Andrew Campanella: I’ve read about how GOAL Academy has an online curriculum and drop-in centers throughout Colorado. Can you tell me more about GOAL’s approach to education?
Constance Jones, CEO at GOAL Academy: All of our instruction is delivered online with certified teachers. The state is broken into five regions. We have a principal for each of the regions, and they oversee anywhere from three to nine drop-in centers, depending on the density of our populations. We have our certified teachers, along with school counselors, social workers, and academic coaches housed in each of our drop-in centers. It’s very important to have that opportunity to still have face-to-face contact with students. We call our model a blended model of both being able to work online and to come in for tutoring and support. Some of our students enjoy simply being at a site to do their work on a pretty regular basis. Also, we have what we call “pod activities” where the students are assigned to an academic coach and do activities there at the center. We also have clubs and school proms and a lot of activities that you would see in a traditional high school.
Andrew: For people who are considering online learning, what can they expect from the environment at GOAL?
Constance: They can expect a personalized plan to ensure that the student is taking the appropriate courses to help them to finish their high school diploma and, if at all possible, to start their college courses. We are working really hard to increase the number of students taking college courses. In addition to their personalized plans, they can count on a staff that’s very caring and will stay right there with them the entire way as far as supporting them and encouraging them and checking in on them just to make certain everything’s okay.
Andrew: What are some ways in which you hope to expand GOAL’s offerings?
Constance: One of the things that we haven’t touched on, and this is really important for our students here at GOAL, is that we’re working on trying to build business partnerships to create opportunities for our students to have part-time, full-time jobs, internships, apprenticeships, whatever we can work out. We’re really trying to maintain a focus on career and technical education for the students. One of the things I did just this past week with our Chief Information Officer was to meet with folks at Microsoft. We are working to become a Microsoft Showcase School and to offer our students industry certifications in Microsoft Office Suite and also additional certifications in IT fields. We also have a partnership in Colorado Springs where the students are introduced to trades for building construction. Locally we have a partnership with a music studio, so the students are learning video and music production, writing their own music, and then performing the music. We’re trying to offer opportunities so that when students graduate from GOAL, they’ll have a plan for the future.
Andrew: Max, as a student at GOAL, what would you say it takes for a student to be successful at online learning?
Max Emory, 12th-grade student at GOAL Academy: To be honest with you, you just have to put in the work. The teachers have everything set up in the proper format, so everything’s fairly easy to understand. If you keep up with your work, you don’t fall behind, so there’s no stress. On top of that, they always have incentives. If you put in your work, you show them that you participate, and you have good grades, they offer trips to go see basketball games, football games, things like that. It really doesn’t take much. You just have to show up and do your work. You can do it at home, you can do it on-site… anywhere you have internet access.
Andrew: Many of your sites have been celebrating School Choice Week for six or seven years! What are some ways you celebrate?
Janelle Quick, Director of Human Relations at GOAL Academy: We plan a whole week of events. We plan on a wear-your-scarf day. We tell the sites to decorate with all the signs and the stuff that we get in our kits. We offer a pizza party for the site with the most school spirit. We’re really engaged on a statewide level: all 28 locations are trying to vie for a pizza party. We celebrate during the week by wearing our GOAL gear: t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, all those things, and talk about why people love their school, and take pictures. We post them on our social media. We spend a day writing letters to staff members and students, letting them know our appreciation for them and that they’re at our school. Then, we spend a whole day doing a lot of social media posts and using the hashtags, your hashtags and our hashtags, so that we can get the word out on social media.