The Rocket Learning Lab has launched.
At a recent class, high school students worked independently on netbooks while others received face-to-face math instruction. Most were beginning a semester of work to earn much-needed credits.
The lab replaces the district’s alternative program, Discovery High School, a stand-alone facility at 242 52nd St. SW that served about 140 students last year. The program, which used a traditional classroom model, closed to help eliminate the district’s budget deficit.
In the lab, Director Tammy Savage and her staff — a lead teacher and three learning coaches — work with students who need more flexibility in the way they study and challenge them to be more responsible for their education. “The goal is to put them more in the driver’s seat of learning,” she said.
The Rocket Learmomg Lab is housed in two classrooms at Kelloggsville High School with day and night programs. The night classes work for those who have work conflicts, childcare issues and behavior issues.
Leaning at their own pace
Senior Brandan Ferrier watched an online language arts lecture while students around him completed various tasks on district-issued netbooks. A former Discovery student, Brandan said he likes the lab because working independently allows him to be more efficient.
“I think it has a lot of promise,” he said. “It’s not harder, it’s just different. If there’s something I need help with, I can get it.”
Staff members challenge students to propel themselves through the curriculum, seeking guidance when needed, Savage said. Ninety percent of students enrolled in the program need credits.
Senior Sam Ortiz is working hard to return to the regular high school program. “I like how it’s independent,” she said. “They let you work at your own pace and get help if you need it.”
“Compared to Discovery, I think it’s an upgrade,” said senior Antiga Anderson. “I think it will help us move faster — just go ahead and get it done.”
Math is led by lead teacher Rick Jackson, but other courses are online, completed through virtual classroom platform Edgenuity, formerly called E20/20, and with tools like LiveBinder and Moodle.
Face-to-face instruction in math has been maintained because it is the subject students struggle with the most. Students must complete four years of math to graduate. Jackson uses interactive programs like GeoGrabra.org to complement instruction.
A transition period
Savage said some students are still adjusting to the new level of independence. Daily, 20-minute advisory periods keep staff members abreast of students’ needs and help with goal setting for the week, month, marking period and long term. A counselor is on staff, and plans this year include starting a mentorship program. A grant-funded tutor from the non-profit organization The DOCK visits Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“It’s definitely a different look and feel, and I think we are all learning in the process,” Savage said. “We are really in a different age for education. What worked 10-15 years ago might not work anymore.”
Besides Kelloggsville, students also attend from Kentwood, Godwin Heights, Grandville and Byron Center.