For high school juniors and seniors who have failed a class, a different kind of night school offers the opportunity to make up those needed credits. Last year the Oakdale Joint Unified School District offered a pilot program called E2020 for students to recapture credits in lieu of regular night school, which was originally part of the adult education program and had been eliminated due to budget cuts.
“E2020 is a virtual program featuring core curriculum online,” explained OJUSD Alternative Education Principal Dennis Hitch. “We are able to offer English, Math, Social Science, Science and limited elective courses.”
OJUSD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Barbara Shook said that the adult education program as it was, that included night school, was costing the district more money than it was receiving from the state. She said that as the state started to loosen some of the restrictions for certain programs due to the fiscal crisis, it gave the district the option to move categorical funding into Tier 3 funding.
“We started looking at students who needed credit recovery and couldn’t fit it into the regular school day schedule,” Shook said.
She added that E2020 had been used by other school districts in the area and OJUSD obtained information about how the program worked. She said it offers another tool for students to recover credits from failed classes, different from summer school.
Now in its third semester, Shook said that at first there were some adjustments for the district and the students but now the program runs more smoothly.
“It’s been a very positive way for students to go through credit remediation or take a different type of class,” she said.
E2020 is available to all juniors and seniors in the school district. There are three sessions per week, each is three hours, and students generally enroll in one class per semester, Hitch added.
“We have a certificated instructor in the room at all times, but the student is really taking the class online,” Hitch explained. “The student follows curriculum, regular lessons, and podcasts for lectures or discussions. Our instructor facilitates the online learning and administers assessments for the students.”
Ken Meil, the E2020 program the instructor, agreed that the first semester for the program was challenging as they worked out some issues. The second semester saw significant improvement, he said, with one major factor being that the district required attendance at the class sessions.
He said students attend a class one night per week, each session is 15 weeks, but can be completed sooner. He has 30 students in three different weekly classes, for a total of 90 students. He said he helps with software issues and also answers questions for the students.
Students do the work in class and have the option to do extra class work on their own time if they have Internet access. For those who don’t have Internet access, some will arrange to attend another session in the same week to get more computer time. Meil noted that he has had some students finish the course in 10 weeks by putting in the extra time on their own.
“The key part of the program is, even though you can work on it at home, you still have to come to class,” he said.
Meil stated that the students take different online courses during each class session.
For example, five may be taking English, while 10 others may be taking History, and so on. He explained that some of what they do through the program is hear class lectures (podcasts), do journal writing, reading, get online reference material content, take lesson quizzes, unit topic tests, and cumulative finals.
“These are not easy courses. Some students are surprised by the amount of material,” Shook said.
“From a curriculum standpoint, it’s as rigorous as any course they’ll take at high school with any teacher,” Meil added, noting that the computer programs are updated annually to meet California standards.
He pointed out that students can do everything, except finals, on their own time. Finals must be done in class so that they may be monitored. He also said that the other tests have time limits on them and a student can’t exit out of the test or “take a break.” If that happens the test starts over from the beginning.
“For the kids that stick with it, even if they do the minimum, it’s likely they will complete the course,” Meil said.
Shook said that some benefits of the program include that students can get the lessons in Spanish if needed. Also, if students don’t understand a concept, they can go back and review the lesson again or go to an online tutoring session.
She reported that the district is continuing to look for other possibilities in using the E2020 program. One option the district is considering is obtaining a CAHSEE – the high school exit exam – tutoring program associated with E2020. She also said that some students want to access more advanced courses that Oakdale High School doesn’t offer.
So, the district is exploring options with E2020 to see if they can offer other advanced placement courses, as well as how and when they would be made available to the students.
“It’s presented some really nice options for us,” Shook said.