Wendy Oleksinski's picture

Learning to Ride a Bike and Divide

Do you remember who taught you how to ride a bike? Did that person simply place you on the seat of the bike and tell you to soar downhill? Probably not. Very likely, you began your training by learning to balance on two wheels or maybe you starting with training wheels. Perhaps you progressed to pedaling in the grassy part of your yard or the park. Some people, although very few, might have been naturals and hopped on their bikes to ride straight away. Undoubtedly, there were a few skinned knees along the way.

As with any skill, there are steps to follow toward mastery – a vertical transgression of moving from the basics to more intense skills or from training wheels to wheelies.  In mathematics, these basic skills are often overlooked or not focused on enough in the early years of a child’s education. Consequently, it is not surprising that many older students may struggle with multistep mathematical problems.

To address this unbalance, Lane Holmes, a mathematical instructional coach at Georgia Cyber Academy, suggested that a group of online teachers watch a video clip from the “Questioning My Metacognition” YouTube channel. The clip focuses on the progression of division from 3rd-6th grade and on the skills mastery needed to solve division problems effectively.  

Upon viewing the video clip, many teachers had legitimate questions, such as, “Is it reasonable for fifth graders who have most likely never received the necessary conceptual understanding to be able to “catch up” to where they should be?”  

In other words, can we, as teachers, move backwards to reteach skills that might have been previously skipped for students?

Gina Warren's picture

Capitol Day at LAVCA

I am so very proud of my school!  I have been teaching for about 17 years and am not sure if I have ever felt such pride for any other school I have worked in, despite them all being wonderful places, than I feel right now for Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy (LAVCA).  

LAVCA is something very special and dear to me and that feeling is contagious!  I have been with the school since we launched five years ago and have seen what amazing things can happen by allowing educators to have input on what we do every day—teach!  We have a hashtag at our school that many use and we take it quite seriously— #LAVCApride. We are full of pride for the best virtual school in Louisiana and the most dedicated staff I have ever worked alongside!

This past Wednesday our school’s teachers and students, in conjunction with Public School Options (PSO) Louisiana chapter members, met at our state capitol in Baton Rouge. We made sure our voices were heard concerning the importance of school choice and specifically the importance and relevance of LAVCA.  This event is not a new one, but has taken on more significance this year as we strive to educate our lawmakers on the impact our school has on the children we serve and their families.  This is so important, because three bills have been introduced in the state legislature that could possibly end or restructure the program that we have worked so hard to create for our families. 

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

State Testing & Online Schools: What You Probably Never Knew

It’s spring—the season of warm days, blooming flowers, budding trees…and state tests.

In many states, however, this testing season has felt more like a cold and damp winter.  Delays, cancellations, and other well-documented testing mishaps have soured the mood of parents and educators, and provided much fodder for critics of state tests.

Alaska cancelled its tests outright after its testing platform collapsed.  Kansas, which used the same assessment provider as Alaska, had multiple testing delays after experiencing similar technical issues.  Problems in Texas, Nevada, and New York have also been reported.  The Indiana legislature recently scrapped its controversial ISTEP tests after several snafus.  Last year, testing problems plagued officials in Minnesota, Georgia, Florida, and other states.

Perhaps the most well-known testing flop in 2016 occurred in Tennessee.  The state’s not-so-aptly named TNReady test turned out not to be ready at all after a series of technical failures caused the state to order schools to abruptly stop the computer-based version and switch to the paper-based version, resulting in widespread cancellations and delays, not to mention a complete loss of faith in TNReady’s results.  Parents, teachers, and district officials are urging the Education Commissioner and the Governor to cancel part two of the TNReady exams and start fresh next year, or at least exclude this year’s tests from being used for teacher, district, and school accountability.

In most instances when testing problems occur, state department of education officials simply instruct all schools and districts to stop testing and shift to a normal instructional day.  After the TNReady testing platform imploded in Tennessee, the Commissioner of Education emailed district directors with the following instruction:

“At this time, we are advising that schools experiencing problems with the test discontinue testing, and return to their normal classes. Please do not begin any new additional testing you had planned for today until the department provides further information.”

“Return to their normal classes.”  That makes sense.  After all, the normal daily routine for traditional schools is basically the same:  students get on buses, go to their assigned schools, and report to their classrooms, whether for instruction or state testing. 

Not so for online public schools.  There is absolutely nothing normal or routine when online schools students take state tests.  In fact, I bet most people have no idea what online schools must do to fulfil the state-mandated testing requirements.

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

Why Online Charter Schools Matter – Reason # 219,737

Excerpt from The Advocate (Louisiana):

A couple of years ago, Macie Zoble and her son were in crisis.

The Lafayette woman had done everything in her power to keep Riley, then a kindergartner, stable enough to simply finish a traditional school day.

To combat his severe type of bipolar disorder — which mimicked attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and set teachers on edge — the round-cheeked child had been fed high doses of psychotropic drugs, only for Zoble to learn later that he metabolized them too rapidly for them to matter.

He’d been assigned a special learning plan — aimed at keeping students with such difficulties in the classroom — but with an administrator-mandated 10:30 a.m. pickup time, it barely kept him in school at all.

When nothing worked, she pulled him out of school. She quit her job.

Enter Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy.

“It changed our lives. Completely,” Zoble said, tears running down her face.

Carolyn Fabis's picture

Why I love teaching online


Carolyn Fabis teaching at IDVA

My students: The students I serve at Idaho Vision High School -- an accredited alternative program offered through Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) -- were looking for a place to succeed and earn their H.S. Diploma. While they have different life circumstances that brought them to our school, one thing they have in common is they want an education delivered in a personalized, unique way.

My students continue to impress me with their educational progress despite living through difficult situations where schooling is not their number one priority—which may be caring for a new baby, working full-time to pay bills, or a personal or family illness.  Just last semester a 12th grade student who became displaced due to a fire in her home continued to work on her studies from her hotel room. Here’s what she has to say about her experience at IDVA:

“The classroom experience that I have valued the most is the ability to go at my own pace. With Idaho Virtual Academy, I have the option to slow down or work ahead. It has been a huge learning experience for me to be responsible for when and how I will be getting my work done. I have learned how important diligence is through this experience and I value it deeply.”

I get to be part of 21st century education. Online teaching and learning gives both those learning and teaching the ability to gain digital literacy and technological skills in tools needed for the 21st century.  The high school online learning management system allows me to see how much time students are spending in unit lessons, quizzes and tests. In the brick-and-mortar model, I could only guess how much effort was being put forth outside of the classroom. The data gathered by using a digital learning system can help me individualize assistance plans for each unique student.

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