We started Vertus High School in 2014-5 as a blended school. Over time, we have tinkered with the amount of time students spend online, ultimately landing on 80-minute lab periods. We additionally started off thinking that we could have STEM labs and humanities labs, where students would work on the same subject at the same time, with a teacher certified in that subject circulating to provide support. We found that this did not work for our students, many of whom arrive at Vertus behind grade level and disengaged from traditional learning. If a student is frustrated by a particular subject, we encourage that student to focus on the subjects that excite him and to achieve those credits first. In the future, we plan to return to experimenting with subject labs. We are proud of the development of our school culture over the past few years; older students serve as role models for younger students, who acclimate increasingly quickly to self-directed learning. We believe that a subject-specific lab arrangement is possible in the future, and that it will provide students with valuable support.
Most of our blended learning curriculum is assessed with multiple-choice questions. We have worked to monitor our system very closely to make sure that students aren’t gaming their way to the right answer. Additionally, we have had some difficulty scaffolding independent writing. Online writing tasks are particularly challenging for students, and we have transitioned to completing writing tasks in face-to-face classroom settings, rather than online in the Lab.
Be prepared to watch the data and adapt to what you observe. What you think is going to happen will probably not happen. You have to be willing to iterate in response to the data.
We are doing something that hardly anyone is doing; what is so different about our school is that it is built on relationships. Every student has a school-based adult who serves as a mentor and role model. Nearly eight-five percent of our students are young men of color, and almost all of our Preceptors are men of color. The responsibility for a student’s success lies on both the student and the Preceptor. Preceptors’ work extends beyond the four walls of the classroom to encompass students’ emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. These strong relationships are essential to our success as a school.
Vertus High School is a public charter high school for young men living in Rochester, NY and the surrounding communities. Students' educational experiences are structured around four pillars: strong relationships, personalized, year-round academics, character education, and career preparation. Vertus provides personalized support and consistent high expectations for young men, a majority of whom identify as low-income and of color, to ensure each student's academic success and character growth.
Vertus High School
21 Humboldt Street
Rochester, New York