WAY has been granted AdvancED Corporation Accreditation from the AdvancED Accreditation Commission, the national commission that confers accreditation.

All WAY schools are accredited by the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), an accreditation division of AdvancED. For more information on AdvancED, please visit http://www.advanc-ed.org

Source or origin of curriculum and course content

The curriculum is based on the Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, and Michigan Curriculum Framework standards. Project-Based Learning is the vehicle through which students deeply explore concepts and skills embedded in the standards towards accumulating course credit. Projects are designed by Highly Qualified teachers that encompass all of the state and national standards. In addition to these projects, students have the ability to co-create standards focused projects in collaboration with teachers. Constructivist learning is the foundation for all work that students do, and how teachers co-create learning experiences. We are AdvancED accredited: http://www.advanc-ed.org/oasis2/u/par/accreditation/summary?institutionId=44096

Specific research and best practice used in design

Project-Based Learning

Buck Institute for Education, 2009
http://www.bie.org/research/study/does_pbl_work

There is forty years of accumulated evidence that the instructional strategies and procedures that make up standards-focused Project Based Learning are effective in building deep content understanding, raising academic achievement and encouraging student motivation to learn. Research studies have demonstrated that PBL can:

  • be more effective than traditional instruction in increasing academic achievement on annual state-administered assessment tests. (1)
  • be more effective than traditional instruction for teaching mathematics (2,3), economics (4), science (1,5,6), social science (7), clinical medical skills (8) and for careers in the allied health occupations (7) and teaching (7).
  • be more effective than traditional instruction for long-term retention, skill development and satisfaction of students and teachers (1,9,2)
  • be more effective than traditional instruction for preparing students to integrate and explain concepts. (10)
  • improve students' mastery of 21st-century skills. (11,12) be especially effective with lower-achieving students.
  • (1,4,6) provide an effective model for whole school reform.(13)
As with any teaching method, PBL can be used effectively or ineffectively. At its best, PBL can be the catalyst for an engaging learning experience and create a context for a powerful learning community focused on achievement, self-mastery, and contribution to the community.

PBL REFERENCES

  1. Geier, R., Blumenfeld, P.C., Marx, R.W., Krajcik, J.S., Fishman, B., Soloway, E., & Clay-Chambers, J. (2008). Standardized test outcomes for students engaged in inquiry-based science curricula in the context of urban reform. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 45(8), 922-939.
  2. Boaler, J. (1997). Experiencing School Mathematics: Teaching Styles, Sex and Settings. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.
  3. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992) The Jasper series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program description and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27, 291-315.
  4. Mergendoller, J.R., Maxwell, N., & Bellisimo, Y. (2006). The effectiveness of problem based instruction: A Comparative Study of Instructional Methods and Student Characteristics. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 1(2), 49-69.  Retrieved from http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/ijpbl/vol1/iss2/5/.
  5. Hickey, D.T., Kindfeld, A.C.H., Horwitz, P., & Christie, M.A. (1999). Advancing educational theory by enhancing practice in a technology-supported genetics learning environment. Journal of Education, 181, 25-55.
  6. Lynch, S., Kuipers, JU., Pyke, C., & Szesze, M. (2005). Examining the effects of a highly rated science curriculum unit on diverse students: Results from a planning grant. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42, 921-946.
  7. Walker, A. & Leary, H. (2008) "A Problem Based Learning Meta Analysis: Differences Across Problem Types, Implementation Types, Disciplines, and Assessment Levels," Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 3(1), 12-43.  Retrieved from http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/ijpbl/vol3/iss1/3.
  8. Vernon, D. T. & Blake, R. L. (1993). Does problem-based learning work? A meta-analysis of evaluative research. Academic Medicine, 68(7), 550-63.
  9. Strobel, J. & van Barneveld, A. (2008) "When is PBL More Effective? A Meta-synthesis of Meta-analyses Comparing PBL to Conventional Classrooms," Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning, 3(1), 44-58. Retrieved from http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/ijpbl/vol3/iss1/4.
  10. Capon, N, & Kuhn, D. (2004). What's so good about problem-based learning? Cognition and Instruction, 22, 61-79.
  11. Hmelo, C. (1998). Problem-based learning: Effects on the early acquisition of cognitive skill in medicine. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 7, 173-208.
  12. Gallagher, S.A., Stepien, W.J., Rosenthal, H. (1992) The effects of problem-based learning on problem solving. Gifted Child Quarterly, 36, 195-200.
  13. National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive School Reform (2004). Putting the Pieces Together: Lessons from Comprehensive School Reform Research. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.centerforcsri.org/PDF/PTPTLessonsfromCSRResearch.pdf.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Highlights from the Resource Library | National Center On Universal Design for Learning
http://www.udlcenter.org/research/resources

Research Evidence | National Center On Universal Design for Learning
http://www.udlcenter.org/research/researchevidence

Research | National Center On Universal Design for Learning
http://www.udlcenter.org/research

CAST: About UDL
http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html

Basis for and frequency of revisions

Curriculum revision is ongoing and refined on a monthly basis. Curriculum revisions include new project development, inter-rater reliability assessment of standards, assessment design, and other best practices for a constructivist approach to learning. Additionally, a core action team of Curriculum Directors and Content Area Specialists constantly monitors and manages curriculum needs and supports for the entire system.

Research related to effectiveness of curriculum

Project-Based Learning
See PBL Research listed in the section: Specific research and best practice used in design

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Highlights from the Resource Library | National Center On Universal Design for Learning
http://www.udlcenter.org/research/resources

Research Evidence | National Center On Universal Design for Learning
http://www.udlcenter.org/research/researchevidence

Research | National Center On Universal Design for Learning
http://www.udlcenter.org/research

CAST: About UDL
http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html

Rigor and Relevance Model
International Center for Leadership in Education - Rigor, Relevance, Relationships
http://www.leadered.com/rrr.html

Thinking Maps
Why Thinking Maps | Thinking Maps Inc.
http://thinkingmaps.com/why_thinking_maps/results.php

Thinking Foundation - Research - Journal Articles
http://www.thinkingfoundation.org/research/journal_articles/journal_articles.html

An Introduction to Thinking Maps Research and Practice
http://www.thinkingfoundation.org/resources/presentations/pdf-presentations/tf-broadcast.pdf

Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated Instruction: The Effect on Student Achievement in an Elementary School
http://commons.emich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1030&context=theses

Differentiated Instruction with UDL | National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials
http://aim.cast.org/learn/historyarchive/backgroundpapers/differentiated_instruction_udl

caroltomlinson.com
http://caroltomlinson.com/article.html

Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP)
http://www.cal.org/siop/research/index.html

Taylor & Francis Online :: School Reform and Standards-Based Education: A Model for English-Language Learners - The Journal of Educational Research - Volume 99, Issue 4
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/JOER.99.4.195-211

The Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol
www.siopinstitute.net/media/pdfs/sioppaper.pdf

SIOP: Research
http://www.cal.org/siop/research/index.html

CAL: Project Archive: Academic Literacy Through Sheltered Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary Schools
http://www.cal.org/projects/archive/academicliteracy.html

Evidence that content and assessments are accurate and free of bias

All work is evaluated based on the standards' language. A standard must be demonstrated for credit to be awarded. Using this criteria eliminates bias as the work either demonstrates or does not demonstrate the standard(s) being assessed. This process enables students to co-design artifacts based on their interests and understanding, thus eliminating culture and experience bias. Content area teachers participate in inter-rater reliability sessions around assessing work for standards at least once a month. In this way, fidelity and accuracy of standards-based assessment is maintained. This process ensures that consistency is maintained, especially when new staff come on board.

Accessibility for students with disabilities

As a blended model, all students have a multiplicity of supports. Our one-to-one interaction is ongoing with students in communication with mentors, team leaders, and content area teachers. This occurs online through real-time chats, forum conversations, and email discussions. In our blended model, this interaction extends into the on-site support in the lab where staff work with students one-to-one and in small groups through engaging student-centered activities. Technology tools are varied in use for what is best for our students' needs. Some examples include intensive multimedia scaffold support such as use of video examples, audio recording of text, and digital modeling of concepts. The practices and learning experiences are influenced by the work of Universal Design for Learning, Differentiated Instruction, and Thinking Maps.

Availability of multi-lingual materials

All materials can be provided in formats other than English based on student need. Currently, Spanish is an area where support is ongoing. The online learning environment is translated into Spanish for our site in Mexico, and is made available to other students as needed. We have the capability to translate the environment to other languages as the need arises.

Our staffing includes professionals who are certified to support ELL/ESL. These staff members provide curricular guidance to all staff on how to assist the academic needs of English Language Learners. For example, we have assigned students with the high need of language support to mentors and team leaders who are bilingual. This support helps teachers to collaborate with the students and their team leader and mentor to provide comprehension support.

We also utilize research-based support found in SIOP (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol). For example, learning tasks and scaffolds are provided in multiple modalities, ie. images, video, examples, audio recording, and student-friendly language. Thinking maps are used to assist students with breaking up information as well as for visually organizing and interpreting for understanding. Additional practices from Differentiated Instruction are incorporated in student support through providing learning experiences based on students' interest and learning modalities; and we personalize learning to their current skill levels based on ongoing coaching and learning conversations between students and teachers.

WAY Program Grading Scale

In the WAY Program model, each content standard is assessed independently and targeted feedback is provided to the student at the standard level. Projects are assessed for mastery of the content standards utilizing a proficiency-based rubric, with a Level One representing basic mastery and a Level Three representing an exemplary proficiency. The proficiency levels are based on Bloom's Taxonomy and the Rigor and Relevance Framework.

To earn a Level One proficiency on a standard, the student has demonstrated definition level knowledge of the standard. To earn a Level Three, the student has demonstrated that they can apply the standard in cross-curricular and/or real-world situations. If a student fails to demonstrate mastery of a standard at a Level One, the teacher(s) will collaborate with the student throughout the revision process until mastery is achieved. The proficiency levels are calculated in order to produce a student's grade point average on a 4.0 scale as noted below:

Level Three   4.0 (A)
Level Two   3.0 (B)
Level One   2.0 (C)

NCAA Approval Status

We are currently in the process of seeking NCAA approval for all applicable High School courses.