Local High School Uses Technology, Social Media And Traditional Classroom Lessons To Give Students An Edge

For Immediate Release
Contact: Lynn Norman-Teck 305-216-6208 or l.norman-teck@floridacharterschools.org

Monroe County, FL -- Tucked away on a college campus is Key West Collegiate Academy (KWCA), a small public charter high school that’s forging an enviable academic trail. At first glance, the classrooms and students who occupy them appear to be just like any another high school in America. Notebooks are out and pencils stand at the ready, but when the lesson begins, all aspects of “just like any other school” go out the window.

“Our students are engaged on a level equal to kids in college,” explains Ms. Adri Stewart, the school’s principal. “There is the traditional class time, project-based learning - which is part of all the teachers’ lessons plan to ensure collaborative learning across all subjects school-wide and virtual learning.” This includes online courses and the use of Edmodo, a social media network that provides teachers and students a secure place to connect, collaborate, engage in exchanges and share beyond the school day. "This is one of the most unique educational tools I have seen in education,” says Gary Mochus, a KWCA parent. “It harnesses the students love of social media and focuses it into a learning experience that the kids enjoy." The site is similar to facebook in its appearance however teachers moderate use and content.

The third component that sets KWCA apart is its enriching field trip program that takes students out of the classroom and, at times, away from Key West completely. “The idea is to give our young scholars a brand new, hands-on experience,” explains Stewart who created the program. The first field trip is scheduled for October 2-3. The students will take a trip to Miami-Dade County to see the Miami History Museum’s Teen Miami exhibit – a three-year research and collections initiative on the history of teen life and culture in Miami-Dade County as well as teen life during and after World War II as part of their Social Studies coursework. They will also participate in a College Readiness seminar at Doral Academy Preparatory Charter High School and attend a Marlins game.

Hired this summer by the school’s founding board members – which include local businessman and former Montessori Elementary Charter School board chairman Todd German, Ms. Stewart has over a decade of education and counseling experience. The Miami native not only brought a new solution-focused administrative philosophy to the school – which had been mired in trouble before her arrival -- but also implemented a truly college preparatory program that challenges students to think outside the box. Technology and field experience, along with traditional classroom lessons, are part of everyday lesson plans – allowing students to learn, research and explore beyond the confines of a classroom.

KWCA also uses data-driven decision-making and weekly individual student monitoring models to track every students’ progress. Individualized counseling is used to manage a student academic experience, map out goals and monitor progress. Ms. Stewart explains why this is essential, “I worked as a counselor for many years and I’d often come across a junior or senior who wanted to apply to an Ivy League school but didn’t take the right courses or prepare throughout their high school years to qualify for admission. They didn’t have the grades or volunteer experience needed to get into those schools and at that point it was too late in their high school career to build their academic portfolio.” Part of the KWCA model is to work with students, their family and teachers to map out their high school schedule and coursework in order to reap maximum benefit and set the path for a smooth transition into higher ed. This includes Advanced Placement courses and dual enrollment - which are tuition-free college level classes offered at the school that earn the student college credits and boost their grade point average.

Using a combination of classroom lectures, virtual and Advanced Placement courses, field experience, dual enrollment and Edmodo, KWCA aims to help students make academic strides and become well-rounded college ready, college bound life-long learners. Just weeks into the school year, the program seems to be working. The students are excited about coursework and have embraced the program completely. “I’m impressed by how enthusiastically the students have jumped in to this school year, how easily they’ve adopted the program and how eager they are to learn,” says Stewart.

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Key West Collegiate Academy is a tuition-free public charter high school located on the grounds of Florida Keys Community College, 5901 College Road, Key West, Florida. On the 2011-12 state assessment exam, 82 percent of 9th grade students scored at or above proficiency in Reading, and 100 percent of the 10th grade students scored at or above proficiency in Writing.