College Achieve Asbury Welcomes Students with Five Hours of Real-Time Online Learning Each Day

The school provides every student with a laptop and wi-fi hotspot to ensure participation.

Asbury Park, NJ—College Achieve Asbury welcomed back students last Tuesday with a virtual academy that will provide them with five hours of live or synchronous instruction five days a week. This fully remote experience for the school’s 400 kindergarten through ninth grade students is markedly different than those of their peers across the state—and even the nation. While nearly a quarter of the nation’s schools will rely on remote instruction, synchronous instruction will be limited in most cases to just one or two hours per day, according to the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

In preparation for the launch of this ambitious re-opening plan, College Achieve Asbury provided students with laptops and wi-fi hotspots to ensure their participation in online learning. It’s estimated 230,000 children across New Jersey lack either computers or internet access, according to state officials.

“Our quick response in the spring gave us a head start on most school districts in New Jersey, and we continue to lead the way by trying our best to replicate an actual school day on campus as much as possible,” Says Jodi McInerney, Executive Director and Principal of College Achieve Asbury.“Many of our students come to our schools grade levels behind, but we’ve been closing that gap consistently over the past few years, and losing any ground now is simply not an option.”

College Achieve Asbury boasted record attendance in the spring, with at least 93 percent of students logging in to class every day. School officials plan to be vigilant with attendance, and if a student does not attend class and the school can’t reach a parent or guardian, a representative from the school visits the home in person that same day to follow up.

COVID-19-related school closures could have significant negative effects on students’ academic growth, researchers warn. According to an analysis from McKinsey & Company, the average student could fall seven months behind academically, while Black and Hispanic students could experience even greater learning losses, equivalent to 10 months for black children and nine months for Latinos, according to the consulting group. The majority of students at College Achieve Asbury are African-American, and nearly a quarter are Hispanic. Over 90% qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program (FRLP) and over 20% have Special Needs. Twenty-two percent are English Language Learners.

College Achieve Asbury’s school leaders say that maximizing synchronous online instruction is core to their plan to keep their community safe and on an upward academic trajectory. Students and teachers will interact in real time, helping them avoid miscommunication, identify gaps in understanding and reinforce feelings of community and connectedness.

According to New Jersey’s ESSA rankings—created in compliance with the federal Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA)—College Achieve Asbury has been on the upswing academically before the pandemic, having jumped 400 places in the state’s school rankings. The report noted that College Achieve Asbury’s improvement in 7th grade math scores ranked it in the 90th percentile of all schools in the state.

“Throughout this crisis, we have remained focused on our core learning standards, keeping our scholars’ curiosity and engagement high, and maintaining rigorous assessment despite the change in circumstance,” Mike Piscal, the school’s founder and the CEO of College Achieve Public Schools (CAPS) network, said. “We know there’s a lot riding on what we do for our students throughout the campus closures and we’re not going to let our students down. No matter where or how we deliver the instruction, we are going to provide our scholars with a top-notch education and never let them forget we care about them and miss them.”

College Achieve Asbury is still enrolling K-9 students for the 2020-21 school year.

College Achieve Public Schools (CAPS) is a network of K-12 schools in Paterson, Plainfield, Asbury Park and Neptune Township that was created to serve youth who have enormous potential but limited resources. Its mission is to prepare all students to excel in and graduate from the top colleges and universities in the nation.