Contributor: 
Katherine Anderson

The Evergreen Education Group's series "Research: Outcomes of Blended/Online Learning Programs," takes an in-depth look at successful blended and online programs across the nation examining the best practices that have created tangible results. We are pleased to share with you some series highlights from Pivot Charter School Tampa.

The Pivot Charter School Success Story

Pivot Charter School Tampa (PCS) is a 6–12 grade site-based charter school in Tampa, FL, with an enrollment of 300 students. The school employs a blended learning model, combining one-to-one teaching with a traditional education environment.

The Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, the 8th largest school district in the United States, sponsored Pivot Charter School because it wanted a blended learning option located within the district, where students could work at their own pace and take elective courses not offered at their traditional middle or senior high schools.

PCS opened in August 2011, and later began using Fuel Education curriculum in January 2014. This transition ignited measurements of success for the school. From June 2014 to August 2014, PCS’s retention rate was 78 percent, which improved to 81 percent from June 2015 to August 2015. PCS’s graduation rate increased from 61 percent in 2013 to 80 percent in 2015. PCS also bested state averages across the board in the 2015 Math assessments.

How the Model Works: Curriculum & Structure

Curriculum

As the basis of the online learning environment, PCS uses the FuelEd Anywhere Learning System and the FuelEd online course curriculum, supplemented by electives and career-readiness courses.

The FuelEd curriculum allows PCS teachers to enhance the educational experience by customizing and supplementing online content with instructional strategies and tools to meet the individual needs of each student. PCS teachers are the online course facilitators and teachers of record for most of the online courses. Certified online FuelEd teachers facilitate most Advanced Placement (AP) and language courses. Students access their courses through PEAK, Fuel Education's personalized learning platform. For teachers, PEAK provides important actionable data to help monitor student progress and adjust the instructional path as needed. Parents can also access PEAK to monitor their students’ progress.

Structure

Students attend one or more of three daily sessions, and are on campus for about five hours each day. Throughout the day, students move to a different classroom every 90 minutes and have assigned seats and laptops in each classroom—students do not carry laptops from room to room and they do not take them home. Each classroom focuses on a specific subject and the teacher in that classroom is responsible for that specific subject and is the teacher of record for that course.

The PCS instructional model cultivates student responsibility by requiring them to manage their own academic pace and their own schedules. This model also enables teachers to focus on their tutoring and mentoring responsibilities thereby individualizing the instruction to the unique needs of each student. Their mission is to create an environment where student learn to believe in themselves, excel at their goals, and discover pathways to a successful and fulfilling life.

According to Pivot’s principal, Liz Bretz, PCS is a college prep school focused on helping each student develop a career plan. PCS pays for the tuition and books when students enroll in dual credit courses at the local community college. To be eligible for dual credit courses, PCS students must have at least 12 (out of a total 24) credits towards graduation and a 3.0 GPA.

Bretz is proud of what they have accomplished in the four years since opening. "The staff is always looking for ways to improve instruction and student achievement," says Bretz. "We all work for what’s best for our students, helping them take responsibility for their learning and their behavior."

To that end, PCS has a dress code. Middle school students wear red shirts and high school students wear black shirts. PCS teachers and staff believe this dress code increases the respect students have for themselves and other students.

PCS students and teachers work well together, creating a positive a positive environment in which teachers expect students to succeed and students expect teachers to personalize the instruction to meet their needs, skills, and abilities. All of this is supported by the uniform structure of the FuelEd curriculum.

Watch the video below to learn more about PCS and its emphasis on career readiness.