iPrep: The Miami Flex

There are lots of Reasons Districts Should Open Flex Schools. Flex schools, as classified by Innosight Institute are small individualized schools with an online curriculum. Students move at their own pace and augment online work with projects, tutoring, and work-based learning. Flex schools create personalized options for students and an example of competency-based learning for educators to visit.
Miami Dade, more than any other district, has embraced the innovative model. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho serves as the principal of the first iPrep Academy, a flex school located in the district headquarters. Eight more iPrep sites were opened on existing high school campuses serving more than 800 students.
iPrep Academies provide students in grades 9-12 with the opportunity to accelerate in the high school curriculum in a technology-rich, non- traditional academic setting. The environment is uniquely designed to meet each student’s individual needs. iPrep students are able to participate in college prep and college-level courses, using both face-to-face and online instruction. The rigorous online curriculum powered by Florida Virtual School (FLVS) includes honors, Advanced Placement (AP), online, and dual enrollment courses. Some courses are taught by teachers on site, some by FLVS teachers online.
Students have the flexibility in their school day to include internships and community-based service projects. Each iPrep site has different community connections. They all aim to prepare students for success in a digital world and global economy.
In a Wall Street Journal video about the first iPrep, Superintendent Carvalho said, ” There’s no reason schools should be boring, should be monotone, or should disengage young people today.”
Learning labs. Florida’s class size restricts led to unintended consequences of limiting secondary school access to critical courses. Learning labs powered by FLVS was Miami Dade’s solution. Labs are staff by a facilitator and courses are taught by FLVS teachers. The labs not only extend access to core curriculum, they provide credit recovery and advanced options for Dade students.
There are learning labs in two thirds of Dade secondary schools and 314 learning labs across Florida–14,000 students enrolled in 23,000 courses.
Learning laps facilitate what Innosight Institute calls self-blends where students enroll in online courses for a portion of the day. The are a great way to extend access to hard to staff AP and foreign language courses. FLVS offers rolling enrollment which facilitates individual circumstances.
Miami Dade is expanding digital learning opportunities for secondary students with new flex academies and learning labs–an example every district should be following.
FLVS is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner. This blog first appeared on EdWeek.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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