Greenwich to add online iSchool for students who fall behind
GREENWICH — The Greenwich Public School district currently does not provide students with ways to make up lost credit during the school year, which means students who fall behind have to choose between summer school or summer jobs, sports and other opportunities.
But administrators want to eliminate this barrier to credit recovery by incorporating the work into the regular school day, which Chief Academic Officer Irene Parisi said will re-engage students and give them multiple pathways to graduation. To that end, district officials will be rolling out an online learning academy called iSchool in the next few weeks.
“It’s been a long time coming; I’m excited that we’ve arrived,” Parisi said. “It has the potential to be a critical supplement to our curriculum moving forward as we learn more.”
The iSchool will be available to students who either failed a course or could not receive credit because they had too many absences.
The new iSchool in Greenwich reflects education trends nationwide. Many districts, including some with less financial and administrative supports, are encouraging students to take one course online before they graduate, Parisi said. Educational opportunities “any time, anywhere” is the direction Greenwich is headed, she said.
“This is the right thing for the students,” she said.
Parisi, the district official leading the project, oversaw the implementation of online learning platforms in her previous job in the East Windsor Public School District. There, she made sure student schedules had room for opportunities they could pursue once they completed the online recovery work.
“You don’t want students to just be done and then go to a study hall,” she said. “You want it to be rigorous, relevant and meaningful.”
The first users of iSchool will be Greenwich High School students who need to make up credits to graduate on time with their classmates. For now, students will participate after school from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m., but eventually Parisi would like to see it take place within the school day.
Since the iSchool is self-directed, students might not need a full semester to retrieve the lost credit, Parisi said. Students who are trying to graduate might be able to complete the coursework before graduation, or into the early weeks of summer, without signing up for summer school.
Credit recovery in Greenwich is most common in math and English courses, a trend reflected across the state and nation, Parisi said. The iSchool will expand beyond these two areas, however, to one day include environmental science, global studies and even P.E.
“They’re very rigorous courses,” Parisi said, adding that students have said the classes are harder than they expected.
Her team of administrators ultimately want the iSchool option to be extended to all students in grades 3 through 12, regardless of academic standing. Individual students and groups of students who need the credit recovery or who want flexibility will eventually be able to use the online schooling. Parisi envisions teachers supplementing their curriculum with iSchool modules.
iSchool could be used for students who are home-bound as well, she said.
Her team has been developing iSchool for the last few years, but the rollout is now possible because of a Title IV grant, Parisi said.
Costs will be relatively low for the district, because Odysseyware, the program students will use, is eligible for discounts from the state government. Parisi was also able to secure the licenses needed for the program together with the Title IV grant and her department’s budget.
Odysseyware is a nationally known program that Greenwich uses for the alternative high school program Windrose. Its content is aligned to state and national academic standards, but individual districts can build the program to match the district’s curriculum.
Greenwich is an “incredibly smart community,” and Odysseyware meets its standards, she said.