Over the past month, I have attended a couple of online information sessions from the Michigan Connections Academy (MICA) (see my notes from the first session and the second session). As I don’t want to be accused of favouring Connections Academy because of my involvement with MICA (note that I am a volunteer member of the Board of Directors of MICA, however, my comments here are as a private citizen and NOT in any official capacity as a board member), I decided to attend a couple of K12, Inc. school information sessions – beginning with the Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA).
The sessions focused only on their K-8 school, there are different sessions for the high school grades (which I assume was the newly approved grade nine). The session began with a live presentation from the moderator in Elluminate that started with a description of the school (and I missed much of this as I was just getting this blog entry started). And I should note that I told the moderator at the beginning of the session that I wasn’t an interested parent, but a K-12 online learning researcher from Wayne State University and asked them if it was okay if I stayed.
K12, Inc. curriculum (both the online and offline aspects of their instructional model). The model was typical of what I would expect, “high quality, interactive online content,” along with offline things such as labs – plus face-to-face meetings with teachers and physical outings. They do synchronous classes using Elluminate, and the parent is part of the instructional team as the learning coach (“parent-teacher partnership” as they referred to it in the session).
There are multiple assessments done online based on lessons, units, etc., and – as a state funded school- they also are responsible for the statewide tests required in Georgia. This year that testing regime includes:
- CRCT: Grades 3-8 (in April)
- Writing: Grade 3, 5 (in March) and 8 (in January)
- DIBELS Testing: K-3
These test are done in a physical location and last year they had about fifty different test sites.
Interestingly, students that qualify for free or reduced lunch get a computer, printer, and Internet reimbursement – and I wondered if that was something that K12, Inc. did in all of their state schools or if this was due to the fact that the funding levels for cyber charter schools were so low in Georgia?!?
The moderator paused part way through for questions. Participants asked about the pacing, the portfolio requirements, the availability of foreign language and music classes, and the final question asked about the time commitment for the learning coach. The response was that it was a full-time commitment, as the learning coach was expected to be engaged with the student as they completed their school work (i.e., if the student was expected to do five or six hours of work, the learning coach would be expected to be involved for five or six hours).
The moderator then described the GCA teachers and discussed their responsibilities. Teachers were highly qualified, state certified (“and in most cases state residents”) teachers that were responsible for teaching content, checking the data entered by the learning coach, available for additional assistance, and grading assignments not scored automatically by the curriculum.
Next the moderator outlined some of the main topics in each of the core subject areas (e.g., English, mathematics, science, and social studies). The moderator then outlined (and showed screen shots) of the daily plan and weekly schedule that outlined all of the things that the student had completed and also what they would have left to complete. This was followed by some of the screens that learning coaches would need to be familiar with and complete. The next series of screen shots provided samples of what some of the individual lessons would look like.
The session then moved to discussing the GCA Community. If I heard correctly, they have 6000 students and approximately 120 teachers. There are numerous outings around the state and the GCA system would allow parents to find others in the geographic proximity and community building tools that allowed parents to connect with each other.
The extended K12, Inc. community includes over 70,000 students, and many of the student groups and clubs (at least the online ones) involve the entire K12, Inc. community. K12, Inc. also provides learning coaches with an Introduction to Online Learning course and a speaker series. There were also student speaker series, along with other activities (both statewide and national in scope).
The moderator then opened the session up to questions again. The first question related to the amount of online instruction (which I assume meant synchronous), the response was that there were four synchronous sessions per subject area, per week for middle school and three times for elementary school. There was a question about how the assignments worked (i.e., online or sent via other means). Beyond that there weren’t many questions, even though at one point there were almost 20 participants in the room. I wonder if this was related to the fact that the GCA has been in operation for a few years now and folks were generally familiar with them?!?
I chatted privately with the moderator for a few minutes at the end. She indicated that given the size of the audience that she usually does receive more questions – particularly questions related to special education.
I should note that there are additional information sessions up-coming, several on the new grade nine program. You can see them all at:
At this stage, I’ve attended one information session from IQAcademy, two from Connections Academy, and now this one from K12, Inc.. One of the things that I found interesting was the consistency in how the schools were set-up, along with their descriptions of both their curriculum and their instructional delivery process. Without knowing enough of the history of the people involved in the cyber charter school community, I am left to wonder if the individuals with more recent programs were also involved in some of the older programs in some capacity (either as employees or parents of students attending). But that’s just me thinking out loud.
Anyway, thanks for the moderator for allowing me to sit in and interacting with me at the end. It was both enjoyable and informative.