2014 Apex Learning Award of Excellence Recipients

2014 Apex Learning Award of Excellence Recipients

Award of Excellence logoCongratulations to the recipients of the 2014 Apex Learning Award of Excellence. The districts and schools honored foster and demonstrate extraordinary vision and dedication to increasing student achievement through blended and virtual learning.


  • Catoosa Online Academy, Catoosa County Public Schools, GA
  • Denver Public Schools, CO
  • Ecorse Public Schools, MI
  • EVSC Virtual Academy, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, IN
  • Hartford Public Schools, CT
  • Mat-Su iTech, Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District 

2014 Recipients

District: Catoosa County Public Schools 
Location: Ringgold, GA
Setting:  Suburban
School: Catoosa Online Academy
Environment: Virtual Learning
Program Type: Initial Credit, Credit Recovery
Size of School/Program: 100 Students
Grades: 9-12 

Success: The Catoosa Online Academy (COA) has demonstrated success in increasing student achievement. In its first year, students experienced a passing rate of 75 percent on state end-of-course exams. Based on the success students are experiencing with blended and virtual learning, enrollment has doubled from the first semester to the second semester.

Goals: COA strives to expand offerings to high school students who are seeking alternatives to their traditional high school or who need a flexible schedule to stay in school. Furthermore, COA is focused on bringing students back who have opted for virtual learning opportunities elsewhere.

Background: COA is designed to provide every student with options for learning. It opened during the fall of 2013 as an extension of the county’s four high schools and is designed for students seeking the flexibility to complete course work online in the traditional school setting or off-site. The academy blends online learning with face-to-face teacher support in order to improve academic performance and graduation rates. A rigorous curriculum coupled with dedicated COA teachers, who are available on-site to support students at least three days per week, ensures student success. 


District: Denver Public Schools
Location: Denver, CO
Setting: Urban
School: District-wide
Environment: Blended Learning
Program Type: Advanced Placement, credit recovery, initial credit, unit recovery
Size of Program: 3,400 students
Grades: 7-12


Success: Denver Public Schools (DPS) is experiencing strong, steady improvement in its dropout rate and four-year “on-time” graduation rate. Data released by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) shows:

  • The district’s dropout rate continues to fall, dropping to 5.0 percent, a more than 50 percent decline compared to the 11.1 percent dropout rate in 2005–2006.
  • DPS’s four-year graduation rate improved by 2.5 percentage points in 2012–2013 compared to the previous year, rising to 61.3 percent. The graduation rate has increased 22.6 percentage points since 2006-2007 school year.
  • The five-year graduation rate for DPS rose 3.5 percentage points compared to the previous year, bringing the 2012–2013 rate to 65.4 percent.

Goals: DPS is seeking to provide students with a learning experience tailored to their individual learning needs. By providing students with personalized learning, the district aims to increase the on-time graduation rate while simultaneously decreasing the dropout rate.

Background: DPS recognizes both the benefits blended learning has in meeting the needs of a diverse student body and the impact it has on increasing student achievement. Beginning in the 2009–2010 school year, DPS implemented blended learning primarily to support credit recovery students. The district’s initiative has expanded to include:

  • Augmented instruction in traditional classrooms, including Advanced Placement
  • Credit recovery 
  • Original credit opportunities for students who transfer from another school late in the term
  • Intervention through unit recovery
  • AP exam preparation
  • GED preparation
  • Middle school intervention

District: Ecorse Public Schools
Location: Ecorse, MI (suburb of Detroit)
Setting: Urban
School: Ecorse Community High School and Hope Academy
Environment: Blended Learning
Program: Promoting Student Success
Size of School: 300
Grades: 8-12

Success: Through the combination of personalized, focused instruction and an increased collaboration between educators and parents, students are more engaged and actively participating in their learning. While the program is at an early stage, the school is seeing a decrease in tardiness and an increase in course completions.

Goals: Through the Promoting Student Success program, administrators are focused on increasing the on-time graduation rate and performance on state end-of-course assessment scores. Furthermore, they are actively building a parent organization to increase parental engagement in the school community. 

Background: Promoting Student Success is a school-wide initiative designed to support students seeking to recover credits and graduate on time. To help students achieve this goal, program administrators are focused on ensuring students have access to rigorous, standards-based instruction personalized to their specific instructional needs. Administrators are also focused on increasing student achievement through the use of real-time student achievement data and engaging parents and the community in student learning. 


District: Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation
Location: Evansville, IN
Setting: Urban
School: EVSC Virtual Academy
Environment: Blended and Virtual Learning
Program Type: Original credit, credit recovery, Advanced Placement
Size of School: 150 students
Grades: 7-12

Success: In the past year the virtual academy saw a 3 percent increase in the graduation rate, with administrators expecting similar results this year.  To understand the impact digital curriculum has on student achievement, EVSC participated in an independent study to evaluate student performance on end-of-course assessment. The study demonstrates that the learning gains increased on the ISTEP+ECA for students using Apex Learning Comprehensive Courses for credit recovery and original credit. Read the more about the study

Goals: EVSC Virtual Academy is committed to providing students with online instruction that differentiates learning while working to eliminate socioeconomic and logistical barriers to quality education. Communication between teachers and students is an important key to success, with teachers engaging regularly with their students to support and inspire their learning.

Background: Since its inception in 2010, EVSC Virtual Academy has quickly grown to become a state and national model for virtual education. Originally, the goal of EVSC Virtual Academy was to help students earn additional credits needed to graduate or help students recover credits. Today, the academy has grown, offering not only credit recovery but also original credit, as well as honors, Advanced Placement, and NCAA-eligible courses.  

District: Hartford Public Schools
Location: Hartford, CT
Setting: Urban
Environment: Blended Learning
Program: Choosing to Succeed High School Graduation Initiative Project
Program Type: Credit recovery, original credit
Size of Program: 570 students
Grades: 9-12

Success: Choosing to Succeed High School Graduation Initiative has proven to be a highly successful program for Hartford Public Schools. In 2013, 80.4 percent of the seniors participating in the program earned the credits needed to graduate. Without this program, the majority of the seniors in the program would not have graduated. In total, students in the program completed 560 courses required for high school graduation.  

Goals: By reengaging students in learning, administrators at Hartford Public Schools look to decrease dropout rates and increase graduation rates.

Background: The Choosing to Succeed High School Graduation Initiative was started by Hartford Public Schools in order to ensure every student, regardless of his or her level of academic readiness, has the opportunity to be successful. The Student Success Center provides off-track and returning dropout students with individualized support and academic instruction to help them reengage in learning and get on track to graduate. To ensure success, classrooms have no more than 15 students. These classrooms are designed to be a smaller learning environment where students have the opportunity to work one-on-one with their teachers.

District: Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District (Mat-Su), AK
Location: Palmer, AK
Setting: Urban, suburban, rural
Program: Mat-Su iTech
Environment: Blended and Virtual Learning
Program Type: Original credit, credit recovery, Advanced Placement, non-credit support
Size of School: 1,200 students
Grades: 8-12

Success: In its second year of implementation,
Mat-Su iTech has built a high level of success — the program has received recognition from the district and state level for its ability to provide students with access to high-quality educational curriculum that transcends geographic barriers. Since the start of the 2012–2013 school year, Mat-Su iTech students have completed more than 1,000 courses through their blended and virtual learning programs, including Advanced Placement and foreign language courses previously unavailable to Mat-Su students. 

Goals: By providing students with access to rigorous, standards based instruction while eliminating the logistical barriers to quality education, administrators in Mat-Su iTech work to increase the graduation rate, provide academic options to students unable to attend school, expand course offerings, and provide teachers with additional resources to support student learning.

Background: Administrators at Matanuska-Susitna Borough School, a district the geographic size of West Virginia, created Mat-Su iTech to offer course flexibility and expand choices for students. Students across the district enroll in Mat-Su iTech online courses as part of their regular school schedule. Because the courses are offered online either at their school site or from home, students in rural locations have the same educational opportunities as the district’s urban and suburban students. The rich curriculum affords students the option for credit recovery, course enhancement, or program acceleration.