The Norfolk (VA) Public School Board commissioned an independent study of the District’s Open Campus / Magic Johnson Bridgescape Program. The report, conducted by Old Dominion University’s Darden College of Education, and the Center for Educational Partnerships determined that “overall the program is a success.”
Below are key findings from the Formative Evaluation of the Norfolk Public Schools’ Open Campus High School Program:
- The Norfolk Public Schools’ Open Campus High School (OCHS) program is intended to assist school drop-outs and overage-for-grade students earn a regular high school diploma in an alternative setting.
- OCHS offers two half-day sessions per day, during which students primarily participate in the Magic Johnson Bridgescape program, which provides computer-mediated and small group instruction. The Norfolk program is unique among its counterparts nationally in that the Bridgescape programs in other cities do not serve overage-for-grade students.
- The program provides a caring and supportive environment for students.
- Over 90% of students reported that they like attending OCHS, respect their teachers, and believe that their teachers care about them.
- The program was clearly most successful in serving students who were fairly close to achieving graduation at the time they dropped out of school. The students were also more motivated to engage in the program as evidenced by higher lesson completion rates.
- The core program model is responsive to the needs of the students being served.
- Students were motivated to enroll in the program for a number of reasons.
- They clearly desired a regular high school diploma versus other alternatives such as a GED.
- They strongly valued being able to work at their own pace, getting 1:1 assistance from teachers, flexible scheduling, and being able to see their own progress.
- Students mentioned community-based recruitment, program publicity on local news, and family encouragement as factors that influenced their decision to enroll.
- Individualization of learning and program structure provided important and effective supports for students. Self-pacing, intensive academic support from teachers, scaffolded curricula, careful progress monitoring, and selective curricular focus were identified as effective strategies for individualizing learning.
- Helpful structural elements included flexible scheduling, a small environment, and provision of wrap-around services. Students exhibited positive self-expectations, including a strong expectation that they could indeed graduate and positive and realistic perceptions of their own progress in the program.