SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY

Audeo Charter Schools

Partnership for Success for Every Student

Southern California

Every parent’s dream is for their children to meet their potential and find a life path they love. This is true for children of all cultures, economic groups, and abilities.

So why don’t all public schools offer a program that ensures each child will walk a path toward their long-term wishes and dreams while learning to read, write, and do math? Many make an effort toward this goal, but few have codified the process as well as Audeo Charter Schools, one of seven charter schools that implement the Altus Schools model. Audeo’s learning centers are located in Southern California. The Altus network includes more than 125 partnerships across the nation.

Photo courtesy of Altus Schools

Educators at Audeo (Latin for “I dare”), using input from student testing and interviews as well as parent ideas, design an individualized learning plan for all students, whether they work with an IEP or not. A key aspect of Audeo is a strong parent partnership; the creation of this individualized learning plan is the first step in building that partnership. Many students arrive at Audeo with credit deficits or because they were not successful at traditional schools for various reasons. While some students graduate from Audeo, many enroll to catch up on credits and return to their regular neighborhood schools.

Audeo’s own assessment and planning tool, the Pathways Personalized Education Plan (PPEP), benefits both general education and special education students in the school. Working together, educators, students, counselors, and parents create a plan focused on student data, interests, and goals. Tools such as the PPEP help schools keep a laser focus on each student’s individual goals.

These tools work best when they are living documents, as an IEP is intended to be, and result from a collaborative process involving family and student input. However, common school practice around IEPs too often does not meet the standards of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act. The PPEP comes closer to that ideal with a built-in feedback schedule. As the school gathers more information about each student during their academic career—from test results to survey data—individual plans evolve to improve the school’s focus on each student’s goals.

For students with IEPs, a PPEP does not replace the need for an IEP. The PPEP is created for every student and is an additional source of information the education team considers when developing the IEP, hopefully leading to a more personalized plan for these students. At Audeo, neither the PPEP nor the IEP is a top-down, template-driven process. 

Even in more traditional schools, where students go from class to class instead of working at home at their own pace like Audeo students, well-developed individualized learning plans for every student could make a significant difference for those who may otherwise slip through the academic cracks.

At Audeo, educators literally wrap their arms around all students, including those who come to a learning center to catch up on a few credits. Every student goes through the same process, which includes testing, a conversation with parents and students about their current needs and goals, and a step-by-step plan involving just one or two subjects at a time, plus academic and social supports and career exploration and guidance. Students with disabilities go through the same assessment and planning process, but receive additional support to meet their goals.

This is not a simple online credit recovery program; the leaders of Audeo frown on that characterization. This program is more of a hybrid of several models with a special focus on the student’s future goals. Audeo prides themselves on their individualized career exploration, including community internship opportunities and career-focused learning.

The PPEP incorporates high school graduation requirements, the student’s short-term and long-term goals, learning styles, previous work, nonacademic interests, previous academic achievement, skills development, and standardized test scores. This is a living document and is reviewed and updated regularly by parents, students, and teachers—not written and then left in a drawer.

Photo courtesy of Altus Schools

Each newly enrolled student is assigned an educational specialist, called an “on demand” teacher, who is part of the student’s team developing the PPEP and guides and tracks the student’s progress. While all students can get academic help from any teacher in the service center, their on demand teacher is personally responsible for developing self-motivation and self-discipline, and inspiring them to succeed—academically as well as socially—through teamwork and community service.

The on demand teachers regularly adjust assignments to align with the goals and interests of the student and to personally take action to help them succeed. For example, if a student is late to an appointment, the on demand teacher will call the student or parents within minutes to identify and address any needs—from transportation to illness—and to teach accountability. Middle and high school students focus on the Edgenuity curriculum online, but can also sign up for small group classes, such as book discussions or science labs. Most students do the majority of their work at home with some guidance from their parents, but specialists check their progress daily.

Audeo is not the right school for every student, but its PPEP tool is the kind of program any school could use and any student would benefit from. More than an IEP—although special education students go through the same process—the PPEP is more like the child version of a professional development plan. The teachers go deep to discover what motivates the students and how they can help them reach their goals.

From taking an academic inventory with questions (“How did last year go?”, “Do you like reading?”, “What are your barriers to success?”) to more directed career inquiries, this process is far from the top-down, template-driven approach most parents of students in special education are familiar with.

Unlike many teens across the nation, students at Audeo are not just wandering through their education, picking classes at random that may have nothing to do with their future plans—passing some and failing others until they either graduate or not, prepared for their future or not. Structured academic, social, and career exploration for every student, plus careful monitoring of their progress, is an idea every high school in America should have adopted years ago.