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.

Nate Davis's picture

A Pledge – High Fives for Bully-Free Lives

By this time students across the country have settled in to the 2014 school year.  They are familiar with their classes and teachers but they may also be familiar with a common problem that has received a lot of needed attention recently -- bullying.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 1 in 3 students admit to being bullied at school and research has shown us that the developmental and psychological impact of bullying can lead to an increased risk for depression and anxiety in later years. What we see almost immediately on the traditional school level is that these children suffer academically, lose self-esteem, and they can be prone to self-harm. As some of us can personally attest to as parents and even from our childhood and young adult lives, bullying leaves children helpless and the emotional scarring can take years to heal. We know that most often, bullying takes place within the school environment – at play grounds, the school bus stop and even within the classroom, gym and locker rooms. At K12 we take sincere pride in the fact that we support a bully-free community in all of our online public schools. In fact, nearly one quarter of all of our families say they came to a K12-powered school because their child was bullied and an online school offered a bully free environment.

In recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month during the month of October, we want to demonstrate our support for raising kind children and giving them the bully-free lives they deserve.  On behalf of the more than 6,000 teachers and professional educators that I have the privelge of representing, I ask you to stand with us and take a pledge to raise awareness by taking part in our High Fives for Bully-Free lives campaign.

Submit a picture of you giving a high five in support of anti-bulling on social media and help us reach our goal of 10,000 high fives by taking the pledge.  As educators and parents we can protect our children from these cruel acts by creating a safe environment for bully-free lives.

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

Recycling Inaccurate News

On Thursday, The Huffington Post republished a month old article from a website called Capital & Main about K12 and online schools.  It should be noted that this online publication is funded by outside groups and special interests such as Teacher’s Unions, who oppose charter schools and parental choice in education.  The original article was littered with inaccuracies and misinformation, but that didn’t stop Huff Post from recycling the article on their website. 

Especially troubling is that an associate editor from Huffington Post emailed me on September 3 to let me know they were considering republishing and asking if I had any comment. I immediately responded with detailed facts disputing many of the claims made in the original article.  I also asked the Huff Post editor why they would republish an article with so many mistakes.

I never received a response.

Instead they republished the piece verbatim.  Here is the email response I sent to the Huff Post editor on September 3:

Thanks for reaching out prior to publishing.  I guess my first question is why republish this?  Not only does it contain many significant errors (both errors of fact and errors of omission), it is an online publication funded by Teacher’s Unions -- hardly an unbiased source of information.  

Is there anything specifically you want me to respond to?  As I said, the article is wrong on many counts.  For example, the President of Agora’s Board of Trustees sent the writer a comprehensive statement, but the writer ignored most of it, and contrary to what the Board president wrote, suggested in his story that Agora was “completely severing” its relationship with K12.  That’s not true.  K12 continues to provide Agora with curriculum and school services, as we do with over 2,000 schools and school districts across the country.  It is not uncommon to restructure services agreements with existing school partners, and, in some cases, we do so to expand the level of services we provide.  Furthermore, as the statement clearly says, Agora’s President made it very clear that the Board’s issuance of the RFPs was “not an indication of K12’s performance under the current contract.”  K12 respects the independence of all our school partners, including Agora, and is responding to the RFP.  I would encourage you to reach out to the Agora Board of Trustees if you are looking for a response.

Ashley Collier's picture

Keeping it in the Family: Online Schooling, College Success, and Athletics

The Malnes family have been an active part of their children’s education. They’ve seen three of their children successfully graduate from Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA), a state-approved online public charter school (operated in partnership with K12 Inc.), and they are currently anticipating their youngest to graduate at the end of this school year. Lori Malnes, mother of four, shares how her children have succeeded academically in online schooling and how their education through IDVA prepared them for college pursuits and athletics.

The Malnes homeschooled their children up until high school when at that point they decided that they were looking to take on a different role in their children’s education.  

“We wanted to be more of an advocate for our children as they went into high school and not have to juggle that and being their teacher too. However, we were not happy with the regular brick-and-mortar public school at the time,” said Lori Malnes. “We read up on K12 and liked their rigorous curriculum so we decided to give it a try and enroll at Idaho Virtual Academy. Our kids were active in sports and they were still able to play with the local high school while attending IDVA.”

Chelsea Malnes was the first of her siblings to graduate from IDVA. Chelsea graduated as the valedictorian of her class and went on to attend Concordia-Portland where she was recruited to play soccer.  Chelsea ended up graduating in 3.5 years Cum Laude with a degree in Psychology.  Chelsea always felt like she had a competitive edge in the classroom because of the foundation she received at IDVA.

 

“IDVA prepared my children to excel in college – the curriculum is rigorous and prepared them for college classes as did the home-learning environment,” said Lori. “It taught them self-discipline and time management. It taught them how to communicate with teachers and professors.”

Justin, the Malnes’ second oldest, was salutatorian at IDVA and recently graduated from Boise State University with a degree in Mass Communication/Journalism. While attending Boise State, Justin competed as a Division 1 student-athlete in Track and Field all four years with a greater than B average – an achievement the Malnes are particularly proud of given the time commitment of competing in a year-round D1 level sport.  Additionally, In Justin’s sophomore year he was recognized by the NCAA as an Academic All-American in track and field.

Mary Gifford's picture

Online Education and Student Athletics

As university athletes report for practice and begin balancing course requirements with the rigors of college sports, high school students across the country are considering a different balancing act: Do I continue in the online public school that provides me with an individualized instructional program and the flexibility to participate in competitive athletic programs or do I return to the traditional classroom that may restrict my athletic training and limit the amount of customized instruction I receive?

Unfortunately, many student athletes no longer have this choice.

NCAA recently announced that starting in the 2014-15 school  year, they would no longer accept coursework from many of the online public schools served by K12 Inc. These schools are working in earnest to overturn NCAA’s decision as many enrolled students hope to play Division I or II sports. 

In an earlier response, Jeff Kwitowski, SVP of K12 Public Affairs wrote:

“NCAA does not provide schools any measurable standard or rubric used to determine what they believe is a suitable level of student-teacher interaction. Despite repeated requests, the NCAA will not publish specific student-teacher interaction guidelines for nontraditional courses, including online and digital courses. These vague standards and unclear review process leave schools to only guess what passes NCAA’s eligibility test. This is a significant concern for all schools and districts that use digital learning programs.”

Prominent digital learning experts including Michael Horn from the Clayton Christensen Institute, and Tom VanderArk from Getting Smart (and board member of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning), have sharply criticized the NCAA on its actions:

NCAA Way Out of Bounds for Outlawing Online by Tom Vander Ark

NCAA Goofs On Online Eligibility by Michael Horn

The NCAA is a private entity.  Its role is to examine individual student eligibility for college athletics, not to act as a de facto regulatory body over state-approved public schools.  That is the responsibility of state boards and departments of education, and elected officials.  This exact point was made by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who recently wrote to the NCAA questioning why they are encroaching in the authority of state governments.

All public schools that partner with K12 are approved and overseen by the states.  Teachers are state-certified and regularly interact with students, providing direct instruction, guidance, feedback, and support services. Hundreds of student athletes have graduated from K12’s partner schools and been accepted into Division I and II colleges and universities.

In the coming weeks we will be highlighting a few of these student athletes whom have graduated from online schools and who have continued to excel in their post-secondary education and athletic pursuits.   

Their stories of high academic achievement as online public school students and as high achieving student-athletes in colleges and universities illustrate the incongruity of the NCAA’s decision and why it must be changed.

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