Background: On August 26, 2014, three Illinois suburban school districts officially launched the Expanding Learning Opportunities Consortium, commonly nicknamed eLo. eLo is comprised of seven high schools and offers nine virtual courses students may enroll. In other words, you may be a student in “District A” and enroll in a virtual course taught by a teacher from “District B.” eLo’s central focus is to provide students additional learning opportunities which are personalized, meaningful, and encompass modern day technological tools. However, student instruction is not being driven by a computer or a teacher from a for-profit organization. Rather, instruction is provided by one of the district’s own highly qualified educators. Therefore, students are receiving modern-day instruction accompanied with rigorous content developed and facilitated by an eLo consortium teacher.
As one may imagine, when you combine seven high schools in a consortium, natural complexities arise.
· How may we develop processes which systematically work across three districts?
· How may one effectively communicate with key stakeholders across seven schools?
· What do we do if a student struggles in his/her online course?
· What curriculum should we offer?
· Who should facilitate this curriculum?
These are not easy questions. There are no easy answers.
Pulling out key pieces of each district’s mission statement illustrate the following:
The silos have come down in District #204, 203, and 200. As many school mission statements encompass “ever-changing world, shared responsibility, continuous learning opportunities, quality producers, etc”, the eLo districts are living proof of walking side by side with their mission statements and their students.
The special aspect of the consortium is that each district has one common goal, “to help his/her students become the best person they may be.” By breaking down the silos which commonly exist across educational institutions throughout the country, the consortium may now leverage the collective talents of their passionate teacher-leaders to better serve one another’s students.
Again, as one may imagine, when you combine seven high schools in a consortium, natural complexities will arise. This being said, when all districts share a common "what's best for kids" vision the answers to these complex questions will arrive. In fact, the answers will be so much more authentic because you are gaining the collective perspectives of leading educational professionals from not one, not two, but seven schools.
The vision, leadership, innovation, and determination of Illinois Districts 204, 203, and 200 is remarkable. As more and more post-secondary learning opportunities coupled with employee training move online, the eLo experience will help students better position themselves in our competitive society. So on behalf of the eLo consortium, I applaud these districts for their foresight, courage, and look forward to continuing to provide one another's students with rich learning opportunities.