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K12 CEO Stuart Udell: GCA Commencement Remarks

Ebony Arnold, Andre Arnold, Head of School Matt Arkin, and K12 CEO Stuart Udell

Thank you, Ryan.

I’d also like to thank Head of School, Matt Arkin, and Deputy Head of School, Veronica Clemons, for their outstanding leadership.

It is an honor to be with you today. Congratulations, Class of 2016! (Applause) 

I also want to congratulate all of you -- the families- -who supported these students in so many ways. Graduates, how about a big round of applause for your families. (Applause.)

And Graduates, since this very well may be the last time you will ever hear these words, “If you can hear me, send me a smiley face!” (Laughter)

Class of 2016, you’ve arrived. You’ve done the hard work to get here and formed friendships that will last a lifetime.

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OHVA Olympic Hopeful Prepares for a Busy Summer

    

The time commitment and drive it takes to train with former Olympic figure skaters would intimidate most people, but Cienna Baka takes on the challenge with ease.  She is able to do this because of the flexible schedule that online education provides.  Cienna is a 10th grade student at Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA) who has dedicated her life to ice skating competitively. 

Since she was six years old, Cienna has always been training on the ice or traveling constantly for competitions. Her schedule is so busy that her entire family operates around it. With such a huge time commitment to her ice skating, this would prove to make going to a brick-and-mortar school a difficult task. This is what led her family to distance education.

Ohio Virtual Academy provided such an accommodating schedule for Cienna that she can do her work or communicate with her teachers easily at the ice skating rink or even on the road. Cienna now balances her year-round ice skating, traveling, and school work effortlessly since she enrolled in the virtual school. 

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Why the Head of School and Principal at ISOR Have Pink Beards

 

The Head of School and Principal at The Insight School of Oregon (ISOR-ALT and ISOR-PH) really go the extra mile to support their 600 students! During their two-week winter break, ISOR attempted a new program to help students raise their grades. In a show of solidarity, Head of School, J.D. McMahan, and Principal, Jim Sinnott, promised to dye their beards pink if enough students participated in the program! The result was an incredible 37% of the student body raising their grades a full letter, leading to sparkly pink beards for Mr. McMahan and Mr. Sinnott!

“I am so proud of our Insight kids. We need our students to know that they are not alone over the school breaks. We are still there for them and rooting for their success. I am so impressed by their willingness to raise their grades, especially over a break!” Said Amanda Sinnott, who is part of the ISOR’s Family Academic Support Team, when asked about the success of the Insight School of Oregon’s students.

Building off of their success on winter break, the school tried the same program again for spring break, which is one week long. The result was 28% of students raised their grade by a full letter- - in half the time it took during winter break! This time, as their reward, students had the opportunity to participate in the “onesie unicorn 2.0 dance extravaganza!” This cool social event took place in a class connect session where students were entered into raffles to win onesies, t-shirts, and other prizes.

Ashley Fryer's picture

Praise & Appreciation

Earlier this month, the Nation marked Teacher Appreciation Week.  This special week every year couldn’t come at a more perfect time- the final month of the school year when we’re wrapping things up, starting to grow a little weary, and when the students’ excitement about summer break is starting to become noticeable!

In fact, during this week, I began inwardly questioning whether students were enjoying my classes anymore- - when all-of-a-sudden I received a “day-changing” email. Our amazing middle school advisor worked alongside students to produce a touching video for teachers. With her help, students posted some of the things they appreciated about a specific teacher on the whiteboard during homeroom to later be shared. Our advisor put together a video with each teacher’s slide.  After watching this heartfelt video, I was moved to tears. 

Throughout the week, there were other great emails, videos, and even prizes from various teams in our organization.  It all meant so much and I really appreciate not only the thoughts behind this touching tribute, but the time taken during busy schedules just to let me know students care and notice my hard work. Then it occurred to me… Am I doing that enough with my students? Receiving praise all week made me wonder if I was giving enough myself. The answer was probably not. I, like the students, was ready for a break.  I felt like I was saying “good job”, but nothing deeper. 

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

State Testing & Online Schools: What You Probably Never Knew – Part II

It’s always an away game for online school students

 

In my previous piece, I detailed many of the testing problems states have faced this year.  Since then, things have only gotten worse.  Controversy erupted in Texas as issues with testing continued to mount causing educators to express a total loss of faith in the STAAR standardized testing system.  Tennessee’s much-hyped TNReady test was scrapped outright after the emergency switch from the online to paper-based test was botched so badly that the State Department of Education was forced to cancel Part II of testing. 

[Quick digression:  Perhaps these numerous problems and increased aversion to state testing from parents and teachers are part of what is fueling new debate around standardized tests and accountability, even among education reformers. Has the pendulum of test-based accountability and, in the words of Paul Peterson, the “regulatory approach to school reform,” swung too far?]

I noted how state testing delays, last-minute changes, cancellations, and other difficulties negatively impact all schools but have a much greater impact on online schools. I speculated that many, if not most, people have no idea the massive amount of time, resources, planning, logistics, and manpower it takes for online schools to fulfill state-mandated testing requirements, which is unlike anything traditional schools or district face.

I am now absolutely convinced that is the case.

Rebecca Malmquist's picture

Teacher Appreciation Week: Why Cancer Didn't Stop Me From Teaching At Georgia Cyber Academy

 

 

When I was diagnosed with cancer this past February, one of the first things I decided was that I wanted tocontinue my life as usual. I wanted to help my 8th graders at Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) continue through to the end of the year, and if that meant having a few bad days here and there, I’d be all right with that. In a brick and mortar school, I would’ve had to take off for the rest of the year to focus on this personal battle that forever changed my life. However, thanks to K12’s flexible format, that hasn’t been the case. I’ve even been able to bring my laptop to my chemotherapy appointments! Virtual teaching has allowed me to keep my life as normal as possible, even in this extremely abnormal time in my life.

For years I wanted to be a virtual teacher. Like most K12 teachers, I used to teach at brick and mortar schools. When my daughter was born, I worked part time at a homeschool hybrid and loved the flexibility. When one of the parents mentioned K12, I applied. Now, I’m in my second year, and I have to say that this is the best place that I have ever taught. I have really found my niche in education.

I teach language arts in the Advanced Learning Program (ALP) and have received an incredible amount of support with regard to my battle with cancer. When I shared my diagnosis with my students, it was humbling to receive so many kind words of encouragement- - one of my students even sent me a card and a gift in the snail mail!

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LearnBop for Families Launch: Online Math Tutoring Direct to Consumers

“My mission is to help as many kids as possible master mathematics,” says Bharanidharan Rajakumar, LearnBop’s visionary CEO who founded the K12-acquired math curriculum learning software firm in 2014. “We developed a technology that will ensure kids are set up for success in the future so they don’t get left behind.”

As LearnBop for Families launches this week, enabling a new consumer audience to benefit from the revolutionary software, Bharani reflects on his journey to this exciting phase of his career as a digital learning entrepreneur.

“I thought it was pretty profound that potentially you have kids that are taking an entire year to learn a subject they could potentially learn in six months if they had more interaction with a teacher. This was the genesis of LearnBop.”

Regarding the 2014 K12 acquisition, Bharani says what drew him to join forces with K12 was the company’s history as a pioneer in distance learning.

“Since then, LearnBop has shown to be highly-effective in schools. Our clients have been really pleased with the outcomes they have achieved —so there was no reason we couldn’t bring this tool into homes to help more students.”

Edie Taylor's picture

Teacher Appreciation Day

 

Most people, even those in the online education community, are surprised when they hear that I’m an online special education teacher at Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy (MGLVA). They question the efficacy of teaching special education students online, many of whom function several years below their chronological grade level. My message on this Teacher Appreciation Day is the online environment is the best environment for special education students!

In a brick and mortar setting, special education goes something like this – students are taken in and out of their main classrooms causing them to miss lessons. This forces special education teachers to become glorified tutors, trying to get their students up to speed on the curriculum rather than the basic functions they are supposed to be learning. This lack of time for basic skill lessons makes it even more challenging for these students to cope in their regular classrooms, causing an unfortunate downward spiral. At MGLVA, there aren’t these challenges, as we schedule basic skills sessions that don’t conflict with lessons.

Additionally, many of my special education students come from brick and mortar schools where they encountered severe bullying. Bullying crushes a special education student’s confidence in the classroom and makes them not want to go to school. In virtual schooling, special education students are able to interface seamlessly with their nondisabled peers. Many of my special education students are so low functioning – I teach 5-8th graders that function at a cognitive level of a student in Kindergarten-5th grade – that it can be difficult to be in a classroom setting. Online they feel comfortable.

All year students on my special education caseload have been working on building reading, writing, and math skills, but recently I shifted the focus to making inferences using reading, charts, graphs, and other resources. I was so amazed by their ability to reason at such a high level, especially when their academic skills are at such a low level.  The students are really engaged in the work, which is amazing to see.

Jennifer Schultze's picture

Live online assembly gives WYVA students the opportunity to meet the Governor of Wyoming

governor mead

Each year since Wyoming Governor Matt Mead’s entered office he has taken time from his busy schedule to meet with Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA) families in a virtual assembly.  Governor Mead has been very supportive of our online school.   At this year’s assembly, Governor Mead discussed how we have one of the biggest state land masses in Wyoming, and our families are often very far from schools based on their family occupations.  This is important because online education gives students the opportunity to have high quality education even in the most remote parts of our state. 

WYVA students got the unique opportunity to show the Governor the diverse areas of where we live across the state.  He loved watching the students interact with the virtual whiteboard!

Ashley Collier's picture

K12: Honoring and Serving Military Children

April is the Month of the Military Child and an important time to recognize and support children of those serving in the United States military. When military families move, their entire lives can be disrupted. For many children, their primary concern is how to transition their lives with minimal impact to their education.

In a recent publication, K12 outlines the unique educational challenges facing students in military families, including:

  • inconsistency in curriculum as students move from one state to another
  • feelings of isolation, loneliness, or alienation as the “new student” in the group
  • varying state-specific regulations and requirements

Erin White, a wife of an U.S. Air Force officer and mother of two students enrolled in K12’s International Academy, credits online schooling with bringing consistency to their busy and mobile lifestyle.

“My husband is retired U.S. Air Force and at one point our family moved three times over one year which would have been three separate schools in one school year for our children. That would have been extremely difficult for my children had we not schooled online.”

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