Creating Early College Opportunities Using Online Learning and District Partnerships

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1 Creating Early College Opportunities Using Online Learning and District Partnerships Tryna M. Luton P-12 Outreach Coordinator/OSU K-12 Online Administrator Oregon State University Summer Session Van Peters Early College Director/Administrator Siletz Valley Early College Academy Gary Graves Senior Planning and Evaluation Associate Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory/Antioch University Center for Native Education Introduction: Nurturing Strong Partnerships A great deal of the success of Siletz Valley Early College Academy (SVECA) can clearly be attributed to the strong partnerships that were formulated even before the opening of the school. These partners include Antioch University s Center for Native Education, Oregon State University and OSU K-12 Online, Oregon Coast Community College, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, and Lincoln County School District. In the following, the logistics and benefits of such partnerships will be explained. It is also important to discuss the successes and benefits to students of attending a school that incorporates an Early College for Native Youth (ECNY) program. Background: A Plan for the School SVECA, located in Siletz, Oregon, opened its doors as a State Charter School sponsored by the Lincoln County School District in September This was an historic event for the Siletz community in that it had been 24 years since the high school was closed and Siletz students over the years were transported to a nearby high school. The mission of SVECA is to provide pathways for all students to excel in lifelong learning. Our goals are: To graduate healthy, productive, and responsible citizens who will work to improve their community; To provide a high quality academic environment and opportunities for college success; To instill an appreciation for cultural heritage. Sixty five percent of the students are of Native American heritage, most being members of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. SVECA established partnerships during its planning year with Oregon State University, Oregon Coast Community College, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, Lincoln County School District, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, as well as the Center for Native Education at Antioch University. These types of partnerships have helped improve the academic success of students in other tribal schools across the nation. Partnership with the Center for Native Education (CNE), Antioch University Seattle In November 2006 President Clinton s Director of Native American programs described Early Colleges for Native Youth as the first college prep schools in Indian country the most important K-12 innovation for Native students, ever. The CNE serves as an intermediary for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), providing threeyear grants to eleven Early Colleges for Native Youth (ECNY) in the Northwest, including SVECA. The 1

2 Gates Foundation established this granting stream to create 1) rigorous small high schools 2) located where Native people live so that the school can 3) develop culturally and academically skilled students with support from 4) tribal, school, and college leadership so that graduates acquire cultural knowledge, diplomas, and college credits. In addition to providing significant funding the CNE at Antioch University adds ongoing technical support to SVECA staff and administration as well as leadership in the form of quarterly conferences on the Antioch campus in Seattle. These conferences bring together all schools and partners, as well as tribes and researchers to share progress and provide an opportunity to network. Antioch also offers a variety of courses for ECNY teachers to help them meet the on-going challenges of teaching a college preparatory curriculum to underserved students. The mission of this program is to transform secondary Indian education in a single generation from The Gates Foundation recognizes that the need is high: In 1999, Michael Pavel, a Washington State University researcher, stated that nationally, only 31% of Native students take core curriculum during high school. Pavel also found that just 2% have a combined SAT of 1,100 or better. In 2004, the Western Interstate Council on Higher Education stated that Native participation in dual enrollment, AP, and IB is lowest of any group. In western US, 10% take college prep math courses while 30% take no math at all, also according to the 2004 Western Interstate Council on Higher Education statistics. In the 2005 National Center for Educational Statistics, we find that Native youth have overall absenteeism of 65% and drop out rates range from 15% to 98%, depending on location 77% do not have any college credits, while only 10% earn BA degrees, the lowest of any group also according to the 2005 National Center for Educational Statistics. The 2006 U.S. Census Report tells us that on tribal lands, 33% do not have high school diplomas. To make an impact on these dismal numbers Early Colleges must develop several components under the Antioch/Gates model. Sites must prioritize Native student achievement grades pre K-13 and promote college readiness in the middle grades. High schools will offer a three-stage, grades 9-13 curriculum: grades college prep courses, grade 11 - a mix of half high school and college courses, and grade all college courses. Student support advisory classes are offered during the school day. SVECA provides its advisory at the end of the day and provides counseling, college planning, tutoring, and career and service learning opportunities. Curriculum is co-developed by tribal or Native community experts, college faculty, and high school teachers. ECNY sites feature a Native curriculum and calendar. They identify local or national perspectives in core content: in history they teach treaties and use Native resources; in English they use Native authors; in math they analyze tribal economies; and in science they consider studying local medicinal plants or local environments. The CNE provides ideas and resources to sites as they create these transformed curricula. In addition, co-teaching occurs with tribal elders or experts and high school teachers with a focus on Native languages, traditional lifestyles, and tribal economies. ECNY students carry out projects upon communities requests and tribal values are promoted in the school culture. At some sites even school calendars are altered to reflect seasonal and subsistence lifestyles creating the opportunity for students to connect more closely with family ways without being absent from school. After the first two and a half years, the gains are remarkable. For three of the sites, graduation rates have gone from an average of 54% to 94%. Access to core curriculum is 100% as compared to the national norm of 31% and state reading scores have increased from 10% to 40% at some sites. Perhaps most 2

3 impressive is dual-credit attainment with students accruing up to 45 college credits upon high school graduation. In September 2006, the US Office of Indian Education featured ECNY s as a significant intervention and along with this the Council of Chief State School Officers has asked the Center for Native Education at Antioch University and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to scale up this initiative nationwide, with the goal of creating 180 Early Colleges by Academic Programs in Partnership with Higher Education Based on previous data on Siletz students, enrollment was projected to be about 70 students for the start up year of SVECA. Budget projections indicated that staffing would be limited, which in turn also limited class selection. The SVECA Steering Committee realized that choosing the right classes is a fundamental step in having a successful high school for students. In order to develop a program that meets state graduation requirements and allows students to meet their unique needs and interests, a blended class schedule utilizing both face-to-face teachers and online learning opportunities was created. OSU K-12 Online, providing the online courses for SVECA, is a virtual middle school and high school offered through OSU Extended Campus and Summer Session. More than 75 online high school courses are created and developed by licensed high school teachers and in some cases in partnership with other institutions and organizations. A number of courses are being developed to support traditional Native culture and values, imbedding these aspects into the curriculum. OSU also plans and offers pre-college visits, bringing students to the university. Students spend the day exploring different colleges and departments, touring the campus, listening to various guest speakers, and visiting college courses in session. Other services, such as assistance with grants, committee work, college preparation planning and professional development, are also provided by the university. Oregon Coast Community College, through their Expanded Options Program, offers classes for juniors and seniors age 16 or older, an opportunity to receive dual credit college courses. Students can also qualify for programs in credit recovery or a high school GED program. Facing Challenges As stated above, Native American students have an extremely high dropout rate: Over 20% nationally and 50% locally as documented by statistics from the Tribal Education Department (TEDNA, 2007). Over half of the students that enrolled this year in SVECA were in credit recovery classes sponsored by the school district and attended school on a limited basis. Our greatest challenge has been in creating an education plan and profile for each of these students; getting to know their capabilities; and enrolling them in classes that furthered their career choices. Low reading and comprehension levels limited the capability of placing them in college level classes and required intensive remediation efforts on the part of teachers. The biggest benefit is that students who would be another dropout statistic are attending school on a regular basis and are experiencing success. Conclusion: Celebrating Successes This year will be the first in 24 years that the community will have a graduating high school class and will show future potential graduates that dropping out of school is detrimental and not the best option. Having a local high school strengthens the community. School district attendance records for high schools in the district show that our students attendance records are as good as other district high schools. Students academic records show improvement over previous years class grades with over half of the students 3

4 receiving 3.0 or better the past quarter. Online classes are important in allowing students opportunities to prepare for academic rigor. Culture plays an important role in the student s high school experiences. Over two thirds of students have taken advantage of athletic and other extracurricular activities. Visitations to Oregon State University and career fairs provide students the opportunity and experiences to think beyond high school, explore degree programs, and learn that attending college is an obtainable goal for each and every one of them. SVECA is dedicated to providing a personalized, supportive early college experience for all students and provide a program that encourages academic, athletic, and social excellence. None of this would be possible without the community effort created by partnerships that reach further than just the small community of Siletz. People and organizations local, statewide, and even beyond our state offering assistance, support, funding, time and energy make it possible for this school to achieve its goals and for current students, for future students, to experience higher academic success along with a better experience in all areas of life. References National Center for Education Statistics, (2005). National Center for Education Statistics, Retrieved April 30, 2007, from the National Center for Education Statistics Web site: Tribal Education Department, (2007). Tribal Education Department National Assembly, Co, Retrieved April 30, 2007, from Tribal Education Department National Assembly Web site: Biographical Sketches Tryna Luton taught in the elementary classroom for 11 years. During this time, she gained experience in leadership roles, such as site council chair, various teaching, learning and assessment committees, benchmark team leader, and professional development planning. Tryna has several years experience as a teacher trainer, gained through leading professional development for various school districts and developing/teaching online and traditional college level education courses for education students, teachers and instructional assistants. She currently holds an Oregon Administrator License, needed in her position as administrator of OSU K-12 Online, offered through Oregon State University Extended Campus and Summer Session. Address: Oregon State University Summer Session P-12 Outreach 4943 Valley Library Corvallis, OR URL: Phone: Fax: Van Peters was a K-12 classroom teacher for nine years and has been a school administrator for 15 years at public schools, Native American tribal contract schools, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools, a state charter school and an early college. Van occupied the position of Northwest Regional Educational Program Administrator for the BIA for 15 years. He has been involved in a multitude of education programs that have incorporated technology. As a presenter, Van has facilitated workshops at various national BIA and National Indian School Boards Association conferences on various subject matters. Address: Siletz Valley Early College Academy PO Box 247 Siletz, OR

5 URL: Phone: Fax: Gary Graves has 12 years experience developing distance communications projects as senior research associate at Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL). He managed development of Safe Schools Network, a desktop videoconferencing project with state departments of education and schools in the Northwest and Hawaii, and Digital Bridges, a web-based online learning resource at NWREL. He has presented at conferences such as the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications, National Telecommunication Association, Northwest Council for Computer Education, and Alaska Society for Technology in Education. Gary is currently contracted through Antioch University and NWREL to provide consultation/guidance to early colleges in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska. Address: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory 101 NW Main St., Suite 500 Portland, OR URL: Phone: Fax:

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