Blogs

Ashley Collier's picture

A K12 Student’s Perspective: What Does Online Learning Mean to You?

On November 6, Rile Grant, a 7th grade student enrolled at California Virtual Academies (CAVA) participated in a student panel at the International Association for K-12 Online Learning’s (iNACOL) Blended and Online Learning Symposium in Palm Springs, California.

Rile has been enrolled in his online school since 2nd grade and has taken such courses as: earth and life sciences, literature, world history, world art, music, Spanish 1 & 2, and Latin 1 & 2 to name a few. 

Rile and his family discussed their experience with online learning and shared views on the future of education.

Why does online and/or blended learning matter?

Families should have choices about where and how to educate their children. Being enrolled in an online school can provide stability and continuity for students if their families move a lot or are have other family issues to deal with which may cause changes in the student’s life. I started attending a virtual school when my family was displaced due to domestic violence and my mother wasn’t sure where we’d live and what kind of school district I’d be attending. A few years later, being in an online school made it possible for my mother and I to go to another county to care for my great grandfather, for about half a school year without having to change schools. We have moved about ten times since I started CAVA; being a virtual student has allowed me to stay in the same school for the past five years no matter what has happened in our personal lives.

What does online and/or blended learning mean to you?

Online means being able to do school anywhere: while traveling with your family, at the library, at coffee shops, or on vacation. Blended means having access to certain things, as if in a brick and mortar: seeing friends at school, getting in person help from teachers, and having a place to do group activities, such as spelling bees or science fairs.

What are the benefits?

Some students need a safe place to learn, free from bullying. My sister was bullied at two different public high schools and was able to continue, and graduate, through CAVA. Other students, who are advanced learners, need to be able to work at their own pace, without being held back. Every year I have been in CAVA, I have been working ahead of my grade level; I am a 6th grader on paper, but am working on the 7th grade. Because I do school at home, on my own schedule, I am able to focus on one topic or subject at a time - I do an entire science or history unit until I am finished with it, instead of having to stop working after a set time and then try to move onto another subject. I don’t have “homework,” adding hours to my day - I work on my assignments until they are done. If a subject is really interesting to me, I can learn about it in more ways than just through my textbooks or online lessons; I can find more information online, watch movies or documentaries or find places to visit in person to learn more. I have gone to science and art museums in my own city and others. Sometimes my science lessons happen at Sea World or an aquarium during a school day. I have traveled to the state capitol to talk to legislators. I will be traveling to San Francisco in a few weeks to attend the National Novel Writing Month’s annual Night of Writing Dangerously as the only young author to do so.

Being an online student means I have much more flexibility in my days.

Nate Davis's picture

A Pledge – High Fives for Bully-Free Lives

By this time students across the country have settled in to the 2014 school year.  They are familiar with their classes and teachers but they may also be familiar with a common problem that has received a lot of needed attention recently -- bullying.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 1 in 3 students admit to being bullied at school and research has shown us that the developmental and psychological impact of bullying can lead to an increased risk for depression and anxiety in later years. What we see almost immediately on the traditional school level is that these children suffer academically, lose self-esteem, and they can be prone to self-harm. As some of us can personally attest to as parents and even from our childhood and young adult lives, bullying leaves children helpless and the emotional scarring can take years to heal. We know that most often, bullying takes place within the school environment – at play grounds, the school bus stop and even within the classroom, gym and locker rooms. At K12 we take sincere pride in the fact that we support a bully-free community in all of our online public schools. In fact, nearly one quarter of all of our families say they came to a K12-powered school because their child was bullied and an online school offered a bully free environment.

In recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month during the month of October, we want to demonstrate our support for raising kind children and giving them the bully-free lives they deserve.  On behalf of the more than 6,000 teachers and professional educators that I have the privelge of representing, I ask you to stand with us and take a pledge to raise awareness by taking part in our High Fives for Bully-Free lives campaign.

Submit a picture of you giving a high five in support of anti-bulling on social media and help us reach our goal of 10,000 high fives by taking the pledge.  As educators and parents we can protect our children from these cruel acts by creating a safe environment for bully-free lives.

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

Recycling Inaccurate News

On Thursday, The Huffington Post republished a month old article from a website called Capital & Main about K12 and online schools.  It should be noted that this online publication is funded by outside groups and special interests such as Teacher’s Unions, who oppose charter schools and parental choice in education.  The original article was littered with inaccuracies and misinformation, but that didn’t stop Huff Post from recycling the article on their website. 

Especially troubling is that an associate editor from Huffington Post emailed me on September 3 to let me know they were considering republishing and asking if I had any comment. I immediately responded with detailed facts disputing many of the claims made in the original article.  I also asked the Huff Post editor why they would republish an article with so many mistakes.

I never received a response.

Instead they republished the piece verbatim.  Here is the email response I sent to the Huff Post editor on September 3:

Thanks for reaching out prior to publishing.  I guess my first question is why republish this?  Not only does it contain many significant errors (both errors of fact and errors of omission), it is an online publication funded by Teacher’s Unions -- hardly an unbiased source of information.  

Is there anything specifically you want me to respond to?  As I said, the article is wrong on many counts.  For example, the President of Agora’s Board of Trustees sent the writer a comprehensive statement, but the writer ignored most of it, and contrary to what the Board president wrote, suggested in his story that Agora was “completely severing” its relationship with K12.  That’s not true.  K12 continues to provide Agora with curriculum and school services, as we do with over 2,000 schools and school districts across the country.  It is not uncommon to restructure services agreements with existing school partners, and, in some cases, we do so to expand the level of services we provide.  Furthermore, as the statement clearly says, Agora’s President made it very clear that the Board’s issuance of the RFPs was “not an indication of K12’s performance under the current contract.”  K12 respects the independence of all our school partners, including Agora, and is responding to the RFP.  I would encourage you to reach out to the Agora Board of Trustees if you are looking for a response.

Ashley Collier's picture

Keeping it in the Family: Online Schooling, College Success, and Athletics

The Malnes family have been an active part of their children’s education. They’ve seen three of their children successfully graduate from Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA), a state-approved online public charter school (operated in partnership with K12 Inc.), and they are currently anticipating their youngest to graduate at the end of this school year. Lori Malnes, mother of four, shares how her children have succeeded academically in online schooling and how their education through IDVA prepared them for college pursuits and athletics.

The Malnes homeschooled their children up until high school when at that point they decided that they were looking to take on a different role in their children’s education.  

“We wanted to be more of an advocate for our children as they went into high school and not have to juggle that and being their teacher too. However, we were not happy with the regular brick-and-mortar public school at the time,” said Lori Malnes. “We read up on K12 and liked their rigorous curriculum so we decided to give it a try and enroll at Idaho Virtual Academy. Our kids were active in sports and they were still able to play with the local high school while attending IDVA.”

Chelsea Malnes was the first of her siblings to graduate from IDVA. Chelsea graduated as the valedictorian of her class and went on to attend Concordia-Portland where she was recruited to play soccer.  Chelsea ended up graduating in 3.5 years Cum Laude with a degree in Psychology.  Chelsea always felt like she had a competitive edge in the classroom because of the foundation she received at IDVA.

 

“IDVA prepared my children to excel in college – the curriculum is rigorous and prepared them for college classes as did the home-learning environment,” said Lori. “It taught them self-discipline and time management. It taught them how to communicate with teachers and professors.”

Justin, the Malnes’ second oldest, was salutatorian at IDVA and recently graduated from Boise State University with a degree in Mass Communication/Journalism. While attending Boise State, Justin competed as a Division 1 student-athlete in Track and Field all four years with a greater than B average – an achievement the Malnes are particularly proud of given the time commitment of competing in a year-round D1 level sport.  Additionally, In Justin’s sophomore year he was recognized by the NCAA as an Academic All-American in track and field.

Mary Gifford's picture

Online Education and Student Athletics

As university athletes report for practice and begin balancing course requirements with the rigors of college sports, high school students across the country are considering a different balancing act: Do I continue in the online public school that provides me with an individualized instructional program and the flexibility to participate in competitive athletic programs or do I return to the traditional classroom that may restrict my athletic training and limit the amount of customized instruction I receive?

Unfortunately, many student athletes no longer have this choice.

NCAA recently announced that starting in the 2014-15 school  year, they would no longer accept coursework from many of the online public schools served by K12 Inc. These schools are working in earnest to overturn NCAA’s decision as many enrolled students hope to play Division I or II sports. 

In an earlier response, Jeff Kwitowski, SVP of K12 Public Affairs wrote:

“NCAA does not provide schools any measurable standard or rubric used to determine what they believe is a suitable level of student-teacher interaction. Despite repeated requests, the NCAA will not publish specific student-teacher interaction guidelines for nontraditional courses, including online and digital courses. These vague standards and unclear review process leave schools to only guess what passes NCAA’s eligibility test. This is a significant concern for all schools and districts that use digital learning programs.”

Prominent digital learning experts including Michael Horn from the Clayton Christensen Institute, and Tom VanderArk from Getting Smart (and board member of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning), have sharply criticized the NCAA on its actions:

NCAA Way Out of Bounds for Outlawing Online by Tom Vander Ark

NCAA Goofs On Online Eligibility by Michael Horn

The NCAA is a private entity.  Its role is to examine individual student eligibility for college athletics, not to act as a de facto regulatory body over state-approved public schools.  That is the responsibility of state boards and departments of education, and elected officials.  This exact point was made by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who recently wrote to the NCAA questioning why they are encroaching in the authority of state governments.

All public schools that partner with K12 are approved and overseen by the states.  Teachers are state-certified and regularly interact with students, providing direct instruction, guidance, feedback, and support services. Hundreds of student athletes have graduated from K12’s partner schools and been accepted into Division I and II colleges and universities.

In the coming weeks we will be highlighting a few of these student athletes whom have graduated from online schools and who have continued to excel in their post-secondary education and athletic pursuits.   

Their stories of high academic achievement as online public school students and as high achieving student-athletes in colleges and universities illustrate the incongruity of the NCAA’s decision and why it must be changed.

Nate Davis's picture

Remembering the Life and Legacy of Barbara Dreyer

Barbara Dreyer, the long-time CEO of Connections Education, died earlier this week. Not only is Barbara’s death a loss for her friends and family, but also for the education reform movement.

Barbara was a tireless advocate for innovation in education and a compassionate woman who cared greatly about helping all students succeed. While K12 and Connections are viewed as competitors, even more we are partners in a greater cause to expand parent choice and educational opportunity for all children. On far more occasions than most know, K12 and Connections worked together to help bring new school options and choices to families across the country. Barbara always encouraged collaboration and teamwork among competitors within the industry – a mark of strong leadership. I was fortunate enough to have talked to Barbara on a number of occasions and, along with others, we talked about establishing an industry advocacy group. In every conversation, I found her to be one of the most insightful, passionate, and knowledgeable influencers in the education space.  

Many of us at K12 were fortunate to call Barbara a friend. Her professional accomplishments and contributions to the digital learning industry were significant and her passion for the work she so loved cannot be overstated. She was a formidable leader with strong views who never shied away from sharing her opinions, whether you agreed with them or not.  Barbara led Connections Education with strength, grace and dignity, especially throughout her long battle with cancer. Her perseverance is her legacy. 

It is no exaggeration to say that many students across this country are benefiting today because of Barbara’s efforts, and while they may never have had the opportunity to know her, she left an indelible imprint on their lives.

All of us at K12 Inc. extend our deepest condolences to Barbara’s family and friends, and to everyone at Connections Education.  We commend you, Barbara, for all you’ve done to help children throughout your life. You will be missed.

Nate Davis

Chairman and CEO, K12 Inc.

Nate Davis's picture

Welcome Class of 2015

Parents, dedicated teachers and especially the incoming class of 2015!

 

On behalf of everyone at K12 and our partner school boards, I want to be one of the first to welcome you to the 2014-2015 school year! I hope the summer break gave you some well deserved time to relax with family and friends and refreshed you to meet the challenges and adventures of this new school year.  I am confident that you are going have a very rewarding experience as the K12 team and our school partners have been working hard over these last several months to make this year’s instructional experience for students and teachers the best yet. We are are prepared for you and excited to help you succeed!

 

 

Our mission, to put students first and maximize their potential to learn and achieve, remains at the forefront of everything we do. And a glimpse of what’s happening behind the scenes at K12 can reveal what's fueling our excitement for the Class of 2015!
 

  • Our teacher and staff engagement is at an all-time high - over the summer, our teachers have been training, collaborating and preparing our quality programming to address many new standards that we are implementing to make our student experience even greater. After all, we are constantly challenging ourselves to raise the bar of excellence and we are working incredibly hard to continuously improve the quality of education we provide to our students.
     

  • Additional resources are on the way - this year we’ll be starting several pilot programs so that our educators and school services team have even more resources to serve our students. Our “Desire2Learn” pilot program will be launching soon and will ultimately replace the current OLS (Online School) with a more adaptive interface that will deliver an individualized learning experience for each student that is based on their custom needs and learning schedule.
     

  • More personalized learning programs - K12 will be exploring even more blended, or part-time face-to-face, learning environments for those students who need it the most. We’ve seen recent success with this approach (partner program in Colorado) and will be looking for even more ways to partner and expand hybrid learning with an eye towards increased mobility.

Each one of our students are very fortunate to be surrounded by an educator community that prizes its young people and values education. As a company of educators, K12 has the largest network of online and blended school teachers in the entire country - nearly 6,000 strong!

Mary Gifford's picture

Policy Brief: Online Teaching in Multiple States

As students report for the first day of school across the country, many classrooms will have more students than planned. Thousands of high school students will learn that their first and second choices of elective courses have been cancelled.  Students across more than one-half of the states will start school with long-term substitute teachers providing core instruction.

Increasingly complicated, restrictive and far-reaching regulations are contributing to teacher shortages across the country. The US Department of Education published a 164 page report in March 2014 that provides lists of specific shortages in each state. A recent newspaper article  tells the story of Oklahoma schools starting with more than 800 teacher vacancies. Indeed, the California Teacher Association web site states, “Attracting and keeping quality teachers in California classrooms is an ongoing challenge.”

Many of these teacher shortages could be avoided if states would consider moving teacher licensure regulations into the 21st Century. The Evergreen Education Group issued a paper, Teaching Online Across State Lines, on July 30, 2014 that explores options states may consider to recruit quality teachers into our public schools and to allow experienced teachers to leverage their expertise across schools. Outdated regulations for alternative certification and reciprocity are not empowering principals to match the best teachers with students.  It is time for state officials to carefully evaluate outdated regulations that do not significantly lower barriers that keep quality teachers from instructing students.

The Evergreen policy brief advances the idea of multi-state licensure for teachers who teach online courses. If states worked to sew together the patchwork pieces of teacher credentialing, schools would have increased flexibility and be more responsive to students’ needs.  For instance, school leaders could focus on recruiting and retaining classroom teachers for core subjects, and leverage online teachers for electives. Or, a small, rural school could accommodate the two students who need third year Chinese by utilizing a highly qualified online teacher from a neighboring state rather than cancelling the entire course due to the lack of a local highly qualified Chinese teacher.  Or, students at risk of dropping out may be enticed to remain enrolled in school if they could take online Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses to enable them to get a job upon graduation.

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.

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