Guadalupe Vander Ploeg's picture

K12’s National Teacher Training Program: A Living Laboratory of Learning

Through partnerships with schools and districts, K12 has created thousands of new jobs and opportunities for teachers across the U.S. Today, more than 6,000 teachers are working in K12-partner schools – the largest network of K-12 online school teachers in the nation. Over the last decade, K12 has developed a highly regarded National Teacher Training Program, incorporating quality teaching standards and best practices in online instruction and personalize learning. Guadalupe Vander Ploeg, EdD, Director of Academic Services at K12, discusses professional learning and development for online teachers, as well as student achievement.

K12 has the unique ongoing opportunity to analyze academic achievement data as well as the feedback it receives from its large national and international network of schools, teachers, parents and students in an effort to evaluate and determine the most impactful focus for professional development. We consider it our role to create a living laboratory of learning.  Doing this involves both research into identifying what works for students and using those findings to model educational practice.  It also means identifying what works for our teachers in light of the changing needs and shift in role. 

Much is still unknown about the role of the online teacher and the instructional practices that can be used to serve the needs of students. To date, what researchers have established is the importance of a positive learner-centered teacher-student relationship as it relates to student outcomes. In the virtual classroom, the significance of this relationship continues to be emphasized, as standards call for online teachers to plan, design, and incorporate varying combinations of interactions to diverse groupings of students to encourage active learning, interaction, and participation in the online environment. The intention of varied interactions is to provide students with equivalent interaction opportunities as those available in traditional face-to-face classrooms for even greater academic outcomes.

Overwhelmingly, it can be stated that a primary role for a teacher is to be a continual learner and a problem solver who accepts challenges, poses questions, and endeavors to find informed solutions while grappling with uncertainty. K12 online teachers may be new to the role, but not new to the cultural underpinnings that have shaped the American education system. The major life transition that moves the teacher from the front of the classroom to guide behind the computer break with traditionally recognized models of teacher professional development.

Byron Ernest's picture

Hoosier Academies Climbs Mount Everest

Last week I had the opportunity and honor of introducing myself as the new Head of School for Hoosier Academies in Indiana. This introduction was to the entire staff at our two day professional development and family expo. After sharing some personal information about my love for the Purdue Boilermakers and my son’s recent successes showing dairy cows I took them on a case study journey of Mount Everest – 1996.

The case study of Mount Everest – 1996 lets us study the incredible achievement and great tragedy on Mount Everest in the spring of 1996. Ninety-eight men and women made it safely to the summit, but 15 did not return. Even some of the world’s most renowned high-altitude climbers, including Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, reached the summit, but died during the descent because of a storm.

The first question I asked during the case study facilitation was: “Why do people climb mountains?”

Here are some of the responses from Hoosier staff:

  • Excitement
  • Ego
  • Push oneself to the limit
  • Recognition
  • Competition
  • Help others make it
  • Do things that have not been done
  • The love of climbing
  • The view from the top
  • Set a goal to summit

As a leader, I get why some individuals want to make the climb. It is the idea of being a Trailblazer. Trailblazers go before others go. They do not send others where they are unwilling to go themselves. During our session we compared this to being a Sherpa. This analogy came after I had shared with the group my philosophy of “leading from where you are.” Sherpas are the inhabitants of the Khumba-valley, the national park surrounding Mount Everest. Living at the high altitude for generations, they have developed a genetic natural allowance for it. Once you go to 10,000 feet they will easily outrun you.

Our Sherpa analogy carried through the entire two days. The analogy of us as educational leaders to that of a Sherpa is great because they are successful by helping those around them reach their full potential. As educators we must be Sherpa’s of student achievement. Great Sherpa’s do not just look up the mountain and say, “Let’s go!” They, as great leaders, carefully plot out each step to ensure a safe and successful trip. Sherpa’s routinely deal with unexpected weather, animals, obscured paths, and many other obstacles.  Rather than becoming derailed, they build contingency plans and adapt in real-time.

We all made a strong connection between Sherpa’s and educational leadership.

Nate Davis's picture

The Bond Between Charter Schools and Digital Learning

In 1992, the first charter school was introduced and the concept of public school choice in American education was born. Today, over 2.5 million students attend more than 6,400 charter schools in 42 states and the District of Columbia. 

In the late 90’s, just as charter schools were about to experience a period of tremendous growth, a new educational innovation began to take root: digital learning.  

Over the last decade, a strong nexus emerged between digital learning and charter schools. In charter schools, digital learning found environments that nurtured creativity and innovation.  Through digital learning, charter schools were able to provide families from every demographic more options, access, and choice in public education.

Charter schools became the primary vehicle for the advancement of digital learning, and naturally so. One of the cornerstones of charter schools was to invite education advancements by giving educators greater flexibility and autonomy to pioneer new educational programs. The goal was to allow charter schools to test and develop new models that could be replicated by other public schools and districts – a kind of education “skunkworks.” 

The first online charter schools – totally digital learning environments – emerged in the early 2000’s when Pennsylvania became the first state to allow online charter schools. Soon after, many other states began to follow. Charters offering blended learning (combining digital and face-to-face instruction) quickly followed, providing a wide range of exciting and differentiated instructional models. These online and blended charter schools scaled quickly to meet demand from parents, and ran head on into the status quo. Conventional educational norms were challenged. Debate shifted from simply trying to find ways to tinker with the traditional model to wholly re-thinking how technology could disrupt the way education is delivered and consumed for the better.

Ashley Collier's picture

Blended Charter School Graduation Ceremony Honors Inspiring Students Who Overcame Challenges

Celebrating its fifth graduating class, YCCS Virtual High School honored more than 85 high school graduates at a ceremony that took place at Malcom X College on Monday, June 16.

YCCS Virtual High School uses an innovative blended school model, combining online learning and classroom instruction to primarily serve students ages 18-21 who, for a variety of reason, haven’t been able to finish their high school education.

"With the right support, our students absolutely thrive," says Elizabeth Roth, Head of School for the YCCS Virtual High School. "This program gives an opportunity for students to reach their goals and receive their high school diploma, while receiving the support they need into their post-secondary venture. There's not another program like this in Chicago that targets this age range"

YCCS Virtual High School is designed for students who have dropped out of traditional school or have fallen behind in credits, but still have the desire to graduate with a high school diploma.

In the past four years, YCCS has enable 92 percent of its students to graduates, a stellar rate of success that outpaces the national average.

K12 Inc.'s picture

VIDEO: K12 Congratulates the Graduates of 2014

A special message from the more than 5,000 teachers and educators, and the hundreds of professional staff members at K12 who work so hard behind the scenes to put our students first!

Dear Graduates:

On behalf of all of us at K12, Congratulations!

 

Ashley Collier's picture

K12 Graduation Round-up: IDVA, SCVCS, and UTVA

Idaho Virtual Academy Congratulates 2014 Graduating Class

This spring 130 students walked across the stage, graduating from Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) – a full-time, online public school serving students across the state.

Graduates from 26 counties and 52 cities celebrated academic achievements with teachers and peers in ceremonies in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls, and Nampa. IDVA graduates will be attending universities and colleges such as Boise State University, Montana State University, and Carrington College.

More from IDVA:

READ: Online students prepare for graduation (Idaho ED News)

READ: Virtual Academy Students Graduate Wednesday (Idaho Press Tribune)

WATCH: Seniors Graduate Without Stepping Foot Into the Classroom (KPVI News 6)
 

South Carolina Virtual Charter School Celebrates Largest Graduating Class To-Date

South Carolina Virtual Charter School (SCVCS) honored more than 160 students at a ceremony that took place on Thursday, June 5.

The ceremony featured remarks from Hayden Covington, Valedictorian of the graduating class, and Johnathan Edwards, Salutatorian.
Hayden is a member of the National Honor Society and has been nominated for student of the month several times. Outside of school, Hayden is a seasoned ballet dancer, training 20 hours a week and performing with the International Ballet Academy. Hayden attributes her academic success to her determination and says that “SCVCS has been the ideal bridge to college” and has helped her learn to trust herself in learning new concepts. Upon graduating, Hayden plans to attend Furman University this fall, followed by graduate school. She would eventually like to pursue a career in the science field.

Another standout graduating senior, Johnathan has served as both President and Vice President of SCVCS’s National Honor Society and was a Junior Marshall for last year’s graduation. In his free time, Johnathan enjoys playing competitive tennis and has been recognized as one of the top 10 junior tennis players in South Carolina.  In addition to holding two jobs – as a tennis instructor and maintaining courts at the nearby tennis club – Johnathan is active in the community and has participated in food drives, book drives and tutoring. This fall, Johnathan will be playing NCAA Division 1 tennis at University of Connecticut, where plans to major in marketing.

Source: South Carolina Virtual Charter School, (2014). South Carolina Virtual Charter School Congratulates Class of 2014

 

Utah Virtual Academy Hosts in-person graduation with Noted American Economist, Best-Selling Author

Last week, more than 80 high school seniors turned the tassel and graduated from Utah Virtual Academy (UTVA).  

Paul Zane Pilzer, a noted American economist, best-selling author, and social entrepreneur, spoke to this year’s graduating class. Mr. Pilzer has written nine books, served in two U.S. Presidential administrations, is the founder of six companies, and has been profiled on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

Students from this year’s graduating class will attend Westminster College, University of Utah, Utah State University, Weber State University, Brigham Young University, Snow College, and Salt Lake Community College.

Source: Utah Virtual Academy, (2014). Utah Virtual Academy to host in-person graduation on June 5

Ashley Collier's picture

Ohio Virtual Academy Class of 2014 Offered more than $1.65 Million in College Scholarships

Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA) honored 630 graduates and celebrated academic achievements in a ceremony that took place on Saturday, June 7. OHVA’s graduating class has amassed an impressive total of more than $1.65 million in college scholarship money offered.

"OHVA’s administration, teachers and staff are proud to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating class. These students have worked hard to reach their goal of graduation and deserve to be recognized for their achievements. The fact that OHVA could provide a framework for students to succeed is truly an honor,” said Kyle Wilkinson, 11th and 12th grade Principal at Ohio Virtual Academy in a school press release

OHVA Graduation

While the accomplishment of a high school diploma is an achievement in itself, the vast majority of students from the OHVA Class of 2014 have chosen to take their studies to the next level, including post-secondary colleges, advanced training and the military. Some of the colleges chosen by this year's graduating class include:

                        Air Force Academy                          Northern Kentucky University

                        Art Institute of Pittsburgh                Ohio State University

                        Brigham Young University               Ohio University

                        California Institute of the Arts        San Diego State

                        John Carroll University                   University of Cincinnati

                        Kent State University                      University of Dayton

                        Miami University of Ohio                University of Toledo

                        Virginia Military Institute                 Xavier University

Allison Cleveland's picture

Georgia Cyber Academy’s First Graduating Class: What I Saw, and What Critics Missed

On Saturday, May 31, I had the privilege of attending the inaugural high school graduation ceremony for the Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA). It was one of many graduation ceremonies of K12 partner schools taking place all across the country.

More than 2500 people packed the large space at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, GA for the ceremony.  The 300 or so graduates congregated in a side room, out of view from the main space, to don their caps and gowns. Peach could have made for a disastrous school color when the gowns were chosen, but thank goodness the GCA team had the good sense to go with navy gowns with a modest peach trim!

When it was time for the ceremony to start, Pomp and Circumstance began to play, and the GCA administrators, teachers, and board members, along with a few special guests (of which I was honored to be included) processed onto the stage. As we walked past row after row of proud parents, family members, and friends, some of who had driven long distances to be there, I felt both the weight and the joy of the occasion. The graduates followed behind us, grinning from ear to ear as they made eye contact with their loved ones, and took their seats at the front of the room.

Georgia Cyber Academy Graduation 2014

The ceremony program highlighted several outstanding graduates, including Grace Brosofsky, GCA Valedictorian, who will be attending the Georgia Institute of Technology as a Presidential Scholar this fall, and Eddie Sunder, Salutatorian, who will travel to Peru this fall to spend five months volunteering with Missions to the World before entering Georgia Tech in the fall of 2015. Landi Abercrombie was honored with the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, and two GCA graduates, Rachel Warden and Victoria Price, were honored for earning their Associate Degrees from from Middle Georgia State College through the dual enrollment program at GCA. Graduates from GCA were accepted into many outstanding colleges, including Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Georgia, Mercer University, and many others.

Ashley Collier's picture

850 Students Graduate from California Virtual Academies

Over the past few weeks, 850 graduates from California Virtual Academies (CAVA) celebrated academic achievements with peers and teachers at ceremonies in San Diego, San Gabriel, Yucaipa, Vacaville, and Tracy.

The CAVA class of 2014 graduates will be attending universities and colleges across the country and state including Boston University, Azusa Pacific University, Pepperdine University, Duke University, The Juilliard School, Seattle Pacific University and  University of Massachusetts—Amherst, as well as several California State University and University of California campuses. One student earned a full-ride scholarship (Drake Scholarship) to study mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley.

CAVA @ Tracy Graduation

Nate Davis's picture

The K12 Class of 2014

It is graduation season again.  This year, thousands of students will graduate from full-time online and blended schools powered by K12.  We’re seeing stories across the country about these impressive group of K12 graduates – kids preparing to head off to colleges and universities; students with inspiring stories who overcame great odds to earn a diploma.  Schools are hosting graduation ceremonies bringing together families throughout the state.  New schools are celebrating their first ever graduating class.  It’s an exciting time.

With diplomas in hand, these K12 graduates are ready to begin their next chapter in life. 

It is estimated there are currently over 300,000 students enrolled in full-time online schools across the U.S.  Add students enrolled in full-time blended schools and that figure expands. The number of students graduating from online and blended schools is also increasing as more students choose these innovative schools.  Last year, K12 online and blended schools graduated over 4,000 students. The class of 2014 is expected to be even bigger.

We have come so far.  Most of the students from the class of 2014 were born in the mid to late 90s. (Wow, that makes me feel old!)  At that time no parent could have predicted their son or daughter would eventually graduate from an accredited, full-time online high school.  Such a concept would have been laughable to most, but not today. Just imagine what education will look like for the next generation 18 years from now.

The students of K12’s class of 2014 are pioneers. They join other recent K12 graduates who chose the digital learning route over the traditional classroom model.  This bold spirit is precisely why I believe K12 students are at an advantage. 

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