students looking at a model on the computer

      CIS HOSA team members Matthew Gonzalez, Eva Hakobyan, Isaiah Nemorebeltran and Sadie Morales viewing 3D Anatomy (File Photo – Scott Phelps)

      Pasadena Unified’s Center for Independent Studies (CIS) utilizes an online curriculum system which records the time students spend and the scores the students earn on each assignment. The more time students put into their academic studies, the more progress they make in school.

      By Scott Phelps

      This is not the same thing as putting in more time in after school learning activities that complement the students’ formal school classes. It is time spent on the academic courses to complete the course assignments and succeed on the course exams through learning the concepts for mastery.

      Developing student responsibility

      Being able to record the students’ time spent on the curricula makes it possible to show this clear relationship to the student and parent. The result is parents do less blaming of the teacher and the school for any lack of progress. This is a very big plus as teachers know that the internal motivation of the student is the most important factor in the student’s success, so emphasizing the responsibility of the student for learning is very helpful to the goal of getting students to complete the curricula. This is further emphasized by the fact that students can do their work at any time of the day or night, depending on their motivation and responsibility. I would advocate that all schools should offer more independent study precisely because of these aspects. Simply put, developing personal responsibility is critical for successful adulthood.

      CIS, Fall 2023 course data

      (CIS, Fall 2023 course data)

      A wide variety of student progress

      Each student has a unique pace of work and completion of courses. As mentor teachers, we experience this deeply as we set weekly and monthly goals for the student, monitor the student’s progress, coach and tutor the student through in-person sessions, video meetings, email, etc. Each student is given individual attention based on the student’s situation. Accelerated progress can come during any year of high school. The highest number of courses completed by one of my students during the fall of 2023, fourteen, was by a Latino senior from a single parent household who came to us in August substantially behind in credits. His Mom and him are committed to him graduating so he put in 345 hours on those courses and others still in progress. The second highest total, eleven courses completed, was earned by an outstanding African-American sophomore who put in 349 hours and is now well into his second semester junior courses.

      I had a 5th year senior this past fall who came to CIS in the middle of the spring semester of his senior year. Because he was so far behind, he and his godmother understood that he wasn’t going to graduate on time. He still wanted to complete his high school education, and CIS was able to keep him for another term. He enrolled in our summer program and continued into the fall, graduating in December.

      This year I have some seniors that came to us so far behind that it will be very unlikely that they finish all their requirements by the end of this current spring semester. Conversely, I have several seniors that are on track to finish this semester and graduate on time. I also have four senior students who finished their graduation requirements during this past fall semester, three of whom will take only PCC courses this spring. I have junior and sophomore students who are far ahead, on track and behind normal progress towards completing their high school requirements within four years. A colleague of mine has a junior who is so far along that she has already been accepted to an out-of-state four-year college. Just recently, a profoundly gifted (IQ over 150) ten-year old student has enrolled at CIS because of the flexibility we offer while he pursues his very unique and personalized education which includes PUSD’s Math Academy at another school.

      More flexibility in how fast courses are completed

      Besides the obvious ability to complete courses at a faster than normal pace, students can complete courses over multiple terms at CIS if it takes them longer to do some subjects. The online system saves the student’s progress and the student just picks up where they left off. In regular school, there are more negative consequences for falling behind that can include a failing grade at the end of the semester and loss of work done in that course, and the difficulty in repeating the course in one’s schedule the following semester or school year.

      Part 1: In Depth: Increasing Students’ Time Spent on Learning.

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      1. Maria Chavez Gonzalez says:

        loved the program, my children are independent learners, the academy offers flexibility and students learn about time management. The academy has excellent educators that really care and take their time to learn about the individual student needs and academic struggles. Students self-steam is busted and students become more confident.

      2. Birgit Haas says:

        A great local option for everybody interested in homeschooling (any age).

      3. Adriane Boat says:

        My nephew graduated through CIS after having a difficult time finding his best learning environment. CIS was what he needed to graduate. The best thing about PUSD is every student no matter their style of learning can find a place to land..

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