Fusion Academy helping provide educational tools for success

The grade 6-12 Huntington Beach school employs mastery learning, which school officials say helps students not fall behind.

August 24, 2011|By Mona Shadia,
  • Ben Rohaly, 17, works on Algebra II in a class with Josh Huihui at Fusion Academy on Tuesday. Rohaly has a condition called Nonverbal Learning Difference, or NLD.
Ben Rohaly, 17, works on Algebra II in a class with Josh… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Six months ago, Ben Rohaly had a record-low grade-point-average. It was less than 2.0.

Now, he's raised it to a 3.6 and believes he will be accepted into college.

What made the difference for the Huntington Beach resident is the school he is now attending and the way he is taught.

Ben, 17, has a mild case of nonverbal learning difference that makes it difficult for him to process information at a regular rate. While in New York at a boarding school, he couldn't keep up with the material or his classmates, and his grades and self-esteem were dwindling.

His learning disability stops him short of getting a joke or understanding a simple mathematical problem. He said people would say things like, "How didn't you get that?"

And it ate away at his confidence, he said.

He left the boarding school in March and came back to Orange County to attend Fusion Academy & Learning Center in Huntington Beach. The grade 6-12 campus opened its doors earlier this year to provide an alternative way of teaching.


While its method helps those who have learning disabilities, the school also provides instructions to advanced students who don't need a whole academic year for each grade. There are 12 locations in California.

"It's slower here, and I get one-on-one help whenever I need it," he said. "Boarding school is all about who's going to Harvard, who's going to Yale, and if you're not going, your life is over."

At Fusion, Ben gets one-on-one instruction from his teachers, who alter their way of teaching based on his needs, said Maryam Pourmohsen, head of the Huntington Beach campus.

Students who don't understand the curriculum in a regular classroom setting are usually left behind. But at Fusion, they are not.

"At Fusion, we don't go on," Pourmohsen said.

Pourmohsen said Fusion does what's called mastery learning, which means if the student doesn't have at least a 70% understanding of the material, he or she can't move on to the next level.

One-on-one learning has sprouted up even in public schools. Teachers at the Ocean View School District have been implementing a new method of teaching called differentiated instruction, where students get broken into small teams for a more hands-on and less of the lecture-based method of teaching.

Ben — who recently spent about six weeks at Strawberry Canyon Blue Camp at UC Berkeley, which helped those with his condition and other learning disabilities — said the experience at Fusion and the camp has taught him that he can do better and that he's in a better situation than others.

He wants to attend the University of Arizona, but isn't sure yet what he plans on studying.

"I always wanted to go to college," Ben said. "I didn't think that I'd get in. That has changed because of Fusion."

Huntington Beach Independent Articles Huntington Beach Independent Articles