction online
in "What Works in K-12 Online Learning"
http://www.iste.org Research needed
How the identification of at-risk students affects the attrition and course completion rates
Assessment and prediction tools, models, and instruments used to remediate students’ knowledge, skills and abilities to enable success in the online environment.
Research needed
Design and delivery models that improve completion and attrition rates with at-risk students.
Practices that increase student engagement and contribute to a positive learning community
In one large virtual school, students outperformed the mean of peers in traditional schools in most grades (3-11) and subjects, including:
students with IEPs
students in low SES
Full transcript