The following post originally appeared on the NCEA elementary newsfeed. For more information about the 6-16 Virtual Catholic High School initiative contact Noreen Andrews, UCHS’s assistant principal who oversees the initiative at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information will also be presented next week at the 2015 NCEA New Directions Blended Learning Symposium, for more information, please click here.
Union Catholic Regional High School (UCHS)’s 6-16 Virtual Catholic High School Initiative has been a great success. Data, gathered throughout the year from the two pilots launched in September 2014, confirms this. Additional Catholic elementary schools, including schools outside of New Jersey, have expressed interest and are being invited to join the program for Year 2.
This expansion is the result of the strong interest Catholic elementary school students have demonstrated in engaging in this type of learning and their school’s desire to offer virtual courses that have a faith-based component. The partnership that now exists between UCHS and the Catholic elementary schools with whom we are sharing resources is making our vision of a Virtual Catholic School a reality.
Through The Union Catholic Middle School Elective Program, virtual courses, including electives like Game Theory and Around the World in Eighty Days as well as full year courses in Algebra II and Biology, were taken by seventeen student, who achieved a yearly average of 87%. In the second pilot The Union Catholic High School and St. Joseph of the Palisades Virtual Learning Partnership, eighth grade students took a Writing & Research course first semester with a class average of 90%. In semester two, students are taking Sociology with a class average of 92%.
Principal Eileen Donovan-Ferrando credits this pilot with “transforming the atmosphere” of St. Joseph with amazing results. The elementary school was recently renamed The Academy of St. Joseph. Its partnership with UCHS is being used in the school’s marketing and recruitment. In addition to learning about and analyzing human behavior from a Catholic perspective, St. Joseph students are developing skills in time management, self-directed learning, web navigation, source evaluation, and MLA documentation while utilizing and honing their communication skills. In a recent online discussion, in which every student actively engaged, the students explored the topic of social media, its benefits and dangers. After following Pope Francis and Sister Percylee, the principal of UCHS, on Twitter for a week, the students spoke of how social media can be used for good and witnessed to its contributing to their personal spiritual development.