Sunday, November 29, 2009
Prescott Unified School District’s PEAK program, in Arizona, has changed since its establishment in 1985.
What began as a program to help at-risk students, PEAK (Providing Educational Avenues and Knowledge) has expanded to provide flexibility according to individual student need.
Ryan Carpenter missed an entire year of high school while suffering from cyclic vomiting syndrome. A senior, Carpenter found himself short on credits, and looking at the possibility of not graduating.
At the end of the semester, Carpenter will have enough credits to graduate and he will enter the U.S. Army in January. He has attended PEAK classes for two and a half months.
“It is easy, and I can work at my own pace,” he said.
While some students take PEAK courses on their home computer, as a full-time student, Carpenter must attend classes at the PEAK lab located on the Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy campus.
Full-time PEAK students attend classes in from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
PEAK Director Robin Stockmar said that in addition to credit recovery, students could take classes they otherwise might have difficulty working into their high school schedule.
The school district has a contract with A+ Anywhere Learning System to provide classes aligned with state standards.
Currently, PEAK has 204 students, many of them part-time. Twelve full-time students attend classes in the PEAK lab.
PEAK offers classes in six-week sessions during the school year and summer school classes.
“If we stay on track, our enrollment numbers could reach 500 to 600 students,” Stockmar said.
Credit recovery remains a big draw for PEAK. The state requires students to regain skills to qualify for credit recovery. An assessment test shows what skill(s) students need to learn, and when students pass a review test, they receive a passing grade, not a letter grade.
Garrett Smith, 17, is a junior. He attends PEAK full-time to recover credits he missed because of personal issues. Smith plans to attend PEAK for the remainder of this school year, and then return to PHS for his senior year.
“I like PEAK a lot. I can work at my own pace and the classes are enjoyable. It is different taking online classes, but I like it better. The most difficult part is that your eyes get tired looking at the screen all day. It is hard to focus,” Smith said.
The demand for PEAK classes is high and they fill up quickly. Classes are full until February.
High school counselors refer students to PEAK. The students must complete an application and, if accepted, attend an orientation where they learn how to use the program, what to expect and how to get any help they might need.
PUSD students pay $5 per session to take PEAK classes and out-of-district students pay $25. The fee covers the cost of setting students up with a login name and password, as well as helping to pay for the technology needed to operate the PEAK online classes.
“The majority of students take their classes at home. They only come to the lab for orientation and finals,” Stockmar said.
Stockmar tracks each student from her computer. She knows when they sign in and what they are working on.
“I can also track our success rate. In the past, the success rate was 60 (percent) to 70 percent. Now, it is about 93 percent,” she said.
PEAK online classes have reduced the number of PUSD students taking classes from an outside provider from more than 100 to four, keeping state Average Daily Membership money in PUSD.
“Peak has always accounted for 10 (percent) to 15 percent of the PHS graduation rate. It is important to keep students in school and to keep them interested. It is important to do what our kids need,” Stockmar said.