The mission of Laurel Springs School is to “engage global learners in an education that values them as individuals, integrate their passions and pursuits into academic and career pathways, and foster inquiry, growth, mastery, purpose, and independence.”

Experience Overview

Laurel Springs School is a private, tuition-based online school for K-12 students. The school also offers The Academy at Laurel Springs, a selective, application-only program that provides high-performing students in grades 6-12 with a rigorous curriculum and specially trained teachers. Other offerings include a postgraduate program as well as single courses that students can take while attending their primary school. The school serves 5,000 full-time students across all 50 states and 110 different countries.

The school attracts students from across the United States and the world, with a focus on athletes, actors, artists, and accelerated learners – students whose schedules and needs may not align with traditional seat-time requirements. The school maintains a rolling admissions process through which students can join anytime and begin taking courses as it suits their schedule. All classes are conducted asynchronously, so students can work at their own pace and place and have ownership over their learning. There are no deadlines for completed coursework; rather, students have a period of time to finish assignments with some flexibility.

Learning In Action

Students at Laurel Springs School follow a mastery-based model in which they have multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery of a skill or competency. If they are struggling with a particular concept or assignment, students can schedule time to check in with their teacher to review it and attempt the assignment again. Because there is flexibility in pacing, students are encouraged to take the necessary time to understand the content before progressing forward. Students need to have a grade of at least 70 percent in their course before taking the final exam, allowing students to move more quickly or slowly through content.

To facilitate social connections, students can participate in grade-level “hangouts,” where they informally gather with their peers over an online video chat, or join one of the 32 virtual student clubs, ranging from photography and drama to mindfulness. Students can also connect with each other through the school’s private social network (similar to Facebook). Additionally, the school helps to facilitate regional in-person meetups for students and families that live close to each other and want to connect with their local peers.

Teaching In Action

Teachers at Laurel Springs School are given the opportunity to focus on each individual student and provide them with personalized feedback and instruction. Because their students individually progress through asynchronous courses, they do not have to teach a traditional whole-group lesson and can instead dedicate their time to one-on-one support. The school’s learning management system (LMS), Agilix Buzz, supports a mastery-based model by allowing teachers to create multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate mastery, and it maintains a dynamic system to facilitate feedback. Teachers provide authentic feedback in written, audio, and/or video formats, depending on what works best for each student.

All teachers have two office hours per day, during which they connect with students, answer questions, and help guide students through any challenges they may be facing. Teachers are responsible for staffing LSS Live, the school’s on-demand virtual help room that is kept online for 15 hours per day to support students. Teachers also spend time individually reaching out to their students through text, email, phone calls, or any other channels that work best for them. Through these unique connection points, teachers have the opportunity to work closely with their students and build a relationship with each one.

In order to become a teacher at Laurel Springs School, candidates must have a master’s degree, be certified in their state, have three-to-five years of online/blended teaching experience, and go through a rigorous interview process. They also complete school-specific training, which is conducted asynchronously through an instructional platform and led by the academic department chair.

Associated Resources

The strategies below explore some of the best practices used by Laurel Springs School, which can be replicated, adapted, and implemented across different school settings.

The following artifacts from Laurel Springs School provide illustrative examples of what their teaching and learning strategies look like in action.

Conditions for Success

  • Learning Materials & Tools: The school uses a mastery-based LMS that aligns with their self-paced asynchronous model. They offer a wide variety of classes, including Advanced Placement courses and the Minerva Baccalaureate program. They also partner with external providers, such as LanguageBird, to offer a synchronous world language curriculum.

  • Professional Development & Learning: During the interview process, teachers must demonstrate exceptional communication skills, which includes communication with families as well as students. Teachers complete school-specific training, which is conducted asynchronously through the instructional platform and led by the academic department chair.

  • Student Support Programming: The school offers a variety of virtual student clubs and grade-level “hangouts” which allow students to socially interact with each other through an online platform.

  • Community & Culture: The school facilitates connections between staff, families, and students by providing multiple touchpoints for each stakeholder group to interact and build relationships. These include a private social network, an online family connection group, teacher office hours, and regional in-person meetups.

  • Communications: Teachers are expected to be in contact with their students and families on an ongoing basis and can use multiple platforms (e.g., email, text, phone calls) to ensure they are able to connect with students often.

  • Time: Because all the courses at the school are completely asynchronous, students have the flexibility to determine the time, pace, and place for their coursework. There are also no deadlines for completed coursework; rather, students have a period of time to finish assignments with some flexibility.

  • Visioning: Laurel Springs School was one of the first online schools and was established in 1994. The original founder had the vision to create a virtual school around a time of rapid growth of the internet, and they built their own LMS and student information system in their early years.

  • Change Management: The school rapidly grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, and due to the engaging and rigorous nature of the program, many of the newly enrolled students chose to stay in the school beyond pandemic-induced school closures. The school continued to iterate by renaming and growing their advanced learner program, partnering with numerous school systems and districts, and expanding their course offerings to students and families.

Other Key Highlights

Laurel Springs prioritizes connecting with families, as well as their students. Staff members created Community Connections, a monthly event held virtually on Zoom designed to help families meet each other and connect regularly. They also partner with parent and student ambassadors to help spread information about the school among the community.

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