Professional Learning

Outside the Box: Designing a Non-School Hours Charter School

September 27, 2010

Even though Hawaii was one of the states awarded Race to the Top funds back in the second round, we still know it takes the grass roots efforts of parents and teachers to make positive change for their children academically.

With school reform a hot topic these days, now is the time to rethink class time frames for middle and high school students whose biorhythms often do not match our current school schedules.

Every need has an opportunity within itself for a possible solution. In this case, although there are currently 31 charter schools on the islands of Hawaii, there was still a unique need that was not being met. A group of individuals sat down one night to discuss the viability of creating an "out-of-hours" (non-school hours) charter school to serve only the population of children with special needs or who are academically at-risk with emotional disorders.

The Plan

The Liahona Youth Empowerment management team, from its board of directors to its officers, trainers, and employees, are highly experienced in their individual areas of expertise. The founding group began its efforts towards serving this targeted student population three years ago with after-school programs delivered "pro bono" by the non-profit. Recently, Liahona Youth Empowerment brought international experts, parents, community members, and university colleagues together to design the elements of a charter school plan that would increase not only student engagement, but also parent involvement.

Using a holistic approach to address the wide spectrum of special needs, from students diagnosed mild/moderate, to gifted and talented, the team has created a charter school that is a hybrid model of online and on-site programs. It will be offered on opposite sides of the island in areas with deep pockets of poverty.

This new charter school will offer online Advanced Placement (AP) courses and onsite fitness and health, as well as performing and cultural arts programs.

I was honored to help support this visionary team by bringing in the Advanced Placement (AP) online courses from National University High School as a key part of the planning process. NUVHS has both WASC and CITA accreditation, a strong partnership with National University teacher-education programs including special education, 24/7 course offerings around the world, teachers certified to teach in Hawai'i, expertise in diverse student learning styles, tools to meet the needs of 21st-century learners, math and science scholarships for online students, and grant writing for scholarships. (If you are looking for flexible online learning environments that will stimulate students through classes like game theory, health science careers, and sports training, you will want to visit NUVHS.)

Access for All

When the concept of offering AP courses online in Hawaii was conceived in May 2010, no public education school offered online (virtual) Advanced Placement courses. That is when the dream of designing this hybrid charter school began with its founding body. In 2010-2011, schools like Campbell High School (a public school), Myron B. Thompson Academy (a start-up charter school), and Hawaii Tech Academy (a non-profit group working with the "for-profit" are just beginning to offer AP courses online.

However, this charter school will be able to provide evening and weekend support face-to-face for a large audience of students taking AP courses online -- support which might not be available in the other schools. The plan is to offer online AP courses to help reach high poverty students who had previously given up hope on access to advanced academic courses.

To help with the frustration that may have built up in communities that live constantly with the pressures created by a high level of poverty, an innovative online peace-keeping and peacemaking curricula would be required for all students to complete every year that they attend our school. (Please let me know if you are interested in this type of curricula.)

The school management team will also be working closely with the creative futurist, Dr. Bonnie Bracey Sutton at International Society for Techonology in Education(ISTE) and Emaginos, in building up formal grass roots support for funding special needs on-site programs. If you have not yet heard about Emaginos, this is an organization that is totally focused on transforming all K-12 schools that are "broken" through customized education for each child. I encourage you to visit their Web site if you are involved directly in fixing what isn't working at your school.

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  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School

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