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Blending computer-based, classroom instruction, Miami School gives Hamilton students another option

HS program helps answer virtual learning demand
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Posted at 7:00 AM, Sep 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-24 07:00:18-04

HAMILTON, Ohio -- High school students have a new option for earning credits needed to graduate.

Freshmen through seniors in Hamilton City School District can now follow one of three non-traditional tracks offered at the district's new Miami School.

"It's providing another outlet for our students to attain their high school diploma," said Miami School Director Michael Wright.

The school employs a blended learning program that combines computer-based work with classroom instruction from English, math, science and social studies teachers.

"It's not just strictly a virtual online program," said Mike Holbrook, assistant superintendent of instructional services for Hamilton City Schools. "There's instruction going on every day that complements what's going on with the educational technology."

The program, which kicked off its inaugural year in August, was created partly in response to students leaving the district to try virtual learning models, like ECOT or Virtual High School.

"We're targeting students that maybe weren't having this much success in the traditional high school setting," Holbrook said.

The length of the school day at Miami School is dependent on which of the three tracks a student is on. Some spend a full day at the school. Others attend school for about three hours in the morning or afternoon. Some students only go to the school for quizzes and tests.

About 70 students are enrolled in the blended learning program, with roughly 45 attending a morning session and 25 in an afternoon session. Although many students spend less time at school than in a traditional setting, that doesn't mean less work. All pupils must complete 30 hours of instruction a week, regardless of their track.

"It does require the students to have some accountability and responsibility and self-drive," Wright said.

Hamilton is one of a few districts with alternative learning programs. Northwest and Lakota local schools and Fairfield City Schools also offer options for non-traditional learners.

Unlike some similar programs, Hamilton's doesn't have a required work component. Nor is it intended to be a program for teens with behavioral issues.

Students must apply and be selected to attend Miami School.

"The bottom line is that we want them to be successful in this type of program," Holbrook said.

Students' reasons for attending the school vary. Some examples of students who might enroll include those short on credits required for graduation, pupils needing a more individualized pace and individuals with chronic illnesses.

"It gives that student that may have some health issues … an opportunity to still complete and get their high school diploma but in a different setting," Holbrook said.

District officials hope the blended learning program will improve retention and graduation rates in Hamilton. Whether students go on to pursue jobs out of high school or attend a higher education institution, the long-term impact of boosting graduation rates could mean a more skilled workforce.

"It's very difficult if you don't have that high school diploma to go on and be successful," Wright said.

The blended learning program is open only to high school students, but district officials hope to expand it and may consider extending it to students in seventh and eighth grades.

"We would like to build and expand the program to serve up to potentially 200 students in the future," Wright said.