Alpine Advances Online and in Blended Learning

Alpine School District , the largest in Utah, serves more than 73,000 students in 80 schools in a sprawling area south of Salt Lake City. It has among the lowest per-pupil-funding in the country, but strong academic results. The district has several partnerships with local companies resulting in school-wide improvements and individual student success stories.
PLC improvement strategy. Academic results were mediocre when Garrick Peterson became principal of Lakeridge Junior High.
The school is now recognized as ‘elite’ by the state. A stakeholder report monitoring progress over the last decade shows that English proficiency rates grew from 65 percent to 95 percent. Math proficiency improved from 55 percent to 92 percent. Professional Learning Communities (PLC) were at the heart of the data-driven improvement strategy.
Peterson now directs professional development for the district where he introducedMasteryConnect powered PLCs. A platform for sharing assessment items, MasteryConnect Powers Solution Tree PLCs and many school and district formative assessment systems.
When Joseph Jensen became principal of Orem Junior High in 2009, he followed the same formula and created professional learning communities and used data to inform instruction. “He has changed the culture of Orem Junior High by using compelling data, holding everyone at the school to high expectations and tirelessly working to improve student achievement,” said Superintendent Vernon Henshaw. Jensen was named one of the 2014 Utah Secondary Principals of the Year.
Online innovations. The district built 50 digital courses that are delivered on BrainHoney from Agilix (headquartered in the district). Agilix and Mastery Connect are completing an integration to support the growing number of teachers to leverage MasteryConnect content within a blended course.
East Shore Online High School had over 14,000 course enrollments last year, its first year of operation. Most enrollments, and the associated funding, remains at their home school. Alpine high schools provide a classroom where students can take as many online courses as they would like.
“Students come to us within a variety of contexts,” said McKay Jensen. “Many do need to make up a failed class; many are trying to make room in their schedules for other subjects or extracurricular activities, other are simply looking for a different experience than they are getting in there traditional classroom.” Jensen adds, “The unifying feature is that the students need an online or asynchronous option, and we are prepared to deliver that option for students in a variety of contexts.”
Credits are awarded in 1/8 units. “Students are more likely to come away with something if the enduring record (credit on a transcript) happens earlier and more often,” said Jensen. The micro-credits add flexibility and boosts student motivation
This helps student in a variety of contexts—remediation, acceleration, etc. It’s primary affect is in motivation—the road to the praise earned by accomplishment is shorter, and encouragement to go a little bit further is easier to communicate because the students are generating a tangible take-away.
“We help students generate skills and credit—and the student, with help from their counselor, is able to apply those skills and credits into whatever context the student needs,” said Jensen.
Alpine Online is a full time K-8 school that features Rosetta Stone and K¹² World Language courses.
The Alpine School District is a good example of a district innovating with local ed-tech partners to better serve students.
MasteryConnect is a Learn Capital Company where Tom is a partner.

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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