Blogs

Ashley Collier's picture

Weekly Roundup

In an effort to share more stories and information, we at thinkTANK will begin a Friday series called, “Weekly Roundup.” We hope you’ll learn more information about the students and schools we serve, K12 educators, and important education issues.

Check these out! 

Virtual Charter Schools Coming to NC
(Press Release)

Last week, K12 announces a partnership with North Carolina Learns, Inc. to operate the state’s newest virtual charter schools. The North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA) will be a first-of-its kind online public school.

Teaching in a Virtual Reality
(Battle Creek Enquirer)

Features Spencer Kahly, a teacher at Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy, who shares how becoming an online teacher has helped him cope with epilepsy.

Online public schools are a lifeline for students
(The Tennessean)

TN Public School Option leader and parent, Cathy Berg writes that the Tennessee state legislators take swift action to renew the Tennessee Virtual School Act to protect online school options in the state for the many families that need the option.

Hundreds Rally at Capitol In Nashville To Save Online Public Schools
(The Chattanoogan)

Under threat of closure, more than 400 parents, students and educators descended on the state Capitol to express their support for protecting the right of parents to choose the school that works best for their children, including the Tennessee Virtual Academy, a full-time online public school offered through Union County Public Schools. 

Maine Virtual Academy Approved to Open
(Press Release)

Maine Virtual Academy (MEVA), a statewide online public charter school, was approved today by the Maine Charter School Commission. The new online school will open next school year and serve students in grades 7-12 throughout the state.

Mary Gifford's picture

Data Privacy: What to Know and Policy Considerations

There is a growing need to provide parents with timely, relevant data to make informed choices regarding schooling options. Data is also needed by educators to personalize instruction. Data may be useful to organizations to drive improvements in overall instruction more quickly than previously possible.

Data privacy has received increased attention in the past few years, largely because of the increased availability of data and collection requirements.

As a company that serves teachers, schools and families across the country, we value the opportunity to use data. For instance, we can review student Algebra exams across 40 states to determine if there are curriculum or instruction issues. This data allows school leaders to see that most students missed question number 3 on an exam, which indicates either a problem with the question or the way material is presented through the online portal. For example, if students in Mr. Smith’s class all missed question number 3, then we know there is an instruction issue.

To successfully navigate through data privacy issues, it’s important to consider existing policies and safeguards in place.

These safeguards include several significant and far-reaching policies such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). These policies describe rights afforded to parents/families, restrict access to data, and define the purposes for which data may be collected and used. Additionally, there are laws, policies and practices at the state and local levels that define state- and school-level business practices.

As lawmakers consider data privacy laws this year, there is a complicated balancing act they must perform. Laws and policies need to strike the appropriate balance between:

  • Provision of relevant, timely information to parents to allow them to participate in state-level school choice options
  • Opportunities to personalize learning, forge data-driven innovation and improve instruction products
  • Obligations to ensure local flexibility, transparency and governance, capacity and training
  • Responsibilities to safeguard the collection, use, and distribution of student and family information
     

At its core, strong data privacy legislation inventories what type of data is being collected, avoids unnecessary collection, ensures data remains close to the student, strongly defines parental access, and develops security plans.

There are, however, additional nuances to consider:

Mary Morganti's picture

My Experience as a Full-time Online Intervention Teacher

Like most online educators, I began my instructional career in a brick and mortar classroom, teaching K-3 grade levels over a period of 5 years. My switch to become a virtual educator was partially due to relocation for my family, but largely as a result of looking for a way to broaden my teaching experiences. Currently, as an early literacy, Tier 3 Reading Intervention Specialist for California Virtual Academies (CAVA) – a network of online charter schools serving students across the state – I interact predominantly with K-5 students, Learning Coaches, and other CAVA teachers across California on a daily basis.

Having had the opportunity to teach in both learning environments, I’m often asked to compare my current role as an online educator to my experience as a teacher in a traditional classroom setting. I believe that both settings have their individual merits when the student’s physical, emotional, and educational needs are a priority in deciding on the appropriate learning environment. Regardless of the classroom setting there are many responsibilities I have as an educator, but the commonality between these two spaces is my role to guide and support students’ journeys to becoming proficient readers.

Specifically, as an intervention teacher I identify each student’s areas of deficiency in their reading acquisition skillset and the data I obtain is used to set a specific goal to measure their progress. In an effort to ensure each student meets or exceeds their specified goal, I develop and execute a learning plan tailored to their individual needs. Fundamentally, this often involves working through a progression that can be frustrating at times for students; however the data driven instruction, tools, and techniques I employ to help each student overcome these hurdles are the same regardless of the classroom setting.  Although the classroom environment may be different between the virtual versus physical classroom, the end goals of knowledge and proficiency remain constant.

 

Frequently, I hear concerns regarding the perception that the lack of physical presence, afforded by a traditional classroom, prevents virtual educators from establishing connections with their students. In reality, as an intervention specialist I have the opportunity to work with my students in a small group setting each day. Within my classes, I have the ability to have individual ‘break out sessions’ which allows for uninterrupted one-on-one interaction between a single student and myself just as any teacher would work individually with a student in the brick and mortar classroom environment. Adding to this is the ability to consistently interact and work with students’ Learning Coaches in workshops, weekly classes, and open office hours in addition to the regular communication regarding their student’s progress. My relationship with each family is very close as we work together to provide the best learning environment and support for each student. 

Ashley Collier's picture

K12 Rings In National School Choice Week

Today, students from Newark Prep, a blended public charter school in New Jersey, rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate the official start of National School Choice Week. Newark Prep students were joined by Andrew Campanella, President of National School Choice Week, educators from K12 Inc., and national school choice leaders.

National School Choice Week is the largest celebration of school choice in America raising awareness about the benefits of providing education options for all children and empowering parents with choice.

Throughout the week, over 11,000 events highlighting the importance of school choice will take place in the U.S. K12 and its school partners are participating in National School Choice Week events across the country in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and many other states.

Ashley Collier's picture

The Greater Washington Dance Center Launches The Academy for Elite Dancers & Athletes; Student-Athlete Program to use K12 International Academy

The Greater Washington Dance Center will launch a comprehensive instructional program, The Academy for Elite Dancers & Athletes (The Academy EDA) through the K12 International Academy beginning fall 2015.

The Academy EDA will open for enrollment beginning fall 2015 for both dancers and athletes, grades 6-12 seeking flexibility in their schedule to support their learning needs. The Academy EDA will host, on campus, The K12 International Academy – a fully accredited, NCAA-approved, online college preparatory high school program.

K12 International Academy is a fully accredited, private online school serving students in all 50 states and more than 70 countries around the world. The school combines curriculum, academic services, and support to families to meet the diverse need of students.

Through The Academy EDA students will have the opportunity to study through a certification program for graduates to become a NASM (National Association of Sports Medicine) certified trainer.  For dancers, The Academy EDA offers the highest level of professional dance training in Northern Virginia, with classes in ballet, modern, jazz, regular workshops, strength and flexibility training, and courses in nutrition, kinesiology, anatomy, and sports psychology.

For more information on The Academy for Elite Dancers and Athletes, visit http://www.theacademyeda.com/ or visit K12 International Academy.

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

The Real Story on Virtual Charters in North Carolina

Full-time statewide online public schools are an option for families in over 30 states. North Carolina is not among them despite strong demand from families throughout the state.

But that is about to change. 

A law passed by the NC Legislature requires that two K-12 virtual charter school pilots open by Fall 2015.  One of the two applicants is North Carolina Learns, Inc., an independent, nonprofit charter school board.  They are proposing the North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA), a virtual school available to families across the state that would use K12’s curriculum and academic services. NCVA was reviewed and unanimously approved by a special state education review committee last month. The NC State Board of Education will address the school’s application on Wednesday. 

Now that online charter schools in NC are imminent, opponents are scrambling. Some special interests are trying to muddy the water by peddling false and misleading information, and even coordinating attacks with teachers unions from other states. 

Chairman of NC Learns board of directors, Chris Withrow (an experienced and respected educator in North Carolina), is not letting these accusations go unanswered. Below is a recent letter he sent to the NC State Board of Education in response to claims from the North Carolina Association of Educators, an organization opposed to the virtual charter school pilot program.

Ashley Collier's picture

Tennessee Virtual Academy Student Holiday Fund: School Community Provides Meals, Clothes, and Gifts to Families In Need

Over the past month, Tennessee Virtual Academy teachers and administrators worked together to help their fellow TNVA families in need during the winter holidays through a Student Holiday Fund. TNVA administrators worked with the student engagement team to identify families that needed assistance and wished to participate in the program.

TNVA teachers and staff donated to the fund in the form of retail and grocery gift certificates. The gift certificates were used to provide families with meals and purchase clothing and gifts for children. TNVA set a first year goal of raising $970 in order to provide each identified family a meal, some toys, and a few clothing items.

In the end, TNVA exceeded their goal and raised more than double the amount totaling $2040.

Through the student holiday fund, TNVA was able to help six families, which included 14 children. Families received grocery store certificates for holiday meals, while students were gifted clothes, as well as toys and items on their wish lists.

“We are so unbelievable proud to be able to provide these gifts and necessary items to our TNVA families in need,” said Josh Williams, TNVA Head of School. “We purchased doll houses, bikes, trains, and clothes, and all of this in our first year of having the program. It brings the TNVA teachers and staff so much joy to give back to our school community and families.”

Gifts were purchased and wrapped by TNVA staff, and then either delivered directly or shipped to families in time for the holidays. 

pkeeney's picture

K12 Managed Schools Save Families Over $3.6 Million Dollars in Future Tuition Costs Through Dual Credit

This blog originally appeared on Learning Liftoff.

I’m afraid. I’m very afraid.

Like many of you, I am a parent. My son is a junior in high school, and I am afraid of the financial fallout from the next six years of his life.

First, I have to say I am proud of my son. He has worked hard, earned excellent grades, and has positioned himself to be accepted at colleges and universities that he wants to attend. He has caused minimal trouble, and is the type of young man I hoped he would be.

However, I become concerned when I see the upcoming “reward” for all of his hard work. He will spend four years accumulating college debt while he acquires a credential that will serve as his ticket into the best opportunities available to him within the workforce.

According to USA Today, “the class of 2014 graduated with an average student loan debt of $33,000.”Forbes recently cited that “student loan debt has reached a new milestone, crossing the $1.2 trillion mark — $1 trillion of that in federal student loan debt.” This represents a load on the average graduating student that is double what was seen 20 years ago, adjusted for inflation. As with any loan, while it might be needed to “buy” a college education, most people do not understand its cost. Over just 10 years, that original amount of $33,000 is likely to double as it is paid back, resulting in the graduate paying $66,000 of his hard-earned cash in payments. At $6,600 per year, $550 per month, that is a large bill for a new, well-qualified graduate. Welcome to the workforce!

For my son, this message is confusing: his hard work, intelligence, and effort is valuable, yet he will be hamstrung with significant taxes and loan payments that may total more than 50% of his pay for the first 10 years of his career.

Fortunately for him and others, there is a workaround: enter college with credits that you earned before you ever set foot on campus!

In most states, and in many high schools, students have the opportunity to begin college when they are ready, and do so at a reduced cost, or no cost. This is true for traditional, blended, and online high schools. Across K12’s network of managed public schools, families have saved more than $3.6 million dollars in future tuition costs by taking advantage of this opportunity. As students earned more than 6,000 college credits, they were earning more than college credits – they were earning the opportunity to keep more of their paycheck when they are in their twenties and thirties.

Perhaps most importantly, these opportunities now exist for students who will have to become skilled to do work that in past generations required only a high school diploma. This includes jobs in manufacturing, logistics, and transportation. In general, it is most difficult for those students who would be the first generation from their family to go to college, even if to a community college to earn an associate’s degree.

Elizabeth Street's picture

K12 Student Artist Achieves Fame and Success

This blog originally appeared on Learning Liftoff.

The media calls her a “pint-sized Picasso,” but while Picasso created his first painting at age 9 and began exhibiting them at age 13, Autumn de Forest started her fine arts career even earlier. She began painting regularly at 5 years old (though she created her first painting, “Elephant” at age 4) and displayed her art in public for the first time when she was 6. “I was the only kid there,” she says of her first art exhibit at the Boulder City Art Festival in Nevada, where she won first place. “I was the only one who came and [left] in a baby seat.”

Fortunately, this child prodigy has had the ability to pursue her passion for painting without sacrificing her education because she attends the K12 online learning school, Nevada Virtual Academy. Her flexible education schedule allows her to travel extensively; as she can connect with her courses and teacher anywhere by accessing the Internet. This is an especially convenient aspect of online learning as she and her parents are doing a lot of traveling these days.

Now, at the remarkably mature age of 12, this student artist has sold her pieces for as much as $26,000 each, has her own website, and has been interviewed by NBC’s Today Show, The Discovery Channel, Inside EditionThe Wendy Williams Show and PBS.

In addition to her many media appearances, Autumn speaks to school children across the country, donates her artwork to charity events, and was the youngest artist ever to speak at the National Art Education Association’s annual convention. She was even invited to speak at Harvard University about arts in education when she was 10.

While much of her varied work shows a strong influence from well-known artists like Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Vincent van Gogh, she has developed her own impressive painting techniques. One method, which she calls “pull painting,” involves placing two or more paint colors on one side of the canvas and running a wire over the paint to the other side of the canvas, creating swirls of complimentary colors. Autumn uses a variety of application techniques and canvases to create her art, which includes portraits, abstracts, Expressionism and Modern Surrealism.

With all her years of acclaim and success, Autumn still finds time to focus on her studies. She enjoys reading and says math and science are her favorite subjects. She recently agreed to be one the judges for K12‘s Annual Art Competition, which is currently underway through October 31st. Students from kindergarten through 12th grade are encouraged to submit their artwork showcasing this year’s theme—heroes. It could be a portrait, a scene—anything that conveys a hero in their lives.

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.

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