Compass Learning: A New Alternative to Credit Retrieval-One School's Perspective
Davis, Tina M., Distance Learning
As a middle school math teacher, I always try to prepare my students for the next school year. Unfortunately, not all students are ready to move on, in which case they fail my class and do not earn their credit. In previous years, students who failed a class during the school year had to either endure repeating the class in summer school, or face the same teacher again the next school year. Due to budget cuts in summer school programs and class size limit restrictions in Florida, a new alternative is needed. The Lee County School District in Southwest Florida has found a solution to this challenge. I will highlight how my school, Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle, uses this new technology.
The Lee County School District is located in Southwest Florida. This is a mostly urban area. We serve over 82,000 students in 119 schools. This is the ninth largest district in the state and the 40th largest in the nation (Lee County School District, 2011a). We are a fairly diverse district with 48.8% White, 30.4% Hispanic, 15.4% Black, 3.5% multiracial, 1.6% Asian, and 0.2% Indian (Lee County School District, 2011b). We have a graduation rate of 80.3%, which is higher than the state average. About 70% of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch (Lee County School District, 2011c). Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School is located in Fort Myers, Florida. There are 854 students enrolled, with a 63.47% minority rate. The school offers gifted, standard, intensive, and exceptional student education curriculum. Dunbar Middle has retained its status of being an ?" -rated school for the past 10 years. The teachers and staff are dedicated to keeping Dunbar a school of excellence.
COURSE CREDITS FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS
Lee County middle schools have adopted a credit system for promotion to high school. Students must earn three credits each in language arts, math, science, social studies, and one-half credit in career education. To earn one credit, a student must pass a course for an entire year. To earn the three credits in each subject, a student must pass the subject in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. If a student does not pass the course with a 60% average, the credit is not earned (Lee County School District, 2011d). Due to limited resources, summer school opportunities are not an option for sixth or seventh graders to make up the credit. It is also not productive to have students physically repeat the course by placing them in the same classes as underclass mates. The solution? Assign these students to a "credit retrieval" class where they can complete the necessary material online to earn the credit. Lee County has adopted the use of Compass Learning for this purpose. Students are able to work on the material at their own pace. If the material is not mastered, the supervising teacher can reassign the lessons as needed.
WHAT IS COMPASS LEARNING?
Compass Learning was founded in 1969. The company envisioned a future where students could learn individually using computers. The company is headquartered in Austin, Texas, employs around 300 people, and has served more than eleven million students (Compass Learning, 2011a). Compass Learning Odyssey is a K-12 software based curriculum. Secondary students can enroll in courses such as language arts, math, science, social studies, électives, and Advanced Placement (AP) (Compass Learning, 2011b). Compass Learning Odyssey helps students develop Twenty-first century skills such as analysis, critical thinking and technology proficiency. These skills are developed through challenging activities that align to critical skills and objectives (Compass Learning, 2011c).
HOW DOES COMPASS LEARNING WORK?
The software for Compass Learning is very easy to use. The district enrolls students in the program. …