Governor Nathan Deal recently awarded Thomas County Central High School (TCCHS) a technology grant of $699,312 to expand its blended learning program.
Blended learning - - also known as hybrid or mixed-mode courses - - consists of classes in which a portion of the traditional face-to-face instruction is replaced by web-based online learning.
Thomas County’s Bishop Hall Charter School was an early-adopter of blended learning. Thomas County has utilized Bishop Hall in the classic way that charter schools were intended, as a laboratory to develop new and innovative teaching techniques. The successful elements of the blended learning model cultivated at Bishop Hall which have resulted in increased academic performance there will be “scaled” or expanded to classes at TCCHS.
In addition to completing Thomas County’s one-to-one computer-to-student initiative, the grant will provide funds for extensive professional learning for staff and will provide after-school tutoring for students who experience academic difficulties.
“TCCHS has a tradition of providing students with an exceptional education,” said Principal Trista Jones. “This grant will equip us with the resources and support to continue that tradition with the most up-to-date technology and instructional strategies to prepare our students for future success in any endeavor.”
Program implementation will begin in the high school’s math department and will spread school-wide over a two-year period.
Associate Superintendent Melanie Chavaux led the grant writing team. “Blended learning is the combination of the best teacher instruction with the best online instruction there is to offer,” Chavaux said. “Professional learning at TCCHS will provide the opportunity for teachers to support true individualized learning for students, and it will also provide teachers access to tools that can transform the way in which they deliver their content.”
Blended learning has become common place at colleges and universities nation-wide. Giving students this experience at the high school level will better prepare them for academic work after high school.
“Through the grant, Thomas County Schools will provide a wide array of blended learning options to educate, prepare, and inspire students to reach their fullest potential,” said Thomas County School Superintendent Dr. Dusty Kornegay. “Students benefit from participating in blended learning by having real-time feedback, control over pace, small-group differentiated instruction, and individualized online instruction. Teachers benefit by having freedom to manage the classroom to pace instruction for small groups, having real-time student assessment data, and having an engaged student population,” Kornegay said.
This is the sixth major grant to have been received by the Thomas County School System within the last two years. Assistant Superintendent for Finance Joey Holland who compiled the budget portion of the grant stated, “Receiving grants totaling nearly $5 million over the last two years has allowed us to achieve most of our technology vision and has reduced pressure on our operating budget while allowing us to stretch our E-SPLOST revenue.”
Assistant Superintendent Lisa Williams served on the grant writing team compiling data and statistics. “The blended learning model to be implemented at TCCHS will allow our students to receive an education second to none using state-of-the art technology that will allow for individual attention, customization, and flexibility in learning,” Williams said. “We, as a system, are very appreciative for the honor and the opportunity that we have been given.”
Thomas County’s Instructional Technology Coordinator Erin Rehberg commented, “Receiving this grant will allow us to further our capacity to combine quality instruction with modern technology resources. Our students and teachers will both benefit from the blended learning model we plan to implement at TCCHS.”
Thomas County’s Technology Director Wes Davis was excited to be able to achieve the district’s goal of securing a computer device for every student two years ahead of schedule. “This grant will allow us to complete our one-to-one initiative that will provide devices to our students district-wide. I feel that this initiative will enable our teachers and students to take advantage of the vast learning resources available with our tcjackets Google Apps domain and on the internet in general," he said.
“I feel very fortunate to have such a gifted team of professionals working for our school district,” Kornegay said. “The quality of their work is evident in that we have been awarded several major grants within a relatively short time span. I also want to thank Ms. Julie Sharpe who assisted us in writing the grant. The hard work of our teachers and building leaders in successful implementation of the grants plays a major role in obtaining future grants. I am thankful to the Governor and the legislature for making these competitive grants for schools possible.”
Thomas County Central High School was one of only four schools state-wide to receive one of the very competitive scaling grants from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. Other systems receiving grants were Gwinnett County, Carroll County, and Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School.