Virtual Learning Grant: 2

    Welcome to the Virtual Learning Grant wiki.


    Provide one concise paragraph summarizing the project. If the project is funded, this summary will be posted on the Department’s website. (No more than 250 words.)

    Through this grant, Pittsfield Public Schools will provide virtual course options for targeted student success by serving student populations with access to: on-time credit recovery, rigorous courses in alternative educational settings, and a fourth year mathematics course which some students may have difficulty fitting into their schedule due to programming conflicts.

    For on-time credit recovery, students may enroll in either a Biology 1 and/or English 9 intervention course that will remediate and reteach knowledge and skills that students failed in the prior quarter. We will also prepare and teach a full-year Biology 9 and English 9 course to provide equal access to curriculum and instruction to our Tier 3 alternative education students. These Biology 1 and English 9 courses will be anchored in the courses prepared by Round 1 grant recipients along with modifications made by our local faculty to fit into the district’s expectations and curriculum.

    Additionally, we will create an online section of Introduction to College Algebra, which has recently been developed through a Berkshire county collaboration of high school and college mathematics instructors using data from Accuplacer and other sources. The goal of this course is to provide students knowledge and skills, in a standards-based curriculum, that are required to be successful in college mathematics without need for remediation. This will be especially useful to students who score below the cut-score on Accuplacer or who need a fourth-year math course to complete their Educational Proficiency Plan (EPP).


    1.Describe all existing credit recovery, credit acceleration, and/or alternative education programs or schools in your district(s). If you do not have credit recovery, credit acceleration, and/or alternative education programs or schools in your district(s) please skip to the next question.

    a.Will any part of this grant be used to improve the existing programs listed above? If not, please explain.

    b.If yes, please briefly explain how the existing program(s) will be improved as a result of receiving and implementing this grant funding.

    Pittsfield Public Schools provides a variety of credit recovery and alternative education programs. We offer a traditional summer school as well as an “early” summer school at the end of the academic year for students to recover credit. For alternative educational programming, the district offers a variety of services under its Educational Options for Success (EOS) program. EOS is a three-tier model of support for students with a variety of needs. One goal of EOS is to keep the students in as much of the traditional high school coursework and experience as possible with increasing support services to match student needs. We do have some students for whom the usual classroom setting is not appropriate and they participate in online coursework through a private provider (PLATO Learning) with teachers and assistants supporting and monitoring their progress.

    a) This proposal will improve alternative education in our district and could significantly modify our credit recovery model.

    b) If we are able to provide on-time credit recovery, we will expect the need for summer school to decline. We also expect that students will be even more successful in their coursework because they will receive additional support to demonstrate proficiency in a course in which they are currently enrolled instead of having to wait until the summer to re-learn essential knowledge and skills. The on-time credit recovery courses will be made up of additional resources and differentiated lessons to reteach the standards from the regular course. If the year-long courses offered to our Tier 3 students are successful, then we would be able to continue to provide these courses and supports locally with our own teachers interacting with and assessing students instead of relying on PLATO Learning as an external source of these courses.

    2.Will this grant help create any new credit recovery, credit acceleration, and/or alternative education programs or schools in your district(s)? If yes, please briefly explain the need for a new program and how this grant will help create a new program in your district(s).

    The grant will support the development of credit expansion as a form of alternative education that will provide students an opportunity to take a fourth-year mathematics course that may not otherwise be able to fit into their schedule. For example, seniors who are enrolled in vocational programs have tight schedules and it may be difficult to find room in their schedules or a period in the day that meets scheduling requirements for them to take the fourth year of math that is a part of many of their Educational Proficiency Plans. Students enrolled in other programs, including Special Education, Alternative Education, Advanced Placement, or Career Academies may have similar scheduling difficulties that would restrict access to the Introduction to College Algebra course.

    3.How does this grant opportunity build the district’s capacity to use online learning with struggling students in a way that fits into the overall online learning strategy of the district or region?

    The grant would provide two specific opportunities that fit into our district-wide strategy for online learning. First, we would be able to move from outside sources of instruction to supporting virtual coursework created and supported by our own faculty members. Second, we would be able to provide expanded opportunities beyond the traditional schedule so students could use time during study halls, part of supervised instructional time, or as homework to ensure on-time graduation.

    These locally developed courses will also allow students to interact with each other and a content-area teacher through discussion boards, blogs, and other media; interactive opportunities currently lacking in our use of PLATO Learning.


    1.Describe the student population you intend to serve with the use of this grant and why they would benefit from an online-based approach. Include participating schools, number of students, history of academic performance (e.g., course failure, grade retention, dropout, and graduation rates), etc.

    The students participating in these courses are those who are in danger of failing a course and would benefit from on-time credit recovery, those who are enrolled in alternative educational program and require an additional setting outside of the traditional classroom in order to be fully successful in that coursework, and those students who are on an Educational Proficiency Plan or who score below proficiency on Accuplacer and take Introduction to College Algebra either by choice or because their schedule would not easily permit this course to be taken during the school day. These students would be primarily ninth grade students for English 9, ninth and tenth grade students for Biology I, and twelfth grade students for Introduction to College Algebra.

    2.What will the process be for student enrollment in the online courses or modules? Describe how students will be selected to participate (e.g., faculty recommendations and/or student elected participants).

    Students will enroll in the on-time credit recovery courses as a consequence of having failed a quarter of their current English 9 or Biology 1 course instead of doing so during summer school. If the section of this course exceeds 30, then those students who scored lowest during the quarter will be first enrolled until capacity is reached. Students enrolling in the year-long English 9 or Biology 1 course will be those who have been identified through their alternative education programming assessments that they would be best served through taking these courses via these alternative means while receiving additional support. Priority for students enrolling in Introduction to College Algebra online will be those who are required to take this course as part of their Educational Proficiency Plan and who are enrolled in another special program.

    3.In what ways will students be involved in designing, implementing, and/or evaluating the courses or modules?

    At least twice per year, students will be given surveys, including an open response section, asking them to rate the course based on accessibility, design, usability, and overall impressions. Upon completion they will be given the chance to share their experience through a focus group or ungraded journal.


    1.Describe your particular innovation area that will add value or new learning opportunities to the current online learning project in terms of course content, subject areas, methodology, instructional pedagogy, or delivery approach. Note: see the Additional Information (Round 1 Grantee Summary) section of the RFP for highlights of the current online learning project.

    We propose two innovations. We will take courses and course materials developed through Round 1, adapt them to our current curriculum, and add to these in the sense of including student-specific interventions. We will document ways to ramp up instruction through remediation and reteaching, thus closing the gap while the students continue learning new knowledge and skill as their original course continues. We will also add to the current project by supporting the development and implementation of a course that is not listed, Introduction to College Algebra. This course will be implemented within the school day at select districts in Western Massachusetts. Creating this course virtually could benefit students in other situations facing similar scheduling struggles.

    2.Will this grant project support the development of a course and/or module? Describe the rationale behind what you are planning to offer.

    For the Biology 1 and English 9 courses, we expect to develop additional modules both to localize them to our curriculum and provide support to the specific populations being addressed. The Introduction to College Algebra is a new course. We want to offer Biology 1 and English 9 courses to decrease our Grade 9 retention rate and increase proficiency levels in biology and mathematics. These successes should also increase our on-time graduation rate and decrease our dropout rate. The Introduction to College Algebra course will increase student mathematics proficiency to ensure college preparedness without need for remediation after graduation.

    3.What subject or content area(s) will the online courses/modules cover?

    The English 9 and Biology 1 modules will be specific to re-teaching and remediating. There will also be modules applying thematic discussion boards as well as on online learning itself. The Introduction to College Algebra course is a standards-based course aimed at preparing 12th grade students for success in college algebra. The standards are taking from the Mathematics Curriculum Frameworks and have been vetted by secondary and postsecondary teachers and administrators.

    4.Will the online courses/modules be fully online, hybrid/blended (combination of in-person and online), or other? Describe how the offering will be delivered and supported.

    All courses will be online. Teachers will be given time during Summer 2010 to prepare these courses in teams of content teachers, special education teachers, and alternative education teachers. Teachers will “teach” these courses during a period of their contractual work day. During this time, they can participate in discussion boards, respond to inquiries and provide feedback to students, and manage administrative duties of the course. Teachers will receive stipends to further develop these courses. Grading is expected to occur outside of the assigned period during the school day, just like any other course delivered in person.

    A .25FTE IT Technician will work with teachers to ensure that their course content is appropriately created and uploaded. The technician will also provide professional development on electronic lesson development, managing the technical aspects of the online learning environment, providing data to teachers beyond content-specific assessments, and other technical aspects. This position will be paid for through the grant. Additionally, an IT Professional Development Coordinator will work with the teachers on instructional design as well as ideas to enhance assessment methodologies through a variety of technology (specifically student-created multimedia projects and blogs). Finally, each teacher and members of the IT staff will participate in either the Hampshire Educational Collaborative (HEC) online learning course or the PBS Teacherline online learning course.

    5.How will this online course/module translate to credit (i.e., how much credit will a student that successfully completes the course/module be awarded)?

    If the on-time credit recovery student successfully demonstrates mastery in the content area that was taught during the quarter he/she failed, then the student will regain full credit for that quarter. The students enrolled in the Tier 3 courses as well as those enrolled in Introduction to College Algebra will receive the same credit as those courses that were taught in the traditional setting. That is, there will be no differentiation between English 9, Biology 1, or Introduction to College Algebra based on support tier or delivery method.

    6.When will this online course/module be delivered to students (what part of the year, time of day, etc.)? Describe how the offering will be available to non-traditional students who require scheduling flexibility.

    Students enrolled in Tier 3 alternative educational services will participate in these courses during structured and supervised times which will allow for additional 1:1 support from a teacher. The on-time remediation courses will be taken either during study hall, after-school in one of the district’s computer labs, or through computers available either at home or the local library. Introduction to College Algebra will be accessible to students in our computer labs either during study halls, after-school in one of the district’s computer labs, through pull-out time from vocational programs as agreed upon by both vocational and support teachers, and through computers available either at home or the local library.

    7.In addition to creating one or more courses/modules, are you willing to conduct a pilot implementation of a course/module created by a Round 1 grantee? Priority will be given to grant applicants that are willing to pilot a Round 1 grantee course in addition to the creation of additional courses.

    a.If so, describe your preference for the content areas or types of courses/modules you are interested in implementing?

    b.If so, describe when you would likely implement this course/module in the 2010-11 school year (e.g., fall, spring, summer).

    As explained, we will be piloting (with some modifications) English 9 and Biology 1 courses as previously designed by Round 1 grantees during the 2010-2011 school year. These previously developed courses, with modifications, will be delivered as a whole year-long course to the Tier 3 students and lessons/modules will be used to support the on-time remediation course.


    1.Describe all of the staff who will be involved in the development and/or implementation for this project and their roles and responsibilities. This may include existing as well as new staff. Include in the description which people will be part of the “core team” of key staff (suggested 3-6 staff) who will be expected to attend the required Department grantee meetings and trainings.


    This grant will support five .2FTE (one period each) content area teachers to be the lead teachers in these courses. These teachers will teach English 9 on-time credit recovery, English 9 full-year for Tier 3, Biology 1 on-time credit recovery, Biology 1 on-time credit recovery, and Introduction to College Algebra.


    To support the teachers, this grant will provide the salary for .25FTE technician to provide individualized and group professional development as well as support content creation and the technical aspects of course management and delivery. We will also rely on our Technology Professional Development Coordinator, who will be funded from other sources, to provide guidance and support relating to course and assessment design as well as teaching and learning through technology.

    Core Team:

    The core team will be made up of the Technology PD Coordinator, both high school principals, an administrator overseeing alternative education pathways, the Assistant Superintendent for CVTE and the Deputy Superintendent. Teachers will be able to attend meetings and trainings as space and travel funds provide; however, at least one teacher will be present at each meeting or training. The core team plus teachers will meet as a group at least quarterly.

    2.Describe how you will involve and foster buy-in from a variety of staff in the project.

    The core team has already met to discuss and prepare this proposal, so we already have developed administrative buy-in. The principals will work with their building staff, especially department heads, to garner teacher buy-in. By having representation from both content and support teachers, as well as dedicated district resources, we believe that buy-in will be relatively successful since we have already involved a variety of stakeholders in the planning process.

    3.What roles do you envision for “virtual instructor(s)” of the online courses/modules?

    a.What are the qualifications of the instructor(s) that will be primarily responsible for the content delivery?

    The teachers will be licensed teachers in their content area. If not licensed teachers demonstrate an interest in teaching these subjects, then we will look to any teachers who are on a waiver who are also teaching other courses within the school or those who are licensed in other content areas but who demonstrate strong content and technical knowledge and skill.

    b.How will these staff be selected?

    Through a competitive process considering seniority, content expertise, appropriate license, and demonstrated technical skill.

    c.How will these “virtual instructor(s)” work with staff present in the classroom/school?

    These instructors will be drawn from the faculty and will interact with other teachers and staff in the same manner as they would for their proximate courses. They would have extra time after-school to meet with others and would be able to use occasional dedicated course-time as well as supervisory period time to work with other teachers and staff.

    4.What role(s) do you envision for the non-instructional staff present in the classroom or the school environment to support students with the online courses/modules (e.g., support, guidance, keeping students on task, content-level knowledge)?

    The technician partially-funded by this grant will make himself available to students during the school day and after-school to ensure accessibility and answer technical questions. Guidance counselors will work closely with their students to suggest how these virtual offerings will keep them on track to graduating on-time. Paraprofessionals (either through an IEP, behavior plan, or other agreement) will work with students enrolled in these virtual classes similarly to the way they support proximate courses.

    a.What qualifications will they possess?

    The Technician and Technology PD coordinator will be experienced in the use of technology to support instruction and the variety of data that can be used to support instruction (e.g. the Data Warehouse). The Assistant Superintendent for CVTE holds a masters degree in educational technology and has worked to support online learning and course design on the university level.

    Paraprofessionals will have skills necessary to support a variety of students needs in a variety of settings.

    b.How will these staff be selected?

    The Assistant Superintendent for CVTE and Technology PD coordinator are already employed by the district. The .25FTE Technician will be selected based upon knowledge of student data and technical expertise. The paraprofessionals will be hired through the usual process involving school and special education staff input.

    c.How will these staff work with the “virtual instructor(s)?

    The technician and Technology PD coordinator will work with the virtual instructors to ensure that course content and interaction technically sound. They will also work with the virtual instructors to determine appropriate technology-enhanced instruction and assessment.

    Paraprofessionals (and teachers as listed above) will work with individual students to ensure that any special educational or behavioral needs are met while the students complete course activities as well as help the virtual teachers create universally-designed lessons in the first place.

    5.Briefly describe what role(s) and responsibilities the external organizations/people will have in the development and implementation of the online courses.

    a.What will be the main roles/functions for the external organizations/people?

    Through professional development on online teaching and learning through an outside source such as HEC or PBS Teacherline. We remain open to suggestions for further collaborations.

    b.Have you already identified the external people, organizations, or services that would support the development and implementation of online courses?

    i.If yes, who are they and through what process did you choose them?

    ii.If no, what are your plans for the process to identify external services to support the online course development and implementation?

    6.Describe your professional development plans, including the types of opportunities you plan to offer and the audience(s) for the professional development. Include in your professional development plans opportunities targeted for: 1) program classroom staff, 2) “virtual instructor(s)”, and 3) other staff in the school/district(s).

    Note: In addition to the professional development plans provided within your district, grant teams are required to attend in-person grantee meetings throughout the grant period (up to four, half-day meetings). Grantees are also required to participate in approximately two to three full-day trainings. Please feel free to include costs associated with attending these required meetings in the project budget.

    Professional development plans include the opportunity for all support staff and virtual instructors to participate in a course on online teaching and course management (either through HEC or PBS Teacherline). Teachers will also receive embedded professional development and support from the Technician and Technology PD coordinator while they create their courses. After-school sessions will be held as needed to support the continued growth and development in technical skills and pedagogical practices to support online teaching and learning. At the end of the year, the teachers and core team will present on their activities as a form of professional development for the rest of the high school staff.


    1.Describe the technology resources that you will use to successfully support the delivery of the online courses. Itemize the hardware, software, and networking you will procure using grant funds. Please include free services such as Open Source Course Management Systems (e.g., Moodle) in your description.

    The district currently uses Moodle for some online courses and services. We propose the purchase of a dedicated Moodle server. We would also like to purchase USB microphones, digital cameras, digital microscopes, and a digital presenter (to be used to photograph/video models and examples for Biology that are properly lit and presented). We would also like to purchase one digital workstation per high school for teachers to create course content that would include the iLife suite (Garage Band and iMovie for editing podcasts, mini-lectures, and video presentations).


    1.How will you ensure that the online courses are aligned to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks or the Massachusetts High School Program of Studies (MassCore) and that the online courses will provide high-quality, engaging curriculum aimed at meeting the needs of students who are most at-risk for not graduating on time?

    Courses will be aligned to the current standards-based curricula and pacing guides. The Deputy Superintendent, Principal, and appropriate Department Heads will review the curriculum for this course and ensure that it meets the standards as required by the MA Curriculum Frameworks as well as matches the rigor of current high school course offerings. The Deputy Superintendent, Principal, and administrators involved in alternative education and special education will ensure that course content, delivery, and assessment match the needs of individual students.

    2.Discuss how you will ensure that lessons learned as well as products created through this grant (e.g., overall implementation design, course materials, course syllabus, etc.) are saved and are in a format that may be shared with the Department and other districts.

    At the end of the funding year, teachers will reflect on their own experience as well as on a series of student work (for example, an assessment that students received an A, C, and F on). We can support this through blogs as well as a survey. We will also provide a student assessment of their virtual learning experience. These will all be collected electronically and provided to our core team for evaluation and modification of our current practice, the assigned evaluator to the project, and the DESE.


    1.Provide a complete timeline. Please keep in mind that this is a “fast track” opportunity to join a group of projects (Round 1 grant recipients) exploring innovative approaches to using online learning with struggling youth. The description should address, at a minimum, the timeline for:

    a.Course development

    b.The purchase of new technology and other materials

    c.Selection of any new/existing staff for program implementation – including “virtual instructor(s)” as well as staff that will be present in the classroom

    d.Professional development for staff

    e.Student recruitment and orientation

    f.The implementation of the online courses/modules


    Notice of receipt of grant.

    Teachers identified who would be interested in and appropriate to teaching these courses.

    Students given the opportunity to enroll into these courses from currently enrolled students.


    Teachers identified to teach the sections of these courses

    Moodle server installed

    Teachers and support staff receive an introduction to online learning and Moodle

    Teachers and administrators review curriculum from Round 1 recipients and align to district expectations and curriculum

    Introduction to College Algebra teacher begins designing online version of this course.


    Digital workstations installed in each high school

    Teachers receive professional development on digital workstations and cameras.

    Teachers and support staff participate in professional development through HEC or Teacherline to learn about online course development and management.

    Full-Year Biology and English teachers prepare course activities.

    Instructional team meet with special education, alternative education, and other administrators to ensure proper modifications and differentiation is in place.

    Classroom support personnel/teachers trained in supervising and supporting online education.


    Additional students recruited.

    Full-Year, Tier 3 Biology 1 and English 9, and Introduction to College Algebra courses begin.

    On-Time credit recovery Biology 1 and English 9 teachers continue to develop reteaching modules as well as review student data.

    Virtual teachers participate in professional development on managing discussion boards and creating digital content.


    Full year courses continue

    Teachers continue to develop and implement future curriculum.

    On-Time credit recovery instructors continue to develop reteaching activities and monitor student performance.

    Virtual teachers use October professional development half-day to work together, triage problems, share solutions, and identify professional development needs.

    All participants give reflections and feedback through survey.


    Full year courses continue

    On-Time credit recovery courses begin

    Core team and virtual teachers gather to review student data and progress.

    Administrative team reviews feedback and survey to develop plans to support the online learning program.


    Courses continue

    Virtual teachers participate in targeted professional development on technology-enhanced assessment.


    Courses continue

    Virtual teachers participate in professional development on topics identified in their October meeting.


    Courses continue

    Virtual teachers meet to work together, triage problems, share solutions, and identify professional development needs.


    Courses continue

    Virtual teachers participate in professional development on topics identified in their February meeting.


    Courses continue

    Virtual teachers and core team meet to review student data.


    Courses continue

    All participants give reflections and feedback through survey.

    Students for summer school are recruited.

    Teachers identified for summer school offerings and begin adapting coursework for summer school.

    District prepares preliminary budget projections to determine sustainability and expansion of virtual courses.

    District determines online and virtual courses to be offered in SY 2011-2012, budget permitting.


    School-year Courses conclude.

    Summer school students identified and enrolled.

    Professional development offered for summer-school teachers who have not already taught online courses.

    Administrative team reviews feedback and survey to develop plans to support the online learning program.

    Students recruited and registered for SY2011-2012 virtual courses, budget permitting.


    Summer school courses offered.

    Teachers identified to teach SY 2011-2012 virtual courses participate in professional development on online course design and management (through HEC or Teacherline).


    Summer school courses conclude.

    All participants give reflections and feedback through survey.

    Teachers for SY 2011-2012 prepare online coursework and assessments


    District prepares final report along with evaluator.

    Funding ceases.

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