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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