Press Release, 7/7/2021 | Download
VIRTUAL SCHOOL RANKS FIRST IN STATE
Gem Prep: Online (GPO) students ranked highest in the state on the 2021 Spring Idaho Reading Indicator, outperforming the state average by 30 percentage points. In a year that saw declines in education success across our state and nation, these virtual students thrived.
95% of Gem Prep: Online students (grades K-3) scored at or above grade level compared to the Idaho average of 65%. Studies link 3rd grade reading proficiency with high school graduation rates, noting the impact on student future successes related closely to their reading proficiency in the elementary grades.
“Beginning in 4th grade, students are ‘reading to learn, not learning to read,’ and it is critical they enter this grade ready to use their reading skill to expand their knowledge. If a student cannot read at grade level by this transitional grade, they can lose ground quickly,” commented Tera Reeves, Gem Prep: Online College Access Director, “and are at greater risk of dropping out of school altogether.”
A Casey Foundation report noted that “one in six children who do not read proficiently by the end of their third grade year, typically fail to graduate from high school.” With just over 65% of Idaho’s K-3 students reading on grade level this spring, that leaves about 30,000 students who remain behind.
“Our school’s focus is on college preparation. And, that has to begin in the early years with mastery building in reading and math so that students are able to progress and succeed in the academic rigor of their middle and high school years,” noted Reeves.
Gem Prep: Online, the statewide virtual school, was established in rural Deary, Idaho, in 2004, to offer a high-quality education option for families who desired to school from home. The school reported that not only did their elementary students excel through this unprecedented pandemic year, but their secondary students did, as well. Reeves added, “For the past five years, our students have outperformed both the state and national averages on the college entrance exam, SAT.”
GPO’s class of 2021 saw 91% of seniors graduating with dual college credit; having completed an average of 27 college credits each. Gem Prep: Online students graduate high school having developed college-necessary competencies like self-motivation and self-discipline along with their AA degree. Through state allotted Advanced Opportunities funds combined with supplementary schools funds, the school enables students to complete their dual college credits tuition-free. Reeves noted that 2021 graduates saved an average of $8,700 on college tuition while in high school.
Reeves added, “It’s more than just the academic rigor of the classes they take and the fact that they can earn their AA. Beginning in kindergarten, our focus is balanced between academics and competencies; building that whole package. Growing and preparing the whole child.”
“We set out to solve the problem of college readiness. We believe that school ‘walls’ should not define or confine the eager student. We have purposefully pivoted from catering to what has traditionally been easiest for the school side of things (staffing, schedules, etc.) and shifted to identifying and providing the opportunities that enable kids to take hold of their dreams. ”