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School's Experimental 'Blended Learning' Program Reaps Results

The Short of It

Huntley High School in suburban Chicago offers its students a flexible schedule that they can customize to meet their learning needs. Is this the way all schools will operate in the future?

The Lowdown

When I was in high school (undisclosed) years ago, we were expected to attend classes from about 7:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.—period. Not so for kids at Huntley, who follow a so-called blended learning program.

"In blended learning, we focus on the content. We don't focus on needing to cover X amount of material. Blended allows us to provide a stable environment that gives students the ability to spread their wings a bit, while we have the safety net of pulling them back into class if they need it," Anne Pasco, who heads educational technology efforts at Huntley, told CNN.

At present, one-third of the 2,700 students at Huntley are enrolled in the program, which launched in 2011. The goal is to enroll the majority of students this year.

Advocates of flexible learning say kids have an easier time balancing schoolwork and extracurricular activities because some learning is done in the classroom and some is done online. Kids who need more support in certain subjects spend more time with teachers. The curriculum can be adjusted on an as-needed basis, and individual student progress is tracked online.

The Upshot

Contrary to what you may think (as I did), John Burkey, the superintendent of the school district, says there's better accountability among students since the program launched. And, students' standardized test scores have actually gone up: ACT scores went up a point, from 22.1 to 23.0, since the implementation of blended learning.

Meanwhile, 92 percent of Huntley High students say that they're satisfied with the blended learning experience. No teachers report negative experiences, and the program has also proven to be less expensive than traditional learning for the school.

Given the apparent upsides of the program, I think it makes a lot of sense, as it closely resembles life after high school. Kids become more accountable for their own learning in college, so this seems like great preparation. And, more people work from home these days, and that's the ultimate test of accountability and self-guided motivation and results!

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