Schools have experienced both success and cost savings by using online education to replace traditional remedial education, but the Mesa Unified School District in Arizona is going online to push its best students in math. Starting this school year, Mesa sixth graders with high-level math skills can take an advanced course, according to Michelle Reese of East Valley Tribune.
In Mesa, the school will include a new Virtual Academy class for a group of about 100 students. The course is designed for students who are ready to move beyond what's offered in a typical sixth-grade math class, with curriculum from 6-8th grades covered in one calendar year.
The students come from 32 different schools, though it is available to every elementary school. In some cases, when there are enough students at one school to offer the course, it is available with a teacher on-site. It's just one of the many new ideas in place this year in the Mesa district it moves to offer more individualized instruction to students through the use of technology.
The Mesa sixth graders each day at a set time will go either to their home school's computer lab or to a computer in their classroom and log on. The math teachers will give them lessons using a web cam that has been assigned to every student. One teacher will teach the class, while other will monitor student actions online.
The lessons will also be archived and available for parents and students to review, said the education technology department specialist for the district.
"That regular sixth grade math is going to be so easy for them. This is the track they need to be on the path for advance math, said Sean Enright, Mesa's curriculum director. "One of the big hooks is students keep progressing."
By taking three years of math in one year, some students will be ready for algebra in seventh grade and continue on to complete Advance Placement Calculus BC as juniors in high school. It will "make them eligible for university level math as seniors."
When addressing the students and their parents during training last week, Hart and Johnson reiterated the high level of math the students will be completing. "The technology is the easy part," Hart said. "The math is going to be the difficult part."
Students will get a bag with a web cam, headset and writing tablet. They will be expected to take notes just as in a regular class, but for asking questions, students will click a key on their keyboard instead of raising their hand like in a regular class.
If the program proves successful, the school district could expand the program next year.