Sue Bowers, a mentor at Creswell High School, carefully tracks and
supports students. Last year she achieved a 100% pass rate.
Jaren Nichols, a student at Lowell High School, takes Spanish II
online. His rural school can no longer afford a full-time Spanish
teacher, based on the number of students that would enroll.
Creswell School District: 1,300 Students
By the time we began working with Creswell, the district
already had years of experience using online courses from
a variety of vendors. The district developed a sound procedure for identifying students for online courses, and the
staff had considerable expertise in mentoring them. They
established a tiered approach to enrolling students in online courses, with gifted students getting top priority, followed by juniors and seniors who had at least a 3. 5 grade
point average (GPA) and wanted a course that was not
available at their school.
Creswell was so ahead of the curve that we turned to Sue
Bowers, the district’s instructional assistant in charge of
monitoring online students, to help guide our initial vendor picks and early best practices in mentoring. She began
using online courses in 2005 and last year attained a 100%
completion rate. She attributes the success to the following
• Students may take only courses that are not offered by
the school already.
• Students pay 10% of the course cost.
• Students work on their online course (usually just one at a
time) during a dedicated period at school with a mentor.
If money is available, students with GPAs as low as 3.0
can take an online course, and in rare cases, sophomores
may take them as well.
This year, the district began offering credit recovery. The
credit recovery model is a bit different, in that students do
not have to pay up front for the courses, and the courses
must be required for graduation.
When students work on courses every day, at a set peri-
od, they get the support they need for success, said sopho-
more Rebecca Bowers:
Taking online classes is a really good way to explore
who you want to be and what you want to know with-
out having to worry about whether or not your school
will have the resources.
Technical, scheduling, and progress-monitoring issues
exist, but the most challenging part is helping students
stay on track. Sue Bowers said:
The scheduling piece is most difficult for the students.
If the course does not generate a pacing chart, be sure
to have them build one with due dates for assignments
and tests. I review the pacing charts with every student
individually each Friday. More students tend to fall
behind than work ahead. Without consistent support,
students may fall so far behind, they give up.