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Articles: Virtual

When Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools opened its state-of-the-art campus in 2007, A+ Anywhere Learning System by K12 was a major part of the landscape. Within four years, the elementary building’s “School Improvement Status”—assigned by the Ohio Department of Education because of poor student performance—was replaced with “Excellent,” and the district received its first-ever “Excellent with Distinction,” the state’s highest rating.

For a Colorado public school system bursting at the seams during a crippling economy, online education has been key.

“We are a very crowded school district struggling to pass bonds,” said David Knoche, principal of Falcon Virtual Academy in Colorado Springs. “Falcon Virtual has provided us some real options to deal with outgrowing our buildings while keeping students moving forward academically.”

Nearly half the 31,000 students in Tennessee’s Clarksville-Montgomery County School System live in poverty. Nearly a fourth are military dependents, given the close proximity to Fort Campbell. Together, these factors present a big challenge for educators.

The district’s 39 percent mobility rate means a regular stream of new students, many of whom arrive with incomplete courses, learning issues or achievement gaps.

Whether a student has just moved into town with his military family or is finding her way after a misstep in school, Aventa Learning by K12 products are easing the way in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

It’s not unusual for parents to call Laura Belnap in tears over the Utah-based virtual school she oversees. And that’s a good thing.

“Parents are constantly emailing or calling us crying, thanking us for the support, and sharing stories of their children’s educational growth,” said Belnap, director of Washington Online School Utah.

Distance learning has come a long way from sending coursework back and forth through the mail. Leading the way is K12, Inc., whose innovative online learning programs are helping school districts meet the challenges of 21st-century education with 21st-century tools.

For instance, home-schooled students at Washington Online School Utah use K12 products to attend elementary, middle and high school classes without interrupting their sports training or other responsibilities.

Netbooks Replace Smartphones
Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Central School District

Back in December 2009, Watkins Glen Central School District in Garnerville, N.Y., gave smartphones to 200 fifth- and seventh-graders and 20 teachers in three schools. Two years later, this small pilot program has transitioned away from mobile phones to a one-to-one netbook program for all 850 pupils in grades 5-12. According to Superintendent Tom Philips, the HP Pavilion netbook is more educationally appropriate for Watkins Glen than tablets or mobile phones.  

Of American teens, 78 percent have broadband Internet at home, while 62 percent of all Americans have broadband at home.
—Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project

The increasing incorporation of digital materials and resources into school and district portals and repositories has given rise in recent years to a new focus on the issue of identity management in K12 education.

Clintondale (Mich.) Community Schools’ high school has turned the traditional school day upside-down by asking teachers to assign short video lectures as homework and have students do activities, participate in discussions and complete assignments in class, with their teacher at hand to answer questions.

Blended learning, which incorporates the best elements of online and face-to-face instruction, allows educators to personalize learning for every student. Determining the best mix of online and face-to-face instruction is the key to building a successful program, but the same mix isn’t appropriate for all students. Panelists Gregg Levin, vice president of school solutions for K12, and Heather Hiebsch, principal/director, PSD Global Academy, Fort Collins, CO, offer ideas on how to use blended learning models to meet students’ needs.

Readers spoke out in the largest numbers yet for District Administration’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products awards. The DA editorial staff spent days sifting through hundreds of submissions and learning about new and innovative education products nominated by readers. Nominations were accepted via the DA Web site from March through Sept. 15, 2011. Each nomination required a testimonial from a school administrator to allow us to understand how the product specifically impacted a school or district. Some products received more than 70 unique nominations.

Over 150 school districts in Illinois have teamed up to share software and technology through IlliniCloud, a one-of-its-kind nonprofit cloud-computing consortium for schools. Jim Peterson, IlliniCloud's chief technology officer and Bloomington (Ill.) Public Schools' technology director, started IlliniCloud in 2009 with the help of technology company CDW. Three data centers, located in Belleville, Bloomington and DeKalb, house computer systems, backup power supplies and security devices.

Are you an "unlearner?" If not, you need to become one—fast. Of the many important messages articulated by Duke professor Cathy Davidson in her newest book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, that may be the one that is most relevant for educational leaders at this moment.

Online learning has seen a STEEP upward growth trajectory over the past decade. In the 2011 report "The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning," authors Michael Horn and Heather Staker of the Innosight Institute say the number of students taking online courses has leapt from 45,000 in 2000 to more than 3 million today, and that by 2019, 50 percent of high school courses will be delivered online.

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