Victoria Bannon's picture

New Skills, Bright Futures at Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin

“Studies have shown that by 2020, two out of three jobs will require some postsecondary education or training and that job-related skills can dramatically increase employment options for new graduates,” shares CEO of K12 Inc. Stuart J. Udell. Many of these jobs are in fields that do not necessarily require a college degree. With so many more students going to college, there is more competition than ever to get these jobs.

So how to get an edge over these students and prepare those that may not be college bound for the working world?

Victoria Bannon's picture

Music Artist Thrives In Online School

“I was raised around music my entire life – my dad was a singer and a writer and my mother was a dancer that traveled the world on tours with artists.” This influence is readily apparent in the ambitions of young Chelsi Smith, whose stage name is Tyeler Reign. Smith is a student at Academy of Arts and Sciences: Thousand Oaks Simi Valley -- a Fuel Education partner school -- who balances 9th grade with her burgeoning music career.

Smith shares that one of best parts about being an online learner is how much time it allows for her to pursue her career. “The brick and mortar schools didn’t understand me and my schedule.”

Through online learning, however, she has found a home.

“I can get my work done whenever and wherever I want,” Smith enthuses. This allows her plenty of time for “artist development” and time to hone her musicality.

Smith’s music teacher, Mrs. Rebecca Lopez, has been a major influence both musically and academically to Reign.

“My music teacher Mrs. Lopez is amazing -- she has actually taken an interest in me and what I do she allowed me to share more of my world with her which has helped me flourish with her class work.  We had a rocky start but Mrs. Lopez has become my favorite teacher ever. She allows me to be me and add my personal experiences to my class work! “  

The flexibility of online learning has allowed the young artist a chance to get her education and pursue her career. Smith says that a big goal for her is to “finish school early” so she can focus on her music career even more. This ambitious young lady’s dreams don’t stop at the classroom, however. When asked where she would like to be in a decade, Reign immediately came up with a very comprehensive list, making it clear that she is obviously thinking about her future.

“10 years from now I will be 24 years old and I would like to have achieved some of my long term goals. I would like to be finishing my third world tour, hopefully be cast in a Broadway play, received at least eight Grammy’s, and have a clothing line.  I’d also really like to create a new program in the inner city for kids to have a place to go and explore the arts!“   

These are no idle dreams. So far, Smith has filmed five music videos and plans to shoot six more in the next few months. She will also be filming a reality TV pilot this summer.

But that doesn’t mean that she’s skipping out on post-secondary education – Smith shares that college is a “non-negotiable” in her family.

Ashley Collier's picture

Silicon Valley Flex Academy Team Wins The MATHCOUNTS Competition

Silicon Valley Flex Academy’s (SV Flex) Middle School MathCounts School Team – comprised of Neil Shah, Claire Huang, Edison Zhang and Issabella Romo -- participated in annual regional competition this past weekend (02/06/2016) at San Benancio Middle School in Salinas, California, winning first place among 120 competitors and 17 teams.

The team will be competing in the State MATHCOUNTS Competition on March 5th, 2016 at Stanford. This will be their third time going on to the State Competition.

SV Flex Team worked together to outscore every other team at the competition. This competition brings teams from the entire Monterey Bay area together for a written test that determines which teams and individual students will qualify and move on to the State Competition.

Team member, Neil Shah won the Countdown Round and came in second place overall.

Joel Medley's picture

A Good Start For North Carolina Virtual Academy

There are two virtual charter schools in North Carolina.  Both serve a tiny fraction of the overall student population in the state and are only halfway through their first year of operation.  The schools are off to a very good start. 

This is the first year of a four-year pilot program for virtual charter schools.  Policymakers are still trying to fully understand these schools and how they fit into North Carolina’s public education system.  So it doesn’t help when erroneous reports – based on bad information or a lack of understanding about virtual schools – cloud the facts.  Take for example one recent report that claimed North Carolina’s virtual charter schools were “off to a rocky start” because of “staggeringly high withdrawal rates.” 

Is that really the case?  Let’s look at the number and compare.  The Department of Public Instruction reported that the North Carolina Virtual Academy had a 19 percent withdrawal rate and the North Carolina Connections Academy had a 20 percent withdrawal rate.  Compared to traditional schools, that may seem high, but it is actually in line with other statewide full-time and part-time virtual schools.  In fact, it’s lower than the withdrawal rates from many state-run virtual schools.

Virtual Virginia, the state department-run online school reported a 28 percent withdrawal rate in its full-time program.  Florida Virtual School (FLVS), one of the largest and longest running state-run virtual schools in the nation, had even higher withdrawal rates.  According to a study from Tax Watch, FLVS had high school course withdrawal rates exceeding 40 percent and 35 percent in two consecutive years, respectively.  In 2012, the Tampa Bay Times reported that according to FLVS’ figures, 66 percent of students who enroll in a course do not complete it.

North Carolina also has a large state-run virtual school, North Carolina Virtual Public School.  NCVPS’s withdrawal rates are not known either because the school does not publicly report that information or has not been required to disclose it. 

Virtual schools are very different from traditional schools. They are also public schools of choice.  These schools are rigorous and require self-discipline and a high level of commitment.  Except for kindergarteners, the students who enroll in virtual schools are transfers and most come from classroom-based schools.  All the information sessions, orientations, and training we provide cannot erase the fact that many students will not really know if virtual schools are the right fit until they try it.  Withdrawal rates reflect virtual schools’ unique learning model, not the quality of the program.

If a parent chooses to withdraw their child from a virtual school to attend another school because they realize this model is not the right fit, how is that decision a bad thing?  It is a natural result of parental choice that is offered to families here in North Carolina.  Students should be where they have the best chance to succeed.  If NCVA is that school, then we want them here with us; however, if a family believes a different school is the best model for their child, then we want them at that other school.

That same report mischaracterized the funding implications by stating that “virtual charters are funded based on a one-day count of membership” and that “local schools systems will lose out on vital public funding.”  Both statements are incorrect.

Ashley Fryer's picture

A Recap of School Choice Week in Kansas

I like to have choices.  Don’t we all?  We make choices every day- what to eat, what to wear, how to spend our free-time, etc.  We make more serious choices too like which healthcare provider to go with, which political candidate to vote for, or where should we send our child to school.   Some families don’t have that last choice.  They live in an area with only one free public school option.  

In Kansas we are blessed to have educational options and we’re celebrating!

Last week we celebrated National School Choice Week with the rest of Insight Schools of Kansas community. National School Choice Week shines a light on the great variety of education options that work best for children – options we are fortunate to have in Kansas.  Kansas offers public charter schools, magnet schools, full-time online schools (like the one I work for), private schools, and homeschooling freedom.

I had a wonderful experience as a student. From my kindergarten teacher to each of my high school instructors, I had wonderful educators.  I had lots of friends and was really involved through sports, theater, and clubs. I loved school and that’s probably one main things that attracted me to teaching.  It’s a good thing I liked my school, because I attended a small school in a rural area, and there were no other schooling options for me.  My mom and dad both worked full time and couldn’t have homeschooled me.  There were no magnet or charter schools anywhere close.  Virtual schools didn’t exist yet, and the closest private school was over 30 miles away.

Right out of high school I went to college to get my teaching certificate in life science. I got a great teaching job at a traditional brick-and-mortar school a week before I graduated, and I’ve never questioned my choice.  I love teaching!  Eventually, I heard of a free, public, online school in Kansas, called Insight Schools of Kansas.  At that time in my life, we were traveling a lot and I thought teaching online could be a temporary option, until my family settled down.  

Seven years later, I can’t imagine doing anything else.