LEAD & MANAGE MY SCHOOL
Innovations in Education: Connecting Students to Advanced Courses Online
December 2007
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John Hopkins University—Center for Talented Youth

Baltimore, Md.


School Profile: Selected Variables a

Year Initiated 1994
Initiator JHU-CTY
Types of Courses Offered APb
Acceleratedc
Honors
Number of Courses Currently Offered 60
Total Enrollments Since Inception 53,000

a These data are reported by the school and are for the school year 2006–07.
b Advanced Placement
c An accelerated course compresses the content that normally would be covered in a longer course into a shorter timeframe.

Focusing on the acceleration and enrichment of student learning, the nonprofit Johns Hopkins University—Center for Talented Youth (CTY) works with high-ability students in elementary, middle, and high school, both domestically and internationally. In addition to offering challenging supplemental course work to youths who have been identified as talented through testing or other means, CTY also conducts an annual talent search to further identify talented youths, organizes community outreach events to engage low-income students and families, and researches academic attainment among high-ability students.

CTY offers courses to students in grades K–12 and has enrollments that exceed 8,000 per year by students in more than 50 countries. To qualify for CTY distance learning and summer programs, students must score high for their grade level on academic aptitude exams; for example, seventh-grade students who take the SAT or American College Test (ACT) and score relatively high for their grade level would qualify for CTY admission consideration. When identifying students as gifted, CTY especially values reasoning abilities and reading skills. CTY is accredited for grades 5 through 12 by the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, which eases the credit-transfer process.

Online courses are available year-round in either individually paced or session-based formats, the latter meaning that a course has a start and end date with established due dates for assignments. Courses in mathematics, computer science, and science (below the AP level) use the flexible, individually paced format, which allows students to progress at a pace that matches their abilities, as well as their schedules and time constraints. Students can start the course at any time and enroll in it for three, six, or nine months. A student who completes the course more quickly than the time purchased can enroll in a new course at no additional charge. A student who does not complete the course in the time purchased can buy additional time. While these individually paced courses are usually asynchronous, meaning that students and instructor are not required to be online at the same time, communicating in real time, the instructors hold interactive whiteboard sessions during which they review material and students can collaborate with one another.

CTY"s session-based courses are offered in the fall, spring, and summer, and their length varies by course. Writing, language arts, foreign language courses, and AP courses (except AP calculus) are offered in sessions. Because students enrolled in these courses participate on the same general schedule, they tend to have more interaction with each other, such as in workshops and online group activities, than do students in individually paced courses.

Student Recruitment and Enrollment

CTY recruitment, in verbal, written, and Web-based forms, emphasizes enrichment and acceleration opportunities for students who are highly able academically. Using direct mail, targeted recruiting in urban areas, and communication through school districts and community- and faith-based organizations, staff seek out gifted students. In most major urban areas, a CTY regional staff member coordinates outreach and gives presentations in schools and in other settings to parents. In 1998, CTY received funding from Goldman Sachs to create a minority outreach program that has since helped boost minority enrollment from 3 to 14 percent.

Qualified students can enroll in CTY courses using either a paper or an online application. Once a student signs up for a class, CTY mails required course materials within 12 days. Most courses are graded, though writing students receive a detailed evaluation of their progress in lieu of grades. (Writing students may request a grade, if required for credit or course placement decisions at their high school or college.) For students seeking credit or placement in their schools, CTY provides detailed course descriptions, including scope and sequence, along with grades and interim reports to school officials.

Course Offerings

CTY currently offers courses, some of which are AP, in mathematics, science, computer science, language arts, writing, and Chinese, and more courses are under development. In addition to accelerated and honors mathematics classes that extend from pre-primary math through multivariable calculus, CTY offers a variety of mathematics enrichment courses, such as cryptography and a math-oriented introduction to astronomy. Science courses are offered at the middle school, high school, and AP levels. CTY"s language arts and writing courses focus on essay writing, critical reading, advanced topics in writing, and language rules. Chinese language courses are offered for grades 2 and up, using interactive multimedia software and online classrooms with video and audio capacities. Finally, CTY also has developed a six-disc problem-solving software package called Descartes" Cove Math Series that can be purchased by students for individual learning or licensed by schools for math enrichment. Students advance through a cove, or bay, by completing adventures (i.e., solving complex word problems) that align with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics" standards for grades 6–8.

AP classes are a recent addition to the CTY course catalog, and in the 2005–06 school year, 200 students took advantage of this option. Except for calculus, the provider"s eight AP courses can be taken either over an intensive summer session or as one-year courses starting in the fall. Students can, but are not required to, take the AP exam. As of this writing, all CTY AP courses have been approved by the College Board.

Instruction, Mentoring, and Support

CTY instructors are teachers with content and online expertise who have at least a bachelor"s degree and may or may not be K–12 certified teachers. Most instructors hold advanced degrees, including a Ph.D. Many of the AP course instructors are college professors who teach part time for CTY, which enhances the intellectual vitality and college-like experience of these courses. Some writing instructors are published authors, also teaching part time for CTY. Instructional supervisors each support and monitor about 10 teachers.

When designing courses, CTY first determines the learning goals of a course and then builds the course accordingly. Frequent assessments along with regular online interaction with faculty are critical components of CTY courses. Writing courses build in peer review to complement instructor feedback. CTY instructors interact with students through e-mail, telephone, online classes, progress reports, and an interactive Web-based whiteboard. Students receive both mid-term progress reports and end-of-course evaluations from their teachers.

All students require a computer and Internet access to take CTY courses, and some courses, Chinese, for example, require broadband access and a microphone. Technical requirements are listed on the CTY Web site under each course. Instructors use a variety of course materials, typically incorporating multimedia presentations, Web-based content, text materials, audio materials, and interactive exercises. Many courses also offer students a discussion board to facilitate interaction between geographically dispersed students. Students obtain technical support through their instructors and through CTY"s technical support team.

Funding

CTY courses are funded by student and school tuition, along with various grants and donations for course development and scholarships. Many schools pay the tuition for CTY distance courses in order to expand options for their highly able students, and CTY accepts purchase orders. In other cases, parents provide all or part of the tuition. Need-based financial aid also is available for families.


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Last Modified: 10/05/2009