Students can choose when, where, how to learn

Springfield’s ‘blended learning’ could attract more students and prepare them better, superintendent says.

Students will be able to customize their education through a new blended learning model that Springfield district officials think will attract more students and better prepare them for jobs and college.

Blended learning allows students to choose from several available options — including the traditional high school classes, post-secondary college courses and the district’s online school — to complete their required courses and desired electives, said David Estrop, superintendent of the Springfield City School District.

“You can mix and match these options to the highest degree possible, and that’s what we’re offering this fall in the blended program,” he said. “You decide as a parent and a student how you want to learn, when you want to learn, where you want to learn, with whom you want to learn and what time you want to learn. You have more control of your learning than ever before.”

Officials believe the increased options and flexibility will draw more students and families to the city schools.

“If students are attracted to Springfield by the many educational choices or by the ability to blend these choices, it will have a positive impact on our finances,” said Dale Miller, the district’s controller. “To what degree, at this point, we really don’t know. We’re not aware of anyone else doing this.”

Through the blended program, students can now take classes in several different ways, for example, taking their core courses in the traditional high school but taking an elective not offered at Springfield High through the virtual school. Those options will allow students to choose the best way for them to learn the material and to catch up if they fall behind in credits or accelerate to graduate early, officials say.

The new options may appeal to students who chose to attend another online school or attend a charter school, and students enrolled in other districts or local private schools could attend Springfield part-time for programs like the district’s internship program or IB classes, said Estrop.

“This may be one of the most well-kept secrets in the state of Ohio, but you can open enroll part time,” he said. “So if I want to get that religious education … but you want to get an engineering program at Springfield High, you can do that. If you want to take and be a member of FFA … you can do (FFA) in another school district and participate in the International Arts IB program at Springfield High. You can have the best of sort of both worlds.”

He anticipates increased enrollment, as well as higher graduation rates and test scores, within three years.

“I think the other thing you’ll see is it will increase our enrollment, particularly in the virtual school,” he said. “When you sign up with us, what you do is not only open (one) door, but all the other doors. There’s not another virtual school or charter school around that can offer you all these opportunities.”

Some of the options are only available at the high school but some options are available at middle and elementary school, too.

“I don’t think anywhere in this area and perhaps in the state of Ohio you will find a school system that is offering all these choices,” said Estrop.

The various options include:

  • Springfield High School and its five academies
  • Alternative programs like Keifer Academy
  • the Springfield-Clark Career Tech Center
  • the district’s kindergarten through 12th grade virtual school
  • The Learning Cafe after school program
  • College level courses like post-secondary enrollment or dual credit
  • Credit flex programs that allow students to test out of classes based on proficiency or complete projects and internships for credit
  • the blended learning program

Estrop said a Race to the Top committee of state education officials praised the program as “ahead of its time.”

For more information about the blended learning program, contact the superintendent’s office at (937) 505-2806.

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