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Weekly Roundup: Back to school

Arkansas student attend school via virtual academy

Parents have choices regarding where their children go to school, but what about skipping school altogether and going the virtual route? It's now possible in Arkansas for a student to go from kindergarten through high school and never set foot in a traditional classroom. 

As of this year, the Arkansas Virtual Academy is allowing students to attend school via the web from kindergarten through 11th grade of high school. After the next school year, students will be able to complete 12th grade and graduate from high school, allowing future students to possibly never experience traditional classrooms.

Is virtual school a good match for your child?

Joshua McMurtry was a strong student, receiving high marks from his elementary school teachers. But the Milwaukee fourth-grader still didn't feel confident academically, expressing concern to his parents that he was uncertain about what he was getting out of school.

After researching various options and talking with family and friends, Joshua's mom, Cheryl, decided to enroll him in the Wisconsin Virtual Academy, a full-time, tuition-free online public charter school for grades K-12 open to students statewide.

"It was the best decision for him and for us. During his middle school years, we wanted to ensure that he was getting what he needed," said Cheryl McMurtry.

Arizona Virtual Academy Students Log On to Start School Year
Press Release

The Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA) is ready for its first day of school.  After raising its overall school grade with the state, the online public charter school says it is eager build on its success.

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The Rest of the Story

The New York Observer recently published a piece about K12 and the education organization, Foundation for Excellence in Education.  The author, Ari Rabin Havt, a senior fellow with Media Matters and co-author of a book charging that Fox News is a “propaganda machine,” is not what you would consider an impartial observer.

Nevertheless, prior to publication, I sent him detailed responses to questions about K12 with the outside hope that he would tell it straight.  He did not.  Instead, he drove his agenda; resurfacing old claims but leaving on the cutting room floor the key facts and information that did not fit his narrative. 

Let me fill in what he left out:

On Florida:  An IG report concluded that a claim made about K12 teachers was unfounded; teachers were state-certified.  Other school districts found K12 was in full compliance. K12 is a state-approved online learning provider in Florida and serves over 50 school districts in the state.

On teacher grading:  The author seemed fixated on substantiating a “grade fixing” story in Tennessee that was completely debunked by the school’s teachers.  Just because the local news station that originally broadcast the report would not correct the story on its website – what a surprise! – doesn’t change the fact that it was a manufactured and bogus story.  

On NCAA:  NCAA has its own standards for nontraditional courses. However, these standards are not based on outputs (course completion, grades, end of course exams, course content, or other measures of competency), but rather on inputs – i.e. the way in which an online course is delivered.  Digital Learning experts have criticized this approach.  K12 is nationally accredited by AdvanceED. Its partner schools are state-approved and accredited, and offer courses that are universally accepted by colleges and universities including top Ivy League schools.

On Academics:  The author relies heavily on an old report from National Education Policy Center (NEPC), an organization that collaborates with the powerful teachers unions and is hostile to charter schools.  This report has been criticized for using deeply flawed data. I sent him the most complete and accurate collection of data on performance of K12 partner schools, but he must have never looked at it or simply dismissed altogether.  But it’s all there.  You can find K12’s annual Academic Reports on our website along with other reports and white papers that show academic trends are improving at K12-partner schools -- better overall outcomes, improved student proficiency rates over time, success in closing achievement gaps, etc.  Take a look for yourself here

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Weekly Roundup: Supporting Online K-12 Teachers, Elite Performers using Online Learning, and Celebrating School Choice

K12 Inc. Partners with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching to Develop Teacher Evaluation Rubric and Handbook for Online Learning
Press Release

In partnership with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), K12 has developed a researched-based rubric to serve as the basis for evaluation, coaching, and teacher development in K12's online learning environments.

Elite Performers and Athletes in School Use Online Learning on Path to Success
Learning Liftoff

Elite performers and athletes in school discover that online learning is the solution for meeting both their academic and professional goals. K12 provides the ability to study while practicing, hundreds— even thousands—of miles from home. That flexibility of schedule presents opportunities that traditional schools simply can’t match.

“Doing all that traveling would be very difficult at a ‘regular’ school that was not over-the-top flexible,” says Tom Aney, whose daughter Jessie is a nationally ranked tennis player.

Teen dancer/author/scholar never misses a step
The Bakersfield Californian

With a 4.0-plus grade point average, a packed dance schedule and a fantasy book trilogy in the works, calling Kristyn Van Cleave “busy” might be an understatement.

The 16-year-old is about to start her senior year through the online California Virtual Academy, where she takes honors and advanced placement classes. Next spring she’ll graduate after just three years of high school. Last month, Van Cleave’s academic achievements caught the attention of the National Society of High School Scholars, which she was invited to join to have access to a number of scholarships.

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Partnering with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching to Support Online K-12 Teachers

We are proud to announce that K12 Inc. and the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) have partnered to develop a teaching evaluation rubric and handbook for online learning.

The rubric represents a single common teacher evaluation system for online K-12 teachers to ground online teacher effectiveness in a strong foundation of research and experience.

The partnership and rubric are examples of how K12 is leading the field of online teaching, and symbolic of our continued commitment to supporting educators in online and blended learning environments.

The research-based rubric will serve as the basis for evaluation, coaching, and teacher development in K12’s online learning environment. The K12-NIET rubric is currently being piloted for the 2015-2016 school year in many K12-partner schools across the country.

NIET’s Senior Vice President of Services and Partnerships, Kevin Guitterrez stated that “the partnership with K12 on this effort allowed us to work on creating an exemplary rubric for K-12 educators in the online setting.“

NIET researchers held focus groups, observed teachers at work, conducted detailed interviews, and paid special attention to teacher practices and behaviors. In partnership with K12, NIET worked to develop a rubric that was field-tested and underwent multiple iterations to ensure it was applicable to the teachers in the field.

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Weekly Roundup: Student advocacy, Back to School, and a “SportsKid”

Weekly Roundup showcases stories and information about the students and schools we serve, K12 educators, and important education issues.

Union County school board approves K12 Inc. pact
Knoxville News Sentinel

The Tennessee Virtual Academy took another step toward being ready for the upcoming school year. On Thursday, the Union County school board voted to continue its contract with K12 Inc., which provides the curriculum for the virtual school.

Cottage Grove teen lobbies for those with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
South Washington County Bulletin

Recent high school graduate Gary Riege is a science and math whiz. He’s also a Star Wars fanatic, avid computer science techie and Advanced Placement student. He’s soft spoken, but he has big ideas, especially when it comes to bringing awareness to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and the need for more educational opportunities.

“I needed special education but (the district) always fought us on almost everything we asked for,” he said. “They wouldn’t follow my (individual education plan), and other times they wouldn’t add things. And when they would modify it they would remove all of my supports.”

Frustrated with the inability to partake in courses he knew he would excel in, Riege enrolled in the Minnesota Virtual Academy. He soon began taking Advanced Placement classes, delved deeper into the mechanics of computer science and got a confidence boost from supportive teachers that he said helped “big time.”

Class Acts: From the Cover of SI kids to a College Scholarship
Learning Liftoff

Few teen athletes have been more celebrated than Jessie Aney. In 2010, Aney was named Sports Illustrated’s “SportsKid” of the Year for her excellence in tennis and ice hockey. Now, after establishing herself as one of the nation’s leading young tennis players, Jessie will be attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full tennis scholarship.

A graduate of Minnesota Virtual Academy, this 2015 Class Act student completed her high school course requirements in just three years, enabling her to focus on her unique abilities.