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How 'blended learning' has transformed a Newman high school

Orestimba High School has now become a model school in the nation for "blended learning," combining a mix of traditional classroom teaching with online courses.

NEWMAN, Calif. — A high school in Newman is being honored for its innovative work when it comes to "blended learning."

Combining a mixture of traditional classroom teaching and online classes Orestimba High School is now helping more students graduate than ever before.

"I was too afraid to ask teachers for help, for tutoring, I felt like I was a bother to them," Starlina Galindez, a senior at Orestimba High School said.

Things haven't always been easy for Galindez, who moved to the school during her sophomore year.

"I had a hard time adjusting from different schools, my depression also got impacted, between moving schools and having to adjust to new people and new teachers," she said.

She ended up failing both history and English during her sophomore year.

But the school gave her a second chance, this time, partially online.

"We can start assigning them one class at a time in addition to their school work and they get caught up," Justin Pruett, the Principal at Orestimba High School said.

Pruett says his school spent eight years working towards avoiding a state takeover.

"We're close to 70 percent free and reduced lunch which means our students don't come from a financially stable background," he said. "So they have some issues at home, some of their families are in survival mode."

In the past three years, they've switched over to something called 'blended learning,' a mix of traditional teaching in the classroom with online classes through a program called FuelEd.

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"There's no longer the boundaries of the school walls anymore," Pruett said.

This program is credited with helping more students graduate than ever before, Orestimba High School now maintains a 100 percent graduation rate.

"It helped me a lot because at first, I was struggling a lot through high school and I didn't know if I was going to get my credits or not," Orlando Gonzalez, a senior at Orestimba High School said. "And then with this course, it helped me get my credits and now I'm on course for graduation." 

Yes, students have the chance to do credit recovery at their own pace through online classes, but they're also given the option to take classes online not offered at this school.

"You can take just about any course available to any student anywhere and the students are able to log in, go through their readings, go through their assignments, and then they have a teacher checking their work and they're able to give them feedback and again, they're able to pace themselves," Pruett said.

Orestimba, now a model school in the nation for 'blended learning,' receiving the 'Transformational Award' from FuelEd. Principal Pruett will get to make a trip to D.C. to present how it's working in front of 5,000 other educators this summer.

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