Wyoming Connections Academy
A distance education program offered by Big Horn County School District #1
To qualify for enrollment in Wyoming Connections Academy, students must be residents of the state of Wyoming and meet all age requirements for attending school in the state of Wyoming. Students follow a three-stage process to enroll.
In the first stage, students complete an online form to indicate interest. (Those without ready access to technology can call 800-382-6010.) If the student is not a resident of Big Horn County School District #1 or one of the districts with which Big Horn County School District #1 has a “commuter” arrangement, Wyoming Connections Academy will notify the superintendent of the student's resident district via a Memorandum of Understanding. If the superintendent agrees to sign the MOU, then the student will be enrolled in Big Horn #1 as an MOU student in a full-time partnership model. If the superintendent of the resident district chooses not to enter into an MOU or fails to sign the MOU within 10 business days, then the student becomes a non-MOU student and is enrolled into Big Horn County School District #1 and Wyoming Connections Academy.
In the second stage, the student/parent provides Wyoming Connections Academy all needed documentation such as proof of address, immunization, and prior school. If the student has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), Wyoming Connections Academy must be informed of it by the Resident District or by the student/parent. This information becomes part of the student's Distance Learning Plan (DLP).
In the third stage, Wyoming Connections Academy follows a placement process to correctly place the student based on prior academic performance and ability. A Distance Learning Plan (DLP) will be written and presented to the parent and the resident district or Big Horn #1. Enrollment is complete upon acceptance of the DLP and the approval or declination of the MOU, plus final confirmation for shipping of relevant materials and equipment.
"Enroll Now" Connections Academy Online Enrollment Form and Guidance: http://www.connectionsacademy.com/enroll/enroll.aspx
The DE Program provider will conduct placement reviews, DLP reviews with resident districts, counselor review for grades 9-12, and a student and Learning Coach orientation course accessible prior to course start dates or concurrently the first week of enrollment at WYCA. Additional teaching sessions are available that incorporates best practices to help aid students in need of extra help and one on one by content area teachers and homeroom teachers (K-6).
Connections Academy-affiliated programs around the country have demonstrated substantial success with students of many different learning capabilities through strategic use of orientation, support, and progress tracking tools. These include:
- Extensive information before and during enrollment about what a distance education program is, how it works, and what it demands from students and their families. This guidance is provided via the www.connectionsacademy.com website, during face-to-face and virtual information systems, and via telephone with enrollment counselors. In addition, all program policies, procedures and expectations are captured in the School Handbook which students and parents/guardians are required to review before beginning classes.
- Support and training for the student’s Learning Coach – the face-to-face adult, typically a parent or extended family member, who works in partnership with the program’s certified professional teaching staff. Learning Coaches sign a detailed agreement spelling out their duties and participate in mandatory orientation (provided online and occasionally in person) about their role prior to the student’s first day of online class. Throughout the school year, Learning Coaches are engaged in ongoing dialogue with their student’s teachers.
- SSTAIR, Connections Academy's new Instruction Model, is a systematic approach to instruction, ensuring that all students receive the necessary level of support throughout the learning process. Beginning with identified essential skills and standards based on State and Core Curriculum, teachers can easily see what students should be able to do by the end of a specific grade in each of the core area subjects. The Additional Intervention Determination (AID) tool has been developed to place at each teacher’s fingertips all of the assessment data available for all students, e.g. state test scores, CA in-house LEAP pre- and post-test assessment data, participation and performance metrics, and any IEP information. In addition, a report has been developed displaying not only the essential skills and standards but also exactly where in the curriculum each of these is assessed. Teachers can run this report as frequently as they like to see exactly how students are progressing with regard to each of the skills and standards for that subject and grade. Based on that information, interventions are assigned based on our three-tiered Intervention system.
- Multi-tiered instructional program tailored to student’s learning capabilities as determined by program Student Support Team. The Wyoming Connections Academy program offers a multi-tiered intervention model so that every student has access to the resources they need to be successful. This approach consists of: Tier 1 – Core Instructional Program; Tier 2 – Supplemental Programs and Supports; and Tier 3 – Alternative Programs. Tier 1: Core Instructional Program consists differentiated instruction, skill instruction, and LiveLesson sessions. Tier 2: Supplemental Program consists of live synchronous remedial interventions, targeted skill instruction, online sysmatic reading interventions, and "Fast Forward". Tier 3: Alternative Program consists of PACE (Program for All Children to Excel), Alternative courses program, and special education support/IEP implementation. The Student Support Team may recommend placement of a student into Tier 2 for a specified period or longer-term placement into Tier 3.
- Careful tracking of student attendance, participation, and progress. The Connections Academy Escalation System ensures that no student “falls through the cracks” if the distance education program proves to be a more challenging fit than anticipated by the learner and program staff.
Resident district instructional support
As part of the MOU process, the student’s resident district will identify a Liaison who will serve as the resident district contact for both Wyoming Connections Academy and for the student’s Learning Coach (typically a parent or extended family member). The Resident District Liaison will be provided training and tailored access to the Wyoming Connections Academy Learning Management System to monitor the progress of the student against the agreed-upon Distance Learning Plan and its milestones. The Resident District Liaison will notify Wyoming Connections Academy and the student’s Learning Coach of any concerns related to the academic achievement or overall well-being of the student. The Resident District Liaison is also responsible for communicating WISER ID and PAWS test scores to insure accurate student records.
In addition, the Resident District Liaison will also be responsible for:
- Approval of the student’s Distance Learning Plan
- Arranging for administration of the PAWS state testing program for the student
- Ensuring access to special education evaluations and services for students qualifying for such support
- Coordinate access to resident district extra-curricular activities for the student as requested
- Providing access to the resident district library and other facilities when necessary
Learning Management System (LMS): Wyoming Connections Academy’s proprietary, secure web-based platform delivers every assignment and tracks every activity, monitoring completion of individual lessons as well as mastery of discrete skills and knowledge. Student progress is updated continuously in the online gradebook and on the teacher’s and Learning Coach’s homepages.
Curriculum-Based Assessments: Wyoming Connections Academy teachers use the telephone to conduct curriculum-based assessments (CBAs). Teachers conduct two types of CBAs: diagnostic curriculum-based assessment to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses, and verification curriculum based assessment to gauge authentic student learning of concepts.
Student Status/Escalation Process: The Connections Academy system tracks and reports ongoing student attendance progress based on the objective numeric data generated by the LMS including contact with teachers, time-on-task, and completion of lessons and assessments. The student’s status (On-Track, Approaching Alarm and Alarm) is displayed on the Learning Coach and teacher home pages for instant identification of potential problems.
Yearly progress: In the value-added model of academic growth upon which Wyoming Connections Academy is based, each student will demonstrate at least a year of academic growth for a year in school. Progress is measured through a standards based, technology-facilitated Longitudinal Evaluation of Academic Progress (LEAP) pre- and post-test.
State standardized testing: Wyoming Connections Academy is dedicated to meeting and exceeding all of Wyoming’s state standardized testing requirements – including but not limited to PAWS. The state-mandated assessments will be administered to students in person, face-to-face, and proctored locations within a reasonable distance from students’ homes as arranged by the students' resident districts.
Big Horn #1 will be an integral part of insuring student academic performance.
Wyoming Connections Academy has multiple tools and strategies to assist with academic performance, including intervention with students who are lagging.
First, through the Wyoming Connections Academy placement process, students are provided with the curriculum materials and teaching resources that are appropriate to their achievement level as a starting point for learning, with the goal of attaining at least one year’s academic progress within the school year. The Wyoming Connections Academy staff will form a Student Support Team (SST) to identify and focus collaboratively on the needs of students who are struggling.
Wyoming Connections Academy utilizes a multi-tiered intervention approach to curriculum and instruction, which ensures that individual students receive the support they need. SSTAIR program is used to identify how students are progressing with regard to each of the skills and standards for that subject and grade. Based on that information, interventions are assigned based on our three-tiered Intervention system. Students who may not be successful in the standard program, Tier 1, receive additional support via the supplemental and alternative programs in Tier 2 and Tier 3 (see above detailed description of these Tiers).
For students who need short-term, intensive intervention, Wyoming Connections Academy provides PACE (Program for All Children to Excel), which uses mandatory synchronous web conferences to focus on gaining proficiency in reading and math skills.
Students in Alarm and Approaching Alarm status in the Escalation System are the focus of communications outreach by the teacher and ultimately the school principal, who work with the Learning Coach to get the student back on track. Students who fail to improve their attendance-related performance may face withdrawal from the school for truancy.