A Prescription for Cost-Effectively Serving Homebound and In-Treatment Students with Connections Learning

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1 A Prescription for Cost-Effectively Serving Homebound and In-Treatment Students with Connections Learning

2 Section TABLE OF CONTENTS Page CURRENT CHALLENGES IN HOMEBOUND/IN-TREATMENT EDUCATION... 2 A PRESCRIPTION FOR SUCCESS IN ADDRESSING THESE CHALLENGES... 3 HOW VIRTUAL HOMEBOUND/IN-TREATMENT EDUCATION PROGRAMS WORK... 4 THE BENEFITS OF VIRTUAL HOMEBOUND/IN-TREATMENT EDUCATION PROGRAMS... 6 PARTNER PROFILE: HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT... 6 A PARTNER WITH PROVEN SUCCESS IN VIRTUAL HOMEBOUND/IN-TREATMENT EDUCATION... 8 Connections Learning 1 (888)

3 CURRENT CHALLENGES IN HOMEBOUND/IN-TREATMENT EDUCATION Meeting the needs of students who are homebound, hospitalized, or in treatment is a real challenge for most schools and districts today. Whether suffering from life-threatening illnesses or temporarily sidelined by an injury, the last thing these struggling students need is the added challenge of missing weeks or months of targeted academic progress or becoming disconnected from their academic program. Unfortunately, to meet the needs of students who are homebound, hospitalized or in treatment, most districts still heavily rely on limited face-to-face tutoring and/or teleconferencing with a corps of dedicated teachers. Smaller districts often do not even have a formal program and rely solely on itinerant teachers as available. Based on Connections Learning research, most districts provide only 2- to 5-hour blocks of instruction once or twice a week. A few hours of tutoring a week is no replacement for 30 hours a week of instructional time. As a result, students often lose momentum and have difficulty reengaging when they return to school. Educating middle and high school students is particularly challenging in traditional hospital and homebound programs as these students need their lessons delivered by subject-matter experts; it is rare to find a homebound instructor who is certified across multiple subjects. Itinerant teachers in traditional homebound and hospital programs are hardworking individuals but are usually licensed in only one or two different content areas. Therefore, the district is either forced to provide an uncertified instructor or provide three or more separate teachers for short amounts of time. District leaders indicate that homebound high school students are typically frustrated when they return to school and too often do not graduate on time. In contrast to at-home care, hospital and residential treatment programs can sometimes provide educational continuity for students with longer-term stays through more formalized on-site instructional programs. However, these programs are often limited in scope as the institutions must focus on the immediate physical or behavioral health needs of the child. In addition, students in treatment often face unpredictable schedules and multiple transitions among settings, making planning their educational program difficult. It may be quite challenging for the same traditional district program to accommodate the needs of both an injured high schooler moving from hospital to rehab center and back again, and a home-based fifth-grader whose ability to study is directly impacted by monthly chemotherapy treatments. Cost is a secondary factor when considering what is best for students who are homebound or in treatment, but it is still an important factor. Information on the cost of current programs is limited as the total cost of providing homebound services is often spread across departments, and the homebound population is generally a small percentage of the overall special needs population. Regardless, general consensus among administrators is that the program costs are high and rising. In an era of shrinking revenues, districts are seeking cost-efficiency along with educational effectiveness for their homebound/in-treatment programs. Connections Learning 2 (888)

4 A PRESCRIPTION FOR SUCCESS IN ADDRESSING THESE CHALLENGES As professional educators seek ways to provide a nurturing and success-focused instructional bridge for those students who must be out of the classroom for medical or related issues, there are important factors to keep in mind: Continuity of learning: The primary purpose of a Homebound/In-Treatment Education program is to allow students to keep up with their academic peers even during periods of illness or hospitalization. Students should be given the opportunity to meet or exceed the same academic standards as their peers in traditional educational settings. Curriculum and instruction: Who delivers the instruction and how is it be done? In traditional hospital, homebound, or in-treatment programs, students are periodically visited face-to-face by teachers. These visits can be interrupted by treatment timetables or unexpected scheduling conflicts, further putting the student behind. Teachers often use a modified curriculum to address the essential subject areas, but students miss out on electives and other subjects because of time and physical constraints. Flexibility of time and place: The settings in which a Homebound/In-Treatment Education program is utilized may include hospitals, at-home care, drug-treatment residential facilities, and other settings in which students are enrolled for short segments of time. Often, students move from one facility to another or back home. An appropriate program must be considered for diverse facilities, space configurations, hours, and accessibility. Flexibility is the key to success for a student who is dealing with non-traditional healthcare or emotional issues. Cost-effectiveness: The traditional model for addressing the needs of homebound/intreatment students is labor-intensive. How does one institute a program without having to employ an entire staff of K-12 teachers whose specific services may only be used unevenly, depending on which students are homebound or in-treatment any given week? Serving homebound and in-treatment students the traditional way can be costly and inefficient. Meeting diverse student needs from K-12 across multiple learning levels and in different treatment modalities requires far more in-person staffing resources than the absolute volume of students in treatment can justify, while the limitations of face-to-face instruction mean that students work according to a schedule that has little to do with their learning needs. Many districts are turning to online Homebound/In-Treatment solutions to address the needs of this population with terrific results, both academically and financially. What are the Advantages of Online Delivery for Homebound/In-Treatment Students? True Continuity of Learning: Through virtual delivery, students receive a consistent learning experience even as they transfer from hospital to home. Students who are unable to attend traditional school during normal hours either because of health issues or a variety of Connections Learning 3 (888)

5 treatments can receive the prescriptive learning program to meet their unique educational needs. Curriculum and Instruction Matching the In-School Experience: Online delivery of courses helps ensure that homebound and hospitalized students have access to any course they might need. In addition, virtual delivery can mean that students attend classes taught by expert teachers who are highly trained and highly qualified in their respective content areas, which ensures top-notch instruction in every subject. Instruction can be delivered both synchronously and asynchronously. Students may attend live web-conferencing sessions and access recorded teaching sessions as well as work independently while advancing through a curriculum that is aligned with district standards and benchmarks. Interaction with educators is often supported with embedded just-in-time tutoring services as required for more targeted support. Flexibility with the Student at the Forefront: Virtual instructional programs meet students where they are and allow them to work when they are best able. When students move from setting to setting, school follows them seamlessly. Online instructional delivery means that anywhere there is a computer and an internet connection, there is learning. Budget-Friendly Solutions: Rather than taxing existing teaching staff or maintaining itinerant teachers on their payroll, a seat license approach means that administrators can ensure a complete, standards-aligned, personalized educational program for every student on a true as-needed basis. An online curriculum and instructional approach also eliminates mileage costs, staff downtime due to travel and traffic, and the rising cost of physical curriculum materials. HOW VIRTUAL HOMEBOUND/IN-TREATMENT EDUCATION PROGRAMS WORK Establishing an online or virtual Homebound/In-Treatment program can be a challenge. Some districts develop their own by implementing a web-based instructional platform for online delivery of content. They frequently find that their content and their teachers are not adapted to online instructional delivery. In addition, the student performance and attendance tracking systems in off the shelf software is not customized to their specific needs. Other districts partner with an outside organization to provide this service in concert with the district or school academic program. A partner works with schools or districts to provide an academically sound, cost-effective approach to serving this vulnerable student population. With the online seat license approach, districts typically order a number of seats prior to the start of school and then move students, as needed, in and out of those seats. Students can attend for a short time or for the full school year, depending on their needs. During their participation in the program, students remain enrolled in their district school, which continues to be accountable for that student as required by state and district requirements. An experienced partner will conduct an initial placement for each incoming student to determine the program and focus on student needs and success. Ideally the sending school Connections Learning 4 (888)

6 would provide an academic history and if desired some guidance on the most appropriate academic program for the incoming student. For example, a student attending for one month may have focused core course instruction to easily transition back into the classroom, while a student attending for an extended period of time may benefit from a full schooling program including electives, online clubs, and activities. Research shows that quality teachers equal student success. That s why it is important that online Homebound/In-Treatment programs are designed to enable student-teacher interaction. Partner organizations should have Homebound/In-Treatment Education teachers who are specially selected and trained to work effectively with your students in a virtual environment. These teachers are expert in using virtual learning platforms, which allows them to closely track each student s progress and make sophisticated, data-driven decisions. A successful online Homebound/In-Treatment Education program is a combination of robust curriculum materials and technology-facilitated instruction, all integrated through a digital learning platform that ensures accountability. Students benefit further from a live academic support hotline or some other kind of on-call system of educational assistance. Online Homebound/In-Treatment programs should include: A personalized learning plan that is developed collaboratively for each student to maximize his or her achievement. A learning management system which organizes and manages the entire Homebound/In- Treatment Education learning environment. This system should be operating on a secure, web-based software delivering every assignment and tracking every activity, while monitoring completion of individual lessons as well as mastery of discrete skills and knowledge. A system that tracks ongoing student attendance and progress based on the objective numeric data generated by the digital learning platform, including student contact with Homebound/In-Treatment Education teachers, time-on-task, and completion of lessons and assessments. A web conferencing protocol allowing teachers to work synchronously (in real time) with students using voice-over IP, chat, electronic whiteboard, or shared web surfing. Access to qualified tutors to help students if they are stuck on a particular concept or problem. Asynchronous multimedia tutorials to provide students with interactive instruction in the concepts they will need to complete the lesson. A program to support adults (most often a parent or extended family member) for students who are homebound, or a staff member/paraprofessional for students in a hospital or institutional setting. The adult and student interact with the teacher via telephone, , and in-person meetings. Connections Learning 5 (888)

7 THE BENEFITS OF VIRTUAL HOMEBOUND/IN-TREATMENT EDUCATION PROGRAMS By implementing a virtual Homebound/In-Treatment Education program, district administrators are introducing a new paradigm in meeting their students needs. Compassionate and Cutting-Edge: Online Homebound/In-Treatment Education programs allow districts or schools to take advantage of 21st century technology by delivering a costeffective competency-based learning curriculum to students who have gaps in their school experience. These students require an extra measure of flexibility to succeed. Through online instruction, the curriculum is tailored to each student s individual needs to a level virtually impossible to achieve through traditional homebound services. Using technology to deliver instruction through full-time, expert teachers, and 360-degree progress tracking for students wherever they are means tremendous advantages for district students, staff, and budgets. Competency-Based and Flexible: In a virtual Homebound/In-Treatment program, students work at the pace appropriate to their needs, mastering content in the core subject areas with intensive instructional support from licensed teachers. Regular communication between students, teachers, and caregivers (via , telephone, or face-to-face) addresses challenges that may arise and ensures that students are making progress toward individual educational goals. The students learning programs are continually adjusted and modified, so that pupils receive just the right amount of challenge to experience success. Whether homebound students are enrolled for a few weeks or an entire school year, a virtual learning approach guarantees each student the most productive educational experience possible helping to ensure a smooth transition back to the classroom. Cost-Efficient at the Bottom Line: Virtual Homebound/In-Treatment programs offer an unprecedented level of individualization, and a manageable seat license approach allows a district or school to meet any eventuality. Students access their schoolwork 24/7, from anywhere there is an Internet connection, and they get the attention they deserve and the flexibility they need to be successful. PARTNER PROFILE: HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT The Connections Learning Homebound/In-Treatment Education Team is experienced in leveraging these resources to quickly establish and effectively manage customized programs to meet the needs of large districts with complex challenges. For example, we are proud to serve the Houston Independent School District Community Services Program described as follows: HISD is the seventh-largest public-school system in the nation serving 202,000 students across 301 square miles. Connections Learning currently serves about 2/3 of the students enrolled in the HISD Community Services (HISD-CS) program, which is what Houston calls its services for Connections Learning 6 (888)

8 students who are homebound and in-treatment. (Students not currently served by Connections Learning include: very limited English proficient; incarcerated youth with restricted Internet use; and students with multiple impairments and/or who are very low functioning. HISD provides a traditional face-to-face approach with its own staff for these students.) HISD purchased a certain number of seat licenses to serve students who are hospitalized, homebound, or residing at an agency. Students rotate through these seats: a seat license can only be used by one student at a time but by multiple students throughout the year. An estimated four students will use one seat during the year. Students served are in grades Kindergarten 12, with the majority in high school. Students are enrolled for durations of 4 weeks to a full school year. In addition to homebound students, we serve students at thirteen separate sites, including hospitals, drug treatment centers, a battered women s shelter, group homes for students on probation, etc. Students may check out a laptop (often with built-in mobile Internet service) from the district, or may use their own computer. Most of the sites have a computer learning lab on the premises. We provide licensed content teachers for core subjects and electives, as well as a full-time program manager who works at the HISD administrative site. Newly enrolled students are placed into curriculum based upon recommendations from the student s school of origin, previous school records, and, if needed, placement testing. Parents have their own access to the learning management system and can serve as learning coach if practical. Students in residential treatment settings are generally assigned a face-to-face homeroom teacher by the district to supervise students in computer lab settings. We create an exit portfolio when a student withdraws (grades, work samples, etc.) and provide it to HISD to send to the school of origin. The Connections Learning-HISD Homebound/In-Treatment Education program is successful by several measures. A recent survey indicates that HISD staff believes that their students are learning more than with their previous itinerant teacher model. HISD-CS has also been able to reduce its staff from 80 to 20 while improving academic outcomes (as measured by district benchmark testing). Even more important are the student success stories from the HISD program. For example, one student we serve finished a large portion of his semester course work in three weeks prior to his major surgery, which allowed him to focus on recovery without the concern about falling behind. Another student in our program who was originally slated to graduate under a minimum graduation requirement was able to accelerate and will now graduate under Texas s Connections Learning 7 (888)

9 recommended (college-bound) program. As another example, a student at a residential treatment center who had been out of school for over three years has finally learned to like school because of the one-on-one attention that he is receiving from his online teachers. A student diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome who resided in a psychiatric center for over two years will now finally be able to graduate because of the vast selection of courses/electives that were not previously available to him. In addition to the HISD partnership, Connections Learning provides services through the Missouri Virtual Instructional Program (MoVIP) for medically fragile students across the Show-Me State. Participating students are enrolled by their districts for state-funded seats in the program. A PARTNER WITH PROVEN SUCCESS IN VIRTUAL HOMEBOUND/IN-TREATMENT EDUCATION Connections Learning has established itself as an expert and responsive partner in deploying educationally effective, cost-efficient Homebound/In-Treatment programs. Connections Learning draws upon Connections Academy LLC s solid decade of experience in serving students outside the traditional classroom setting. Founded in 2001, Connections Academy is a leading, fully accredited provider of high-quality, highly accountable virtual education for students in grades K 12. Connections Academy currently operates 19 virtual public schools in 18 states with new schools approved for launch in at least 4 new states in Connections Academy has over 30,000 students enrolled and over 350,000 courses delivered in , with over 100,000 students served and 1,000,000 courses delivered in the past 10 years. All courses meet or exceed state and national standards (including the Common Core), and the program is accredited by multiple agencies "Connections Learning has been of invaluable assistance to our students who are unable to attend a brick and mortar school. The online curriculum has helped our elementary and middle school students stay on track with their cohorts and it has helped our high school students gain credits towards graduation." Mickey Burgess, Dean of Instruction, HISD Community Services, Houston Independent School District, Texas including AdvancED and the regional accreditors. Additional detail on our curriculum and course offerings by grade level is provided in the Connections Learning Curriculum Guide available at This robust curriculum is integrated into a proprietary education management system developed specifically for use in K-12 virtual programs. Over the past decade, the Connections curriculum, platform, and method of online teaching have produced the highest academic performance of any family of K 12 schools in the country. 1 In January 2011, Connections 1 Based on the percentage of schools operated making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP); state report card ratings; and the overall percentage of enrolled students in the program rated as proficient or above on state standardized tests. Connections Learning 8 (888)

10 "As a special and regular education teacher, I have come to really appreciate the many resources that Connections Learning provides with each of its course lessons. Not only do the students have daily access to their online teachers, they also have videos, interactive slide presentations, discussion boards, activities and readings to assist them with learning the relevant course materials. This has been beneficial to the variety of learning styles that are present in all classrooms." Natasha Mallone, Teacher, HISD Community Services, Houston Independent School District, Texas HOMEBOUND/IN-TREATMENT EDUCATION Academy became Connections Education with two divisions Connections Learning and Connections Academy. The Connections Academy division will continue to focus on serving full-time virtual public schools, while Connections Education brings this accumulated expertise in online teaching and learning to school districts around the nation. Proven Effective Only the Connections Learning Homebound/In- Treatment Education program offers online courses that have all been public schooltested and a model that has demonstrated success in one of the nation s largest school districts. Our online program works, and we have the state standardized test scores to prove it. Connections Academy schools regularly meet or exceed state benchmarks in core subjects, and Advanced Placement students using the Connections program outscore the national average on the AP test. Our program also gets top marks in user satisfaction: more than 96% of parents agree that our curriculum is high quality, and 92% say their students agree they are making good academic progress at their Connections schools. To find out more about a partnership with Connections Learning, contact us at (888) or visit us at Connections Learning 9 (888)

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