Thursday, September 13, 2007

Opposing Forces

My school made several commitments to dramatic change this year. Since we are a charter school, have missed AYP every year, and are on the verge of losing our sponsorship from the district, we had to make some HUGE changes. The two biggest changes seem to be opposing forces though and that is making the teachers lives very difficult right now.

The first major change is the new Learning Management System we use to host our online courses. It was never made clear why this system was brought in but it has proved to be the opposite of what we needed at this junction in our school. You might be thinking, "its so early in the year, how can you make that judgment right now." Well, there are two really good reasons. One, this system is not designed to communicate with high school students, and in an online school filled to the max with At-Risk students, communication is a major factor to success. Two, this system takes a lot more time to operate than our previous system and right now time is not one of our luxuries. This is where the second major change comes in.

We have shifted our focus as a school, hopefully as an entire school culture, to promoting the success of our lowest achieving students. We are supposed to be better mentors, better student advocates, better instructional designers (in order to motivate production of course work), and better communicators. As stated earlier, the nature of our new LMS demands WAY more time. So if the system forces us to take more time to grade, more time to input quality assignments, more time to communicate and more time to operate the basic system components than we are losing more time to call the students, losing more time to visit them when they are campus, losing more time to work one on one with both our online and mentor students, and losing more time to track their progress.

Opposing forces: How do we better mentor and communicate with our students, as demanded for the success of this student population, when so much more time is lost due to a system clearly not designed to fit our high school right now?

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