John Helmholdt

Sarah M. Stewart / Creative Commons

A report out this week shows more than half of high school freshmen and sophomores failed the first semester of the new blended-online courses at Grand Rapids Public Schools. GRPS is Michigan's third largest K-12 district.

The program launched in the fall of 2010. At the time it was (and may very well continue to be) incredibly controversial. Like any new program, Grand Rapids schools spokesman John Helmholdt says there was an adjustment period the first semester.

“There was both a district-wide layoff but also a huge early retirement incentive where we had more than 400 teachers, principals, and support staff retire; and so that first semester was a little rocky,” Helmholdt said. The retirement incentive was offered by the State of Michigan to try to save districts and the state money.

Test scores improved in the spring 2011 semester, but the failure rate was still 44-percent.

grpublicschools.org / Grand Rapids Public Schools

Michigan's third largest K through 12 school district is in the early stages of forming a new 5 year plan. It'll cover everything from instruction to safety to athletics.

Grand Rapids Public Schools put together its first 5 year vision in February of 2009. Most of the goals set then have already been met or are being implemented. So they're looking to the community to help figure out how to keep the momentum going.