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!

 

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