Greene County Schools is now offering an alternative to the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom to combat declining enrollment in the school system.
Greene Online Academy of Learning – GOAL – is currently in its pilot year, but Deputy Principal of Schools Bill Ripley believes it can serve students who otherwise intend to leave the district or who will not join the traditional school setting .
“GOAL was born after learning what other districts had done to serve students who otherwise did not attend local public schools,” Ripley said. “It’s also because our own enrollment is declining and that could offset some of that student decline.”
Ripley said 75 K-8 students left the Greene County Schools system in the 2017-18 school year to be home-schooled, and 77 in grades 7-12 left them. joined. He explained that many of these students have returned to the school system.
GOAL students are automatically enrolled as Greene County students and attendance is reported to the state accordingly.
These students must pass the same standardized tests as other Greene County students, and they also count toward Greene County schools reclaiming funding from the state’s Basic Education Program.
“We also realized that home schooling program providers aren’t always of high quality and felt we could meet or exceed the quality these parents were receiving elsewhere,” Ripley said.
Amber Moore, Greene County Schools Intervention Specialist, administers the GOAL program and ensures that participating students meet all state educational requirements.
From grades 6 to 8, English language arts, math, science, and social studies form a one-year program. Ninth grade is a Tennessee degree project, which means these students typically enroll in Algebra I, Biology, English I, and United States History.
Implementation of the Tennessee Diploma Project by the Tennessee Department of Education in 2009 means that high school students must earn 22 credits to graduate.
If a student has an average below C, or a grade of 70, the student is subject to six hours per week of face-to-face time with a teacher. The school system does not provide transportation.
Moore said some students struggle to be in the regular classroom, whether because of mental health issues, medical issues or by choice.
“For students who are successful in our program, the primary cause is student communication,” she said. “The student constantly asks for help and communicates with the teacher on a weekly basis. They actively participate in online activities, absorb information and work hard.”
Moore said being at home and not actively working on homework are reasons why some students do not succeed in the GOAL program.
“They neglect to meet their deadlines; progress is slowing down,” Moore said. “Students have a problem and they don’t ask for help and wait for the teacher to do it.”
Three county teachers are currently working with the eight students enrolled in GOAL in grades 6-9.
Kurt Glover is a teacher at North Greene High School, but he also teaches online classes through the GOAL program.
“At North Greene, we have fully integrated sophomores, juniors and seniors with individual devices,” Glover said. “I’ve been teaching using a paperless model for five years using Google Classroom and Canvas, so the transition from classroom to online classroom isn’t as long as some may think. imagine it.”
GOAL students receive a Chromebook computer on which to do their homework. The device must be returned to the school system at the end of each school year.
GOAL students can access teachers across the county via Skype, Google Docs, or by scheduling appointments at the Greene Technology Center. These students may also complete school work at the GTC any day during regular school hours.
“Obviously with the way GOAL works, the time I spend face-to-face with students is much less than in a traditional classroom and that requires constant communication with students and parents,” Glover said. .
Halley Lane is a seventh grade student who uses the GOAL program after attending kindergarten through sixth grade at Camp Creek Elementary School.
“She really enjoys the program. She thinks it’s more sophisticated and empowering than the traditional school setting,” said Amy Lane, Halley’s mother. “It hasn’t been without its challenges, but there is a great support team in place with Amber and the teachers.”
After years of considering home schooling, the Lanes decided to contact Greene County Schools. They were steered into the GOAL pilot program, and Amy Lane said it became the perfect fit for her daughter.
“The idea of having a local teacher who could teach face-to-face was a good thing for Halley,” Amy Lane said.
Halley’s parents set her school times. She works from 8:00 a.m. daily until 8:00 p.m. with breaks throughout the day.
“She’s more relaxed and focused when she’s doing her classes,” Amy Lane said.
The GOAL program comes from the Florida Virtual School, according to Moore.
FVS was the first online school in the United States, after the Florida State Legislature passed a bill in 1997 to allow it.
Moore explained that FVS offers curriculum that school systems across the United States can purchase and adapt to specific state requirements, which Greene County Schools did.
GOAL is considered an accredited online school, Moore said, which is one of three home-schooling options in Tennessee, according to the Department of Education.
“Tennessee parents who choose to homeschool their children must register with their local school district and complete related paperwork,” said Chandler Hopper, deputy director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Education. . “The districts then report this information to the department.”
The other two home schooling options are independent home schooling, which does not offer a curriculum or degrees, the parent provides them; and church-related umbrella school.
Parents who choose the church-related umbrella school option will need to provide proof to the Greene County Schools System or the City of Greeneville Schools System that their child is enrolled in a church-related school. church.
According to Hopper’s records, there are currently 86 home-schooled students in Greene County and 25 within the Greeneville boundary.
Neighboring counties have a similar number of students currently home-schooled, including Unicoi County with 63, Washington County with 130, Hawkins County with 111, Cocke County with 79, and Sullivan County with 85.
Other school systems in the city have a greater variety of students enrolled in home schooling than Greeneville city schools.
Rogersville City Schools has five home-schooled students, Newport has four, Elizabethton has 26, Johnson City has 37 and Kingsport has 76.
According to a May 2018 report, a total of 8,960 students are currently enrolled in home schooling in the Volunteer State.