Hybrid Charters Show Promise
posted by: Alix | June 30, 2011, 02:56 PM   

One charter school, the San Francisco Flex Academy, is a thoroughly modern concept that combines the traditional bricks and mortar school with cutting edge online classes. Though students attend school every day in the building, a portion of their courses are offered through an online curriculum accessed through individual laptop computers. The difference lies in their focus on offering teachers for core subjects—English, history, math, and science—on site. These educators meet with small groups of students throughout the day to work with students who are falling behind, based on information collected by online assessments.

Some students liken the experience to going to work in an office setting; students may work independently and with others on projects, and meet in small groups with teachers. Proponents cite the concept not only teaches modern technology but the ability to work independently in a real-world setting. Students are given the flexibility to find their own way, but given resources for individualized instruction and help.

Nationwide, the numbers of hybrid or blended charter schools are rising. While no two schools are exactly the same, the concept is loosely based on the idea of combining face-to-face education with online instruction. That sweet-spot combination is what school founders are trying to cultivate. Some are primarily virtual schools that have an added and often limited face-to-face component. At others, like the bay area Flex Academy, students are required to be in the building daily.

"There are tons of different models, and it's exciting and messy," cited Michael Horn, the executive director of education at the Innosight Institute, a nonprofit organization that advocates innovative practices in education. "What we're moving toward," Horn predicts, "is the realization that if our expectation is to educate every single child successfully, then we need structures that can individualize and personalize, and there's no way to do it in the way we have historically approached this."

The hybrid model is seen as a solution to the parents who want to see their child benefit from online instruction but are unable to have them stay home alone all day. The promise of allowing students both is seen as a possible standard for future schools. Today, many hybrid charter school models are brand-new, with many still working out problems and hoping to see positive feedback through high student test scores. If Flex Academy is deemed a success after another school year, the concept has potential to move forward.

What do you think of the hybrid charter model?
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