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Bridgewater's Alternative Route Goes Paperless

More students are using an alternate route for additional help and more classes.

The Bridgewater School District has, for a few years, had a system in place for alternate learning plans for students having difficulty in the traditional route of academics or wanting extra work—and, starting September, that route is going paperless.

“With the revision that we’re making in September, students will still complete all of the application requirement, [but] most of the work will be done in an online paperless environment and the students will print the signature pages and turn them in,” said Cheryl Dyer, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “The supervisors, principal and I will be able to approve the applications without moving paper from one location to another.”

Dyer said at the July 24 board of education meeting that the paperwork was always so cumbersome.

“Parents have said it has taken too much time for them to get a response, by the time they get an answer, then I review and send it back,” she said. “We have a plan to improve on that.”

“All approvals will happen online, and that will facilitate things from a student perspective and from my perspective,” she added.

This alternate learning plan is in line with changes made to the high school graduation requirements by the State Board of Education a few years ago, Dyer said. She said it is called Option II.

Option I, Dyer said, is a traditional 120-credit requirement with four years of English, three years of social studies, three years of math, three years of science, one year of World Language and more.

“In the traditional route, all of these classes must be taken at the high school and taught by certified teachers,” she said, “and each class must be 120 hours in length, 180 days times a minimum of 40 minutes.”

A new policy the board created in line with Option II, Dyer said, allows students to earn a diploma through alternative means.

According to the board’s policy, the option allows for the design and implementation of programs, allowing students to earn credits through interdisciplinary programs, independent study, early college credit, magnet programs, student exchange programs, online learning, internships, service learning and more.

The programs must still meet Core Curriculum Content Standards in order to attain credits for graduation. The program is allowed to be implemented in grades three through 12.

In order to pursue course work through this option, students must submit a completed application to a review committee, comprised of the high school principal, a departmental supervisor, the supervisor of school counseling and a designated school counselor.

Dyer said there was a 348 percent increase in participation in this second option from the first to the third years, with 114 approved plans increasing to 397.

In the 2011-2012 year, Dyer said, 23 percent of the plans were for acceleration programs; 22 percent were for additional credits, including service learning and independent study; 23 percent were for alternative physical education or health; and 32 percent were for credit recovery.

And of those who submitted the paperwork, Dyer said, 15 percent of students did not register for the approved course; 74 percent passed the approved course; 5 percent failed the approved course; 4 percent have not yet completed the approved course; and 3 percent have not provided transcripts documenting the completion of the approved course.

“The bottom line is that this was a successful experience for approximately 298 of the 397 students who applied,” she said. “If you remove the students who changed their minds from the analysis, 71 students, the success rate of Option II is 91 percent.”

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