High schools are going the ‘distance’ in learning

High schools are going the ‘distance’ in learning
High schools are going the 'distance' in learning | Weakley County dual enrollment; distance learning

A LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP – High school students in Greenfield enjoy opportunities to earn college credit hours through a partnership between Jackson State Community College and Weakley County Schools. The courses are known as “dual enrollment.”

A LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP – High school students in Greenfield enjoy opportunities to earn college credit hours through a partnership between Jackson State Community College and Weakley County Schools. The courses are known as “dual enrollment.” The classroom setting remains the same with the exception of an on-line professor and televised college coursework. The measures are in place at all four of the county’s high schools.

On a weekly basis, Burt Rutledge teaches physics to students at Westview High School and Gleason School at the same time. 

Obviously, even on the level of physics, it’s impossible for Rutledge to physically be in two places at one time, but with the recent implementation of new technology in the field of distance learning and dual enrollment courses for high school and college credit, Weakley County schools are breaking new ground on preparing students for the future in an ever-changing and progressing world. 

Through offering dual enrollment courses, the school system is giving students the opportunity to obtain college and high school credits prior to entering a university door. 

Add to that equation distance learning equipment packaged with an e4TN grant that makes it virtually possible to teach multiple classes at the same time to students who otherwise would not be able to take the courses face to face and the result equates to endless possibilities in education and learning.

Dual enrollment courses are nothing new in and of themselves. 

For several years, Westview and Dresden high schools offered one to two courses in the areas of English and history. 

Now, however, Director of Schools Randy Frazier is building on that foundation and hoping to offer more courses and more opportunities for college credit.

“This year, Mr. Frazier encouraged teachers and counselors to open up as many opportunities as possible for dual enrollment courses. Dual enrollment gives students the chance to get high school and college credits at the same time,” Dr. Debbie Doster,  Weakley County Instructional Supervisor for grades 6-12, explained. 

“Some of our neighboring systems opened up to this idea earlier and they may be a year ahead of us, but we’re not that far behind and we’re working to get to their level.”

In the beginning, English IV and U.S. history were the courses most prevalently offered and Westview played host to a geology class taught by UT Martin professor Dr. Mike Gibson.

“This is Mr. Frazier’s second year and he emphasized that we need to be more competitive on a local, state and global level,” Doster remarked. “We want the students to have that opportunity. We’re working closely with UTM as well as Jackson State mostly in the realm of English, but with history and algebra as well.”

Doster praised students at Greenfield and Gleason for “really coming on board” as of late and emphasized that by taking advantage of this opportunity, students are finishing high school with state requirements as well as extra hours towards college. Courses are not offered to all students, but to those who have expressed an interest in attending college and who have remained “in good standing” with grades. 

“Not necessarily the top of the class,” Doster added. 

Classes are offered in three formats: face-to-face, hybrid and by in-school teachers. Examples of face to face would be Brenda Morrow who teaches math at Dresden High School, but is also a faculty member at Jackson State Community College, Katie Moore who teaches U.S. history and is an adjunct professor and other professors who teach courses in college and drive to the high schools. 

Then, there are hybrids. An example of this would be Greenfield School’s partnership with Jackson State through distance learning. 

Last year, the equipment was purchased and now, Greenfield students have the capability of watching a video feed of a classroom setting at Jackson State. They are able to receive instruction in real time as the class is taking place. Homework and scores are posted through a blackboard medium, just as they are in college.

In addition, Weakley County Schools received $30,000 along with 60 other schools in Tennessee from an e4TN grant. This grant makes it possible for online learning to be available to all students. The classes are offered online at no cost and exist to allow students the opportunity to take a class that is not being offered at the high school they are attending.

Doster wrote the grant for 20 laptops and other money used to pay for coursework. Now, students who wish to take German can do so. Other classes such as French and algebra are also available. 

“If a student’s schedule wouldn’t allow him or her to take a certain class, it is now possible for the student to go online, learn from a teacher on the computer and have homework and tests for that class on the computer,” Doster explained. “Students all over the country are doing this and the participation across the country is great. The students can keep the laptops to work on the assignments.”

And this explains Rutledge’s physics class. 

As a hybrid situation, 13 students from Westview and Gleason enrolled in his e4TN physics class and sometimes Rutledge teaches the seven students at Westview while corresponding with the six Gleason students via a computer and vice versa. 

With steady progress, Weakley County Schools hope to eventually offer up to 18 hours or six three-hour courses worth of credit. These, of course, would be open to just juniors and seniors with the opportunity of a Hope Scholarship paying for one course, but not all. If so desired, students would have to pay for extra courses. If a student maintains a 3.0 G.P.A., he or she is awarded $300 a year for junior and senior year. In the state of Tennessee, when a student graduates and has a cumulative 3.0 or at least 21 on the ACT, he or she is awarded Hope Scholarship money in the amount of $4,000 a year at a four-year institution.

Not only is the Weakley County Schools central office championing the effort, but high school guidance counselors are excited about the possibilities that have been created for students.

Dresden High School Guidance Counselor P.K. Kelley shares Doster’s enthusiam.

“It’s a very positive thing for all area high school students. Several of our students will graduate with 12 credit hours and this year’s juniors will be able to graduate with 18 hours next year as we’ll be offering two English courses, two maths and two histories,” Kelley remarked. “They will have the opportunity to complete a full semester’s worth of courses.” 

“It’s a beautiful situation,” Doster commented. “These are exciting times for high-school students in Weakley County.”

wcp 3/10/11

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