Keeping Pace 2013 preview: Blended schools part 2

In a post earlier this week  we discussed our definition of blended schools, and why we believe they are an important category and therefore were among our areas of focus in 2013. Data for the blended schools category as a whole are not readily available, because such schools are typically not recognized as a group in state reporting. However, Keeping Pace found an estimated 75 fully blended schools in 24 states and Washington DC in SY 2013-14. As this is a first effort to count these schools as a category, we believe it is likely an underestimate.

Blended school characteristics

Many fully blended schools across the country are charter schools started by education management organizations or charter management organizations. Most of the largest online education management organizations have expanded their offerings to include blended schools. For example, Connections Education operates seven Nexus Academy schools in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. K12 Inc. operates two Flex Public Schools in California, Hoosier Academies – Indianapolis, and the Hawaii Technology Academy, and it has opened learning centers in Arizona where students can seek individual assistance. Three Pivot Charter Schools in Florida, operated by Advanced Academics, give students flexibility in the hours they attend their schools.

Other schools are associated with charter management organizations that were begun as blended learning organizations and are beginning to expand outside of their original geographic areas. Rocketship Education operates eight schools in California, opened the first of what is expected to be eight schools in Milwaukee in August 2013, and has been approved to open schools in Nashville in 2014. Aspire Public Schools operates 34 schools in California and opened its first two schools in Memphis in fall 2013.

Other blended schools are traditional or charter schools that are not associated with a management organization or a network of schools.

  • VOISE (Virtual Opportunities Inside a School Environment) Academy, a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) high school, uses a blended learning approach in which students attend the physical school, but online courses act as the primary source of course content. The VOISE Academy is a CPS performance school created under the CPS Renaissance 2010 initiative; it served about 350 students in SY 2012-13.
  • Riverside Virtual School in California offers a blended option to students who want to work remotely. They are required to communicate with teachers electronically throughout the week, and some courses have face-to-face requirements.
  • North Carolina has one blended school, Polk County Early College, that annually allows up to 20 students to complete high school while earning college credits, leading to early completion of an associate’s degree while earning a high school diploma.
  • Myron B. Thompson Academy in Hawaii is a blended charter school that serves about 500 full-time students statewide. Students take some courses face-to-face at the onsite location and other courses mostly online with some face-to-face requirements. The face-to-face requirements are unique to each island.
  • The Village Green Virtual Public Charter High School and Sheila C. “Skip” Nowell Leadership Academy opened in fall 2013 and are the first two fully blended charter schools in Rhode Island. Village Green is serving grades 9 and 10 in SY 2013-14, and plans to expand to grades 11 and 12 over a three-year period. Nowell is serving grades 9-12 from two locations in SY 2013-14; students spend 15 hours in the classroom and 15 hours working online each week.