In the fall of 2015, Belle Fourche High School started a Mass Customized Learning pilot program with sophomores that showed interest in the opportunity to learn independently.
In the program students are exposed to carefully developed curriculum in English, math, science and social sciences, which allows them to work at their own pace. Though MCL students still have a traditional schedule, they are allowed much more flexibility from their teachers on the time they devote to each class.
“My staff has devoted a lot of time in the summer and on weekends developing rigorous curriculum for these students,” Belle Fourche High School Principal Mathew Raba said, adding that the program is well received by students, parents, and staff.
Customized learning is designed to meet students at their current ability level, and allow them to have more voice and choice with their assignments and time.
Students strong in a particular content area get the chance to work ahead, or dedicate more of their time to a content in which they are not as strong. The learning is mastery based and students do not move on to the next standard, unit or concept until they prove to their teacher they understand and can apply the material.
“Our hope is that by allowing students to work independently and potentially get ahead in school, they will have more opportunities late in their high school career to take dual credit post-secondary courses,” Raba said.
“They will also have career-based internship opportunities or may choose to dedicate their time to career skills such as welding and carpentry.”
The Belle Fourche Independent Learning Academy (BFILA) began with 14 excited students and four enthusiastic teachers in the fall of 2015.
Now in its second year, BFILA includes 38 students (sophomores and juniors) and eight teachers. The BFILA will bring in another group of sophomores in the fall of 2017 and may look to expand to freshman in the fall of 2018.
“Though it has been a lot of work, they enjoy the unique relationship they’ve formed with their students in helping reach their goals,” Raba said.