Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rebuttal to NY Times

Nearly 60% are behind, or 40% are recovered that might never have been reached. Yes, the students work from home, with a teacher instead of completely alone with no direction or accountability.

No cafeteria catering to the ConAgra black market.
No gym, instead they are in local community sports, YMCA, swim teams, ballet, and other organized sports keeping local dollars in the local economy benefiting small business.
No playground, just utilizing the neighborhood parks, community centers, and multi-use complexes already in place in the community.
Teachers are able to cut across county boundaries and fiscally be responsible. K12 provides a tutor as a part of the remedial national program five days a week, for an hour a day. Our tutor resides in Michigan, we live in Texas. The distribution of resources is providing appropriate remedial services in a cost effective innovative solution.

Some work is cutting edge, however even in a digital age, there is still a need for penmanship and showing your work in the written form. To say “most” is ambiguous at best. Note taking experts will agree that a significant percentage of information is lost shortly after it is heard, when you write it down, an increased percentage is retained. Many studies have documented that students retain an increased amount of information when notes are hand written out.
each of my four students utilize a variation of this methodology. Student E splits his time, 50% hand written, 50% digitally typed documents. Student J utilizes printed out notes that have been typed in a word processing program. Student K meticulously hand writes all notes, essays, and then transcribes them into digital form to be submitted. Student M is other health impaired and almost exclusively utilizes computers to record work samples. The use of technology has befitted him with adaptations to facilitate growth and development that were not even a consideration in a traditional brick and mortar school due to financial restrictions and allocation of resources to the most severely disabled. with the virtual school environment, progress is made and stigmatisms removed, and resources are distributed without prejudice.

Education means money, books are not free, and while cutting edge technology would mean that books would be available on e-readers, the publishing industry is not there yet.So for now, those books, 85 pounds worth, do come each autumn, as well as materials necessary to implement an education in 12 subjects. math, composition, vocabulary, literature, grammar, spelling, science, geography & history, art, foreign language, health, physical education. Not just student lesson books, but learning coach comprehensive lecture guides, like scripts to give a starting point of the topic is not familiar to the coach. These resources combined with the online lesson plan, attendance database, and grade book, common core standards assessments make this program a complete turnkey system that would easily retail for $5000 when the teacher support is calculated into the package.

Enrollment is by choice, in a time in our community when the current system fails to meet expectations and does not produce college ready students, repeating the same mistakes over and over would be ludicrous. Many parents are disillusioned and want something that is more in-line with the current world standards. More substance, less busy work, and most definitely they do not want to fight bureaucracy for programs that should already be available. While there is a turnover rate, and more upfront information should be available. It was presented that a certified teacher would be overseeing the student, that can be interpreted many different ways for many different parents. What I expected and what I got was a compromise in both directions. The elementary teacher team teaches nine hours a week, I expected more. I teach six hours per student, which is more than I expected. Fundamentally what it boiled down to was that I was willing to sacrifice more teaching in exchange for more flexibility. My preferences is hands on in the field learning experience with major weekly field trips. It took over a semester to re-educate my students away from the current system of teacher spoon feeding the student on perspective and to redirect them to be inquisitive and formulate their own hypothesis and then research and prove or disprove it. I agree there is a need to redesign the promotional literature to more effectively portray a typical day with a more realistic scenario rather than high lighting on the super achievers with exceptionally gifted children. The stark reality is that if you have special need children that is struggling now, they will still be facing challenges. Those do not go away, the difference is that instead of coping with 3000 foot summits and 1000 foot canyons, as a proactive learning coach, you have the resources and the freedom to carve those mountains down to about 1000 foot plateaus and fill in those crevices to 200 foot valleys. Eventually the impossible becomes possible. The student that was reading 18 months behind grade level is now in 30 months reading at grade level with 75% comprehension. It does not happen over night, but it does happen. That is the 40% that are recovered. The academics are rigorous, the entire system is adaptive, right out of the box you have all the breadth and depth for a challenging gifted and talented program, and yet the simple assessments are short and brief enough that the special needs child can demonstrate effort and achieve success, leveling not only the peeks and valleys, but the playing field for academic success.

The ratio of learning coach teaching commitment in the elementary stage is completely different than that of the high school model. I am only addressing what I know and have experienced in the last three years working with 3rd - 6th grade. In our typical week, E is in regular education and he works about nine hours a week with a certified lead teacher online live discussion. He spends an additional two hours a week with that teacher and his homeroom class in live social discussion. As the learning coach, I spend about 6 hours as week in guided instruction, and he spends and additional 8 hours in independent learning, approximately 32 hours in all of balanced and comprehensive with a significant commitment in time and effort that should be clearly defined up front.. M is on a remedial program. In addition to his certified teacher support team, he has five hours a week of concentrated remedial math tutoring.

While each state virtual academy is responsibly for attendance verification and compliance requirements, ti needs to be pointed out that k12 is the vendor of the curriculum and that the Virtual Academy is the administration. Accountability does start at home and ends with the virtual academy not k12.

I appreciate that socialization was broached. I find it exhausting trying to schedule time to attend the live events that are offered. It is hard to pick and choose, field trips to state parks, historical museums, and N.A.S.A. Opportunities to see local, county and state government at work as well as just cultural and physically fit programs are just too abundant. Some are hundreds of miles away, but even the ones that are 30 - 50 miles are so frequent that we have to pick and choose which ones we would benefit from the most and which ones we have to pass so that we can study. We have to set a personal limit of one one educational trip a month and one entertainment trip a month. We never turn down a workshop that focus’s on common core standards, but with 1.5 hours in traffic each way, we have to do some creative study space so that we do not have a lot of down time. Students are afforded the opportunity to work through a more structured problem solving activity, it is not as much fun but the social visits before and during lunch in the park give everyone ample opportunity to socialize. Rest assured the exchange of phone numbers, email addresses, and skype contact information is rampant. These students are forming friendships that transcend boundaries of social class, religion, nationality and native language. It is a global community that fosters a global outlook on how other cultures live and communicate. They are making friends without the limitation of social hierarchy or limiting their own social standing by befriending someone unique or other-abled. This freedom to move out of the box of age, class, or gender role modeling is much more healthy form of socialization than those that are strictly controlled in other settings. Granted the benefit of the managed social interaction with church affiliation, scouts membership, gated communities, and country club could have a multitude of benefits, but I find a more global approach to produce an empathetic and diverse socialization skills set that benefits at least our own family since we do have to maneuver between two different continents and cultures with students that are dual citizens. Our objective is better met with familiarity with all social classes and cultural norms. We do not want them to feel left out, to ever think it is sociably acceptable to shun someone, everyone gets a chance to participate and everyone counts. I am pleased with the diversity we have at each virtual academy activity. I think that the more diverse association, the more likely each student will appreciate diversity of opinions, giving rise to more complex and sophisticated problem solving solutions.

As a taxpayer, I can see the benefit of a subsidized school at home program because I can see how an educated individual contributes significantly more positively to community than an illiterate one. I can adamantly support oversight to those dollars with accountability. To suggest that those procedures are not in place is erroneous. While there will be a small percentage that are abusing the system and a small percentage of the administrators that are too lenient, overall there is adequate accountability and the core fundamentals are preserved and the integrity of the program is preserved and the accreditation is intact.

To suggest that a local school loses money when a student enrolls with the virtual academy it to give rise to the possibility that the school is entitled to those funds by the shear population of the community. Enrollment should not be the default fund raiser for the schools. They were designed to serve those that could not go elsewhere, they are now so ingrained and entrenched, it is hard for them to realize that enrollment is voluntary not obligatory. Our society expects student to attend a neighborhood brick and mortar school, they count on it. They select homes in communities so that their children will associate with other people of the same culture and norms as themselves. They are very vocal when there is busing that changes the dynamics of the school and forces diversity. It dilutes the whole point if the child is forced to be bused to a different school to serve some political purpose. The parent became so dissatisfied with the current situation and prognosis for their child’s education that they were willing to sacrifice their own personal time, decrease income from lost wages, family dynamic changes that induce increased stress in a last chance effort to salves what time was left. Virtual Academy is rarely a first choice, it is the choice of last resort when all others efforts to work within the system have failed. I heard about my virtual academy from word of mouth referral from a staunch home-school parent that made a recommendation based on the criteria that were my family’s needs assessment.

As a prospective parent, my criteria was school at home with a high level of structure, accountability, and accreditation through testing. As a tax paying family, I wanted a return on that investment. Currently 50% of my property taxes are allocated to the local school district. The community has voted that education is a high priority and while my children are school aged, those dollars that would be allocated towards their education should be directed to that end.

Apparently the learning model of re-teach is now out of vogue. I know that first time it was mentioned in an individual education planning meeting, I was perplexed. A strategic intervention tool that has been around for a while to enable a student to engage, reflect, and redirect to master a subject while they can still learn from the process is highly advantageous. Mastery teaching is the core foundation of k12 and by extension virtual academy. By schooling at home, we are afforded the opportunity to speed up the coursework when mastery is achieved and slow down and reteach until it is mastered by implementing this strategy we have students willing to risk a wrong answer to find a solution, but more importantly, by mastering the core subjects, they are less likely to have to take remedial math and composition at the college level. A situation that occurs with alarming frequency currently. The credit by examination paradigm are very beneficial however if a family has taken a recent vacation to national park, historical museum, or monument and learned the material in an enrichment activity. It would be entirely reasonable to have access to credit by examination. The goal was to master the knowledge not to teach to the test.

Class connects are dynamic. Occasionally a class is canceled due to technical difficulties or human error, I am in the opinion that more people are in need of some lessons in tolerance and forbearance. This is a sad state when we are so inflexible that we just can not see the other side of the coin. In our family, situations arise, we can not always be there for every single live online class lecture. Our family personally rely on the recordings when it is convenient for us to receive that information.

Ultimately it comes down to benefit debt ratio. How much does the benefit of managing my students learning environment and affording them every opportunity for a free and appropriate education is counter balanced by the overwhelming exhaustion that I face each day when my hours for entering grades, marking attendance, and reviewing the weekly lesson plan. For now, this system works for our family. My objective and goals drive my desire to make a difference in their lives, over riding my desire to collapse and sleep for a week. The primary objective for me was a non secular program that implements reading, writing, and arithmetic as its core foundation and this solution works for us on a global scale.

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