West Virginia School District Connects Students to Virtual Classroom

May 17, 2021

McDowell County Schools, located in West Virginia, had difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified teachers and substitutes due to their remote location. Being in a poor county, many substitutes could not afford to obtain the requirements to become a certified teacher. One of their English Language Arts teaching positions had been vacant for two years. Students and parents were concerned with kids not learning the content they needed to know, the state of their grades and receiving high school credit needed to graduate.

Due to the high turnover of teachers, students were struggling with feeling belonged. The district had previously attempted implementing online classes, but found the structure to be impersonal and unbeneficial to student success. The courses would have students go online, watch videos and take tests on the content. Associate superintendent Dr. Ingrida Barker desired a more personal solution to their teacher shortage.

“It was breaking our hearts,” associate superintendent Dr. Barker said. “We had students and parents that were just so worried about the kids getting content, about their grades, and about getting the high school credit.”

When McDowell County Schools was introduced to PLI, they found an innovative opportunity to meet the needs of their students while engaging them with a better online learning experience.

“We saw that this model is more personalized because you have a teacher,” Dr. Barker said. “They use your textbook, they use your standards, and there is that face-to-face communication two or three times a week depending on what you choose.”

Students are able to do much more with PLI than just go online and take tests. They interact and build relationships with highly-qualified and certified teachers streamed live into their classrooms each day, giving them the necessary tools to foster future success.

“For our students who already struggle with feeling belonged because [of the] turnover of teachers, we put so much effort into trying to help them have a good experience with online learning,” Dr. Barker said. “Because many times they have no other option.”

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