After utilizing Launch courses for one year, the administration team at Chillicothe R-II School District discusses their experience and shares tips for success.
When it was time for the Chillicothe R-II School District to provide virtual course options to students, the administration team had a few must-have requirements for its chosen online course provider. “One thing that was important to us was finding a more rigorous credit recovery program for our students,” says Dr. Jill Watkins, Assistant Principal at Chillicothe High School. “We wanted something that was manageable for our students, yet a bit more rigorous.” Another must-have was alignment to Missouri Learning Standards, and last but certainly not least was a solution that utilized online teachers. “I wanted more instruction on the back end,” Jill says. “We didn’t want just a computer program.”
After discussing their must-have list with Launch, district administrators decided it would be the best fit for Chillicothe students. Launch’s credit recovery courses feature 60 percent of each traditional course’s content based on priority standards, and students must complete each credit recovery course at 80 percent mastery. All of Launch’s course content is built with the curriculum team at Springfield Public Schools and is aligned to Missouri Learning Standards, and all of Launch’s courses are taught by highly qualified Missouri teachers—in fact, these teachers actually live in and teach at Launch partner districts.
The Chillicothe School District officially partnered with Launch in May 2018. Since that time, both Chillicothe High School and the Chillicothe Transition to Life Center have utilized Launch’s Traditional Virtual, Credit Recovery and Credit Acquisition courses.
A Year of Experience
District administrators learned a lot in their first year of partnering with Launch. “Our students had never really had any exposure to an online class before,” Jill says. “It took us some time to figure out what may work best for our students.”
The district created a Launch Lab for students to sit and work on their online courses. “We also had facilitators that checked in on student grades,” Jill says. “I think next year, we will put more checks and balances in place. While our facilitator checked on grades and touched base with students each week, we feel the process needs to be more structured to ensure student success. Next year, we are going to add weekly student-facilitator conferencing with goal setting.”
Looking back, Jill says she learned a lot about how to best utilize Launch for students in Chillicothe. “This experience gave us perspective for protocols and procedures we can put in place for our students to be more successful,” Jill says. “I think figuring out what will work best for your district’s particular students—and having a plan for that from the very beginning—will help ensure student success.”
Staging for Success
How can you ensure a successful Launch experience for your students? Dr. Jill Watkins, Assistant Principal at Chillicothe High School, and Launch’s Janna Elfrink share a few best practices for partner districts.
- Spread the word. Develop and communicate a message that shares what Launch is and how it can be utilized by the students in your district, and share this information with all parents and students. Work with the Launch team to create free customized marketing, then distribute the materials to parents, students and community members.
- Provide a space. Designate a work space in your building(s) so students taking Launch courses have a place to report to and work.
- Monitor and Mentor. Establish an onsite mentor teacher to provide encouragement and support. While the Launch teacher is responsible for all instruction and grading, students are often most successful when a person at the district level checks in. This is especially important when districts are first starting with Launch, Jill says. Have your building-level mentor teacher(s) check in on student progress using Launch’s Dropout Detective feature on a regular basis.