When Amaya Lane gets to her Chemistry class at Duncanville High School, the first thing she does is log onto the computer. That’s where her teacher, Cynthia Ivey, will provide the day’s lesson all the way from Charleston, South Carolina.
“I like her. She’s a good teacher,” Amaya says. “She knows how to explain things and makes the learning fun.”
Duncanville ISD is piloting a program to offer online instruction for classrooms that have in the past been led by long-term substitutes. It’s a high tech solution to what has become a nationwide issue – an ongoing teacher shortage.
According to federal data, the number of student candidates enrolled in teacher training programs fell by more than 35 percent between 2009 and 2014. Districts like Duncanville are being forced to come up with creative ways to ensure students are still able to take the classes they need and want.
Duncanville High School began the 2017 school year without full-time teachers in a couple of core subjects – despite an aggressive recruitment campaign that included an increase in starting teacher salaries.
In November, more than 700 Duncanville High School students began taking online classes online through a company called Proximity Learning.
“It is important to have a certified teacher provide engaging instruction to our students,” said DHS Principal Tia Simmons. “I am also excited about the opportunity to bring this level of technology into the classroom.”
Teachers employed by Proximity Learning are certified in the state of Texas and customize their lesson plans to the students in their classes at DHS. A liaison, trained by the company and paid by the school district, is present in every classroom to facilitate.
“Our facilitator focuses on students that are off-task, which allows our Proximity instructor to focus on teaching,” said Geometry student Roxana De Le Rosa.
In this pilot program at DHS, students are taking Chemistry, Geometry and English III.
Teachers employed by Proximity Learning are available for student questions and for parent conference dates and times.
“If I miss class or need more help I am able to review the recorded videos from previous lessons while I am at home,” De Le Rosa said.
Proximity Learning boasts a 93 percent passing rate for its courses. If students at Duncanville ISD perform well with online learning, the pilot program could expand to more classes until the number of teachers increases.