Huntley High's blended learning program lauded as top in nation
Huntley High School's blended learning program, a pioneering alternative educational model in which students engage in self-directed, online learning, has garnered another accolade as it continues to grow.
Huntley High recently was named the top blended learning high school in the nation by Study.com, an online platform providing video-based college courses and comprehensive guidance counseling resources. It ranked 50 high schools nationwide with similar programs based on various factors, including student-to-teacher ratios, accessibility and implementation.
"This is a tremendous honor and a true reflection of both the outstanding work our staff has put in over the past several years and the caliber of our students," said Scott Rowe, Huntley Community School District 158 superintendent. "Our successes have shown that it's not only possible but imperative for schools to evolve in how we educate students."
It's not the first time District 158's blended learning initiative has been recognized nationally. It's been featured in various media outlets, including CNN.com, eLearn Magazine, GettingSmart.com and Parenting.com.
Huntley High's blended program started in the 2011-12 school year with 100 students participating in three blended classes. Today, over 2,100 students -- more than two-thirds of the student population -- take at least one of 60 blended courses, taught by more than 70 teachers across all academic departments.
"The evolution so far has been keeping up with the growth," said Rowe, adding that the district has conducted internal reviews and had two outside research firms evaluate the program "to ensure the instructional quality matches the standards that we have across the board."
Students learn through online tools, activities and content, and traditional classroom instruction. They typically attend classes as a group two or three days each week, with remaining time spent working online, meeting individually or in small groups with the teacher, working ahead or catching up on courses, or spending time off campus.
Among the blended courses offered is the unique Youth Medical Residency program in partnership with Northwestern Medicine. In it, 30 seniors in the school's Medical Academy spend at least 2½ hours a week at Northwestern's Huntley Hospital, working alongside physicians, nurses and other health care professionals.
Rowe said some teachers this year are experimenting with mastery-based learning that allows students to check in once or twice weekly as long as they perform at a high level.
Rowe said students who have taken blended classes show a greater understanding of how to prioritize their learning time and balance distractions in college. Huntley's program has been a model for other suburban school districts trying to redefine the traditional public school day and embrace e-learning.
"It is our school district's ability to be agile and try something and our school board's willingness to support the innovative spirit in our district that makes us unique," Rowe said.