The Jefferson County Public Schools e-School in Louisville KY provides part time and supplemental education to students locally and nationally. We interviewed Artie Dietz, the Assistant Principal.
GS: What is eSchool?
Dietz: We offer online learning opportunities to students grade 3-13 including dual credit courses.
GS: Where do your students come from?
Dietz: Last year we had 27,000 enrollments. Many were local but our students came from 11 states with more than 200 partner institutions buying slots.
GS: Do you serve students seeking credit recovery?
Dietz: we started as an alternative program for struggling students but we also serve students looking a course that is not offered at their school. We’re evaluating new AP content right now.
GS: Speaking of content, what curriculum do you use?
Dietz: We develop our own. We initially licensed expense curriculum and as we grew it became more affordable to develop our own and it works better in our competency-based system.
GS: How does that work?
Dietz: We offer rolling enrollment—students can sign up anytime. They can move through a course as fast as they can and take a proctored end of course exam when they’ve finished. I love it, works with multiple levels of kids, high flyers are often bored to death in a traditional classroom and some kids just need more time.
GS: Are exams available on demand?
Dietz: This is the great dilemma—in Kentucky, the end of course (EOC) exams will be available five times a year, but the first opportunity will be at the need of the first trimester (late October) so it could still be several months after a student finishes a course. We are currently in discussion on the dilemma that rolling enrollment and competency-based curriculum pose for EOC exams. Ideally, you want the student to take the final exam as soon as they complete the practice final. Content is fresh and memory retention is not an issue.
GS: It sounds like you don’t have much patience for policies based on inputs like seat time. Is certification still important or do your teachers need to learn on the job?
Dietz: Great question! In our particular program we must work to find content experts that want to work with kids. They must have the certification to satisfy local, state and federal mandates and they must be willing to work with our students. This sounds crazy but I believe that a content expert might know every date and every historic figure during the American Revolution but if you cannot communicate and make it real for our students you are missing the mark. I also need to note that we ask that our online teachers report to a central office to work on a daily basis. Our group is clustered in large open rooms that allow for open discussion, sharing of current practice, and willingness to work with new technologies. I would venture to guess that 95% of our staff prefer coming to a central office instead of working in isolation at home.
GS: It sounds like your program is very individualized; do you every try to add a cohort experience?
Dietz: I thought Facing History would be a great cohort experience and we tried it with three groups of 20 students but didn’t work—our students expect individual pacing when they sign up with us.
GS: It sounds like partners buy enrollment slots rather than students selecting eSchool directly. Should students have the ability to choose from multiple providers?
Dietz: We actually have a mixture of partnering schools and individual students that pay for their own courses. We highly recommend that they get counselor approvals from individuals that pay so that their home school will accept the credit for the course. On the multiple providers – absolutely! If you look at recent legislation in Virginia for online providers you will see great intent but unfortunate results. We did not have a 95% curriculum match and did not hire teachers from Virginia to teach the courses. We lost the ability to work with partners in Virginia.
GS: what concerns do you have about a system where students could choose from multiple providers and money followed the student to the best option?
Dietz: I think this is the future and in Kentucky we have established our JCPSeSchool program that organically grew out of JCPS and we have KVS that started at almost the same time. We can easily coexist and have talked about partnership possibilities.
GS: Besides on-demand assessment, what other changes to state policy would make eSchool even more effective?
Dietz: I know that there is talk of mandating online course work as a graduation requirement. This would be an interesting proposition. I would like to see something like this but offer either one elective or one required course.
GS: what’s next for eSchool?
Dietz: We are looking at the impact that ACT Quality Core End of Course Exams will have on our competency based curriculum. We are looking at creating scrimmages for the EOC. We are always studying technology and wanting to stay on the cutting edge. eSchool has also hired a visually impaired former student to come in and edit our courses and curriculum for visually impaired students that need our assistance. Caitlin Webb accesses eSchool with a variety of screen readers and adaptive technologies to tell us what works and what needs to be improved. This is a very rewarding project!
We take one exciting step at a time and enjoy the challenge of competency based online content. Please visit our website at JCPSeSchool.org