Program now continues through graduation
High school students and families who thrive in home-schooling and want support from a certificated teacher can continue with the program through graduation, now that REACH (Responsive Educational Alternative for Children at Home) has been extended to include all grades.
The Methow Valley School Board voted unanimously at its July meeting to continue REACH beyond eighth grade, in part based on requests from families in the program.
Last spring, every family with an eighth-grader enrolled in REACH asked that it be continued through high school — some even wrote to the board to explain the value of the program, REACH Coordinator Emily Nilson said.
Before REACH was expanded, students were weighing their options for ninth grade, looking at Liberty Bell High School, the Independent Learning Center, or home-schooling on their own, Nilson said. Families are relieved and overjoyed by the board’s support, she said.
REACH supplements home-schooling with regular check-ins with Nilson, along with access to school libraries and computer labs and opportunities to participate in field trips, assemblies and clubs. Families can be reimbursed for school materials and have access to special education and counseling services through the school, Nilson said.
Extending REACH is in sync with the district’s flexible approach to teaching and learning; collaboration between the home, school and community; high levels of student and parent engagement; and a commitment to providing unlimited pathways toward graduation and beyond, Methow Valley School District Superintendent Tom Venable said. The REACH program draws on research on successful parent-partnership programs, access to best practices, and the guidelines and laws established by the state, he said.
Last year, about 30 students were enrolled in REACH, including five eighth-graders. Some have been enrolled in REACH — or some version of home-schooling — since kindergarten, Nilson said.
REACH is different from other home-based instruction because it is public education that must meet district, state and federal expectations. All instruction must be supervised, monitored, assessed, evaluated and documented by a certificated teacher, according to the school district. REACH students are officially enrolled in school, meaning that the district receives the state allocation for those students.
Nilson helps families select a curriculum — from a list of approved curriculums — and develops an individualized learning plan that guides instruction and assessment. There are weekly check-ins with parents, who have to provide a description of what the student learned. Nilson has a more in-depth meeting with parents once a month.
Some parents know exactly what they want, while others ask for help finding the best program for their child. The approved curriculum list includes online options. Some parents choose an entirely online curriculum, while some use books or a mix, Nilson said.
The district reimburses families, as long as the curriculum is approved, secular and aligned with the state’s learning standards. Families can also get financial support for supplemental materials like art or woodworking supplies or science kits, Nilson said.
It’s often easier for parents to teach their students at the elementary level, where material isn’t as specialized. The approved curriculums set out a clear map and script and daily lessons, which makes teaching kids to read go smoothly, Nilson said. As writing and math become more complex in higher grades, Nilson may offer extra support or suggest online programs.
Nilson and other educators at the district are still figuring out the details of credits, grading and other requirements for graduation and beyond.
There are a variety of reasons that students and families choose REACH. Some parents have a passion for teaching and it’s a part of their lifestyle, Nilson said. Some appreciate the flexibility of the schedule if they have a home-based business or do a lot of traveling. In end-of-year surveys, families have not said that they chose REACH because they were dissatisfied with the public school, Nilson said.
While many students have spent their entire educational career in REACH, they can join at any time. Combining REACH with classes at the school can be a good option for junior high and high school students because of the complexity of course material and for important social interactions, Nilson said.
Families should already have received information about REACH, but people are invited to contact Nilson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (509) 996-2186.