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Pearson's Virtual School Operator Opening Physical High Schools

Education publishing and technology company Pearson will be opening physical versions of its virtual schools in five cities starting in August 2012. Connections Education, a business Pearson acquired in September 2011, has announced plans to create Nexus Academy charter schools in three cities in Ohio and two cities in Michigan, catering to grades 9 through 12. Up to now, Connections Ed has focused on providing virtual school options for traditional school districts and other education entities.

The new schools will be tuition-free and open enrollment public high schools, limited to serving between 250 and 300 students. Those who attend will be on either a morning or afternoon schedule. Classes will consist of interaction with teachers both on-site and online. The company said "success coaches" will help students as they work through online curriculum. Students will be provided with mobile computers and other forms of technology and encouraged to work outside of school walls and traditional school hours.

The focus will be on college preparation. Students will be able to take core courses in math, science, social studies, and English as well as advanced placement and honors classes. They'll also be able to study foreign languages, including Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, Latin, and sign language. Electives will include digital arts, entrepreneurship, engineering design, marine science, and game design. The schools will also offer clubs for digital storytelling, debate, chess, yearbook, and environmental interests.

Curriculum will come from Pearson as well as McGraw-Hill, the companies said in a statement. Participants will also use proprietary instructional tools and resources developed by Connections Ed. Students will work with certified teachers who are trained in the area of online learning and will have access to guidance counselors to help with college and career decision-making. Students will access online courses through Pearson product Connexus, which combines the functionality of learning management, content management, and student information systems.

The physical campuses, according to Connections Ed, will include "team" areas with casual seating for team and individual studying, seminar-style classrooms where students will meet with teachers in small groups, science and art labs, a café, and a fitness center outfitted with gym equipment and personal trainers.

Each school will have a school board and will be authorized through charter school organizations in each state.

"Today's teens grew up with computers, cell phones, and social networks. Nexus Academy schools combine the best of online and onsite learning--personalizing and empowering--for an option that will be very well received," predicted Tom VanderArk, author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World and member of the board for iNACOL, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

"Nexus Academy schools are going to provide a unique, engaging, and high-quality public school experience that prepares students for success beyond high school in a truly intimate and personalized way," said Mickey Revenaugh, co-founder of Connections Education and executive vice president for Connections Learning. "I expect Nexus Academy schools will appeal to a wide range of students--from those who are ready to accelerate through high school to those who are looking for a more flexible and efficient academic setting that allows them time to pursue career, artistic, or athletic interests."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.