The ‘New’ Future Of Education — California Business JournalTraditional education, with one teacher and up to 30 kids in a classroom, takes the approach that education is one size that fits all. Not at Futures Academy, which challenges that notion and instead proves the value of one-to-one teaching with the flexibility of either in-person or online learning.
Futures Academy personalizes education for grades 6–12 with a wide variety of educational opportunities, including the option to attend either full-time or part-time. Either way, a robust course roster includes many college prep, honors and AP courses to meet each student’s academic goals. The cost of tuition varies depending on the student’s needs. Students can attend in-person, online, or in a hybrid format where, in any case, they learn 1:1, face-to-face with their teacher in each class.
“With one-to-one instruction, teachers can truly differentiate learning for each student,” says Sagui Doering, Futures Academy Head of School at Aliso Viejo. “We work with children at every level, interest, style, and pacing. Students aren’t compared to others in what or how they learn.”
California has more than six million public K to 12 students. Of those students, approximately 800,000 are in Special Education. In a traditional public-school setting, only students with physical, cognitive, or learning disabilities qualify for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and to receive one-to-one instruction. Left out are those students who do not qualify for an IEP, but need individual attention, a flexible schedule, or a smaller campus size in order to reach their full potential.
For students who are easily distracted in a large classroom setting, the one-to-one teaching helps them stay focused. Students who are not confident socially and have a hard time fitting in often find the smaller campus easier to navigate and a place they feel they belong.
“This type of learning environment can fit any child,” Ms. Doering says. “We reach students where they are and help them get where they want to go. We help our students develop critical thinking, teach them how to apply skillset and knowledge, and encourage them to become independent thinkers.”
Student athletes and actors who have a busy schedule outside of the classroom are able to excel with the option for online learning when they cannot be at school physically. For those students who want to be challenged, teachers can customize lesson plans and encourage them to take more advanced classes to prepare for college.
Futures Academy campuses are located in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay Area. The number of students attending is typically much smaller than traditional school campuses, which can be less intimidating. For example, the Futures Academy Aliso Viejo campus has about 63 students, whereas nearby Aliso Niguel High School has roughly 3,000 students.
Most students improve grades and raise test scores at Futures Academy because individualized instruction also focuses on improving study and time management skills. “Students are given the tools they need to pursue academic success,” Ms. Doering. “Through getting to know their students, our teachers strive to instill confidence, build character, and encourage a lifelong love of learning.”
Teacher-student relationships are enhanced through one-to-one teaching as it enables teachers to identify and discover student’s strengths in key subject areas, notice when a child is struggling with material, foster academic achievement and encourage personal development.
During the pandemic, when students were forced to learn from home via video conferencing, some fell behind due to being easily distracted and/or the teacher not being able to easily engage through online tools. This was especially an issue for classrooms with large student to teacher ratios.
This was not the case at Futures Academy. “Either on campus or online, our students get individual undivided attention,” Ms. Doering says. “At many schools, it has become difficult for many students to gain mastery of content on Zoom as it is too easy for them to hide behind the camera and disengage from the learning process. In our environment, where online classes are taught live and face-to-face, if a student is not engaged, the teacher will notice.”
Futures Academy also offers a hybrid option that combines on-campus and online learning. This can accommodate students who prefer a more flexible schedule, such as student athletes who have sports commitments.
“Most students want to attend in person,” Ms. Doering says. “But we can work with them if they decide to go virtual. The transition is smooth with no gaps in learning.”
Although most instruction is one-to-one, there are opportunities for small group instruction, such as with biology labs. “We encourage collaboration and teaches students how to work effectively with others,” Ms. Doering says.
Upon entering Futures Academy, students take a Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment to measure his or her grade-level proficiency in the areas of Mathematics, Reading, and Language.
“This helps instructors gauge a student’s proficiencies and learning gaps, enabling them to focus on areas of growth where that child struggles the most, know the areas they need to target, and continually measure academic progress,” Ms. Doering says.
Futures Academy offers more than 170 core and elective courses, including honors and AP, so students can study at the level they are most comfortable and pursue interests they are passionate about. For students who wish to get ahead, flexible scheduling makes it easy to do so and to even graduate early. Of those who apply, 99% of Futures Academy seniors are accepted to competitive colleges and universities.
Like public school, Future Academy students participate in a variety of social opportunities, such as student government, leadership, clubs, proms and field trips.
As for the future of education, Doering says Futures Academy is “the pioneer of a new era in education.”
“Since our founding in 1985, we’ve maintained an eye to the future through the one-to-one teaching model it pioneered. We are committed to helping the next generation develop skills they’ll need in life, while teaching them to be independent, critical thinkers with an ability to apply this knowledge to everyday situations. By getting to know their students, our teachers strive to instill confidence, build character, and encourage a lifelong love of learning.”