Last week I visited Arizona’s largest school, Primavera Online. Headquartered in Chandler, Primavera serves primarily upper division students seeking an alternative pathway to graduation. Half are juniors and seniors. A quarter who have left school are classified as ‘grade 13’, what my friends in New York would call over-aged and under-credited.
Principal Dana Van Deinse supports 51 fulltime faculty and 122 adjunct instructors—three-quarters have masters degrees. Teachers have four or five classes of 28 to 35 students, with total student loads lower than traditional high schools. Dana’s two teenage students attend Primavera because they found learning online complements their theater and work schedules and will allow them to graduate early from high school.
The fulltime staff works in the school’s Chandler office. All teachers benefit from a five-step development process that starts with orientation and training. New teachers work with a mentor and earn the right to teach independently, while all teachers participate in the ongoing professional learning community.
Every Primavera student is assigned his/her own Student Advisor that guides them in meeting graduation requirements. The Advisor provides support, encouragement, and direction and works with the instruction team to help students stay on track in the virtual classrooms.
Primavera recently expanded to middle school with seventh and eighth grade classes. Sixth grade class will be added in the fall. The middle school is thriving due to the advisory support by the instructional staff and the parent involvement in the student learning process.
Classes start every two weeks, so a struggling student doesn’t have to wait to get back on track to graduation. Primavera runs two well attended four-week, state-funded summer school sessions. Primavera students have opportunities to join student government, Key Club, and many other social clubs that allow them to get involved in the student body. These clubs meet virtually and students gather throughout the state at various events during the school year.
Primavera is powered by American Virtual Academy curriculum and learning platform (more on AVA in a later post).
In a few months, more than 500 graduates will gather (most physically, some virtually) at Grand Canyon University for a graduation ceremony. Primavera has been helping Arizona students graduate for a decade. It’s a homegrown academic success story.
This blog first appeared on HuffPost