Bonneville Online School, ID - 2016 Transformation Award Winner

June 28, 2016 Mary Kate Appel

Transformation Award: For helping students develop a love of learning and a thirst for knowledge by building strong relationships with students and their families. 

Bonneville Online School (BOS) was established in 2010 at the request of a group of local parents from the Bonneville Joint School District who wanted an in-district online school that offered a curriculum approved by the superintendent. Today, the school serves more than 100 students in grades K–8 with online courses from Fuel Education.

“We are a public school at home,” says Shelley Andrus, lead teacher K–8. “Any student within a 60 mile radius is eligible to enroll at BOS. Many of our students have been homeschooled and are making the transition to public school. We also serve students with chronic illnesses who aren’t able to attend a brickand-mortar school, as well as students with behavior issues or learning challenges who need more one-toone attention.”

In addition to Ms. Andrus, BOS has three teachers, one each for grades K–3, 4–6, and 7–8. Students work at their own pace during the day at home, with the support of their learning coach—usually a parent—who takes on the responsibility for daily instructions, weekly pacing, and communicating with the instructor.

Teachers connect with students using the technology the family is most comfortable with, including phone, email, and text. The teachers are on Google Hangout all day, so students can text their teacher at any time and get immediate help. Teachers also schedule Class Connects and Google Hangouts with students. The immediate availability and ability to intervene at the point of need helps build a level of trust between students and their teachers.

That relationship is strengthened every Thursday, when students can come to an auxiliary gym donated to the district when the Navy base closed down, and work with their teachers face-to-face. Nearly 60 percent of the students attend the optional sessions where they connect with other students and work on group activities. Learning coaches also meet once a month to share tips and learn new teaching strategies.

The connection between teachers, students, and learning coaches is further enhanced during field trips to local venues. Past trips have included visiting the ARTitorium, a hands-on art and technology center for children, playing laser tag, and going to a trampoline park. In addition, the Parent Teacher Organization sponsors three holiday parties each year.

BOS measures student success by their participation in Thursday sessions, the level of direct communication with teachers, and growth and proficiency assessments. Students also take state-required achievement tests where student score at the same level as their brick-and-mortar cohorts. Page 2 Ms. Andrus attributes the school’s success to three guiding principles:

Flexibility Within Constraints: Students have the flexibility to complete schoolwork in the morning or evening, at home or on the road, at a desk or in a bean bag. As part of a public school program, they also have the responsibility to achieve and record progress within set timelines.

Modify in the Moment: If students encounter a barrier to completing a lesson, the learning coach is empowered to change the requirement so the student can continue. When the learning coach notifies the teacher about the change, the teacher supports the change, and, if necessary, offers suggestions for handling the issue if it arises again.

Defended Mastery: Students used to have to score 80 percent or higher to prove mastery before they could move on to the next lesson. Now, when students score from 70–79 percent, the students review missed questions with their learning coach, either defending their answers or correcting mistakes, to prove they know the material. This allows students to focus on the material they don’t know rather than repeat what they already mastered in the assessment to achieve 80 percent or higher.

The most important measure of success, Ms. Andrus explains, is seeing students excited to learn!

Student Transformation Spotlight

Nine-year-old Gabe enrolled at BOS in the fall of 2015 with a medical diagnosis of ADHD and dyslexia, as well as a behavioral issues with his previous brick-and-mortar principal and classroom teacher. Initially he was placed in grade-level curriculum. His learning coach—his mother—immediately realized this was too much for him. She was devastated to discover that his reading and other learning skills were well below grade level and Gabe felt defeated by the learning process.

Gabe’s mother and teachers met as a team and began a special education referral process. They learned that although there were significant holes in his learning, Gabe was highly capable and just needed the support of the right curriculum, a teacher who was willing to provide appropriate modifications, and a loving learning coach. They determined that no IEP was needed—instead, a 504 (defining accommodations) and the right curriculum was ordered.

A semester later, Gabe is dramatically a different student than he was in August. He is confident and enthusiastic about his learning, and is setting his own learning pace. He owned the fact that he was behind in schooling, and he doesn’t used his diagnosis or previous difficulties in school as an excuse not to be successful. He puts in the extra effort needed to stay on track and even works on Saturday mornings and school vacation days! Gabe has pride in his accomplishments in school and loves to participate with his classmates on Thursdays. School used to be a painful reminder of everything he couldn't do and what he wasn't good at. Now school is an open gate to possibility. Gabe loves it and sees himself as an online, athome learner until he graduates!

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