Virtual School Case Study


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  • Students Studentsare given assessments at the beginning of the year to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses. From this data, a learning plan is created. These assessments continue throughout the year to see where students need more support or acceleration. There is a gifted and talented program for students who need acceleration in language arts, math, and science. Third grade students and older have the opportunity to work above grade level, participate in projects, and conduct research. For students who need extra support, the Program for All Children to Excel (PACE) helps students with reading and math skills. Weaknesses are targeted so that students can build a strong foundation in the critical subjects.Teachers All teachers are certified and hold at least a Bachelor’s Degree. They receive rigorous training in online instruction and can expertly use online tools. Teachers build strong relationships with students and their families through online and face-to-face interactions. Teachers collaborate on a regular basis to create lessons and share ideas. Counselors are available to advise on different types of personal and academic matters.Parents In order for a student to be successful at Connections Academy, there must be a learning coach. A learning coach is usually a parent who helps the student with their instruction. They provide the necessary structure for a student to stay on track. Communication with teachers is extremely important, and they will need to touch base with the instructors frequently. Online orientation and training programs help parents prepare for this role. There are also videos and toll-free phone numbers that can be used for support. Curriculum Structured lessons are combined with self-pace learning for reading, writing, math, science and social studies lessons. The four C’s are also emphasized:Critical thinking and problem solvingCommunicationCreativity and innovationCollaborationThe curriculum is evaluated on a continuous basis by parents and students to ensure high quality instruction.Electives allow students to choose topics and subjects that are highly interesting and engaging, such as sign language and Chinese.For older students, academies offer special opportunities for students who excel in the visual and performing arts, sports, and science and technology. Technology Connections Academy utilizes Connexus, an online management system. This user friendly system allows students and parents to access the curriculum 24/7. From a personalized homepage, users can see schedules, assignments, lessons, grade books, and communicate with others. Email and message boards are available and parents can provide feedback to Connections Academy at any time. Teachers use Connexus to teach lessons, track progress, grade assignments and assessments, communicate with others, track student and family communication and adapt learning to match the needs of students. Community Through field trips and other outings, students can get to know one another and participate in hands-on learning activities. Students can also join clubs, ranging from theater to debate. Volunteering is encouraged and students are offered many opportunities to help out in their community.
  • The Central California Connections Academy website is easy to use and navigate for both parents and students. On the site’s homepage, you learn the basics about the institution, including their mission and accreditation. A sidebar provides extra information about the school and how to enroll. Tabs at the top allow you to learn more information about different aspects of the school. For example, if you click on “Our School,” you can read more about teachers, parents, students, and the community. If you click on “Our Teachers,” you can read the bios of highlighted educators who teach at CenCA. You get the feeling that these teachers truly care about their students and the work they do every day. That is important for the student attending the school and their parents.The curriculum tab goes in-depth about the material that is taught from K-12. Hyperlinks can show you examples of instructional tools, so potential students can see what their learning will be like. Videos accompany the text to provide further insight into how things work, for example, LiveLesson sessions. Since technology is such an important part of the digital school experience, it is helpful to have examples of what the Connexus homepage looks like. Tools for both parents and students are provided. Parents might have concerns about sending their child to an online school, but the “Proven Results” tab helps to ease their concerns. As you can see, parent satisfaction is very high and this is something they pride themselves on. Talking to current students and families is important, and they do a great job of keeping their site up-to-date with future events, both in-person and online. The FAQs provide additional information about the school, while the enroll page lets you get started filling out the forms to apply. As you can see, everything is organized in an easy-to-understand manner. They took great care in designing the layout of the site. Lastly, the program guide provides extremely helpful information about the school. There is even more detailed information about the curriculum and the overall digital school experience. After perusing the guide, potential students and their families have an even better idea of everything the school has to offer.Overall, the site earns very high marks based on the ease of use and the worthwhile information that is provided. While I was somewhat hesitant about digital schools, I feel like this school is a viable alternative to your brick-and-mortar school. If the quality of education a student would receive is as impressive as this website, I would feel comfortable sending a child to this institution.
  • Virtual School Case Study

    1. 1. Virtual School Case Study: Central California Connections Academy Whitney Treichler EDTC650 Dr. Allen Grant
    2. 2. The Virtual Schools Movement Virtual schools are becoming more prevalent in today’s technology-dominated world. They can offer a wide-range of classes to students who want an alternative to a brick-and-mortar school. They can be found at all grade levels, from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. This Case Study examines one such online institution, Central California Connections Academy, and all that it has to offer to its students. The school's mission, organizational structure, regulatory environment, scope of offerings, and student body will be detailed. An evaluation of the school’s website will also be included.
    3. 3. About CenCA Connections Academy offers free public education to K-12 students around the United States. Approximately 40,000 students are enrolled nationwide. Central California Connections Academy (CenCA) is for K-12 students located in Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties. Since 2006, it has been authorized as a charter school under the Alpaugh Unified School District. According to their website, they offer: – A challenging, K–12 curriculum developed by leading education experts. – Instruction from state-certified teachers experienced in online instruction. – Support from trained counselors, principals, and administrative staff. (Connections Education LLC, 2013)
    4. 4. CenCA’s Mission The mission of Central California Connections Academy is to leverage 21st century education resources on behalf of students who need a more personalized approach to learning to maximize these students’ potential and meet the highest performance standards. This mission is accomplished through a uniquely individualized learning program that combines the best in virtual education with very real connections among students, family, teachers, and the community to promote academic and emotional success for every learner. (Connections Education LLC, 2013)
    5. 5. Regulatory Environment CenCA is accredited by the Schools Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, one of six regional accrediting organizations for higher education institutions recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United States Department of Education. Connections Academy is a division of Connections Education, which is accredited by AdvancED. AdvancED is an organization representing 27,000 public and private schools and districts across the United States and in 65 countries worldwide. (Connections Education LLC, 2013)
    6. 6. Organizational Structure  CenCA operates through a contract with Connections Academy, LLC. It is governed by an independent Board of Directors.  Current school administration includes a superintendent, interim principal, assistant principal, manager of counseling services, and counseling staff.  The teaching staff includes state certified teachers and support staff.  Learning coaches, who are usually parents, provide support and guidance at home to students.  Community coordinators are learning coaches who work with teachers and parents to plan special events and field trips. (Connections Academy, 2013a)
    7. 7. Teaching & Learning at CenCA Click on the icon to learn more about: Students Teachers Parents Curriculum Technology Community
    8. 8. Teaching & Learning at CenCA  To understand the “typical” day for a Connections Academy student, view this video.  Lessons can include Live Learning Sessions where teachers and students interact through written communication and video/audio connections.
    9. 9. Scope of Offerings Elementary School (K-5)  Focus on reading, writing and math.  Additional instruction in science, social studies, technology and physical fitness.  Optional electives and clubs. Click here to see information about the second grade curriculum.
    10. 10. Scope of Offerings Middle School (6-8) Instruction deepens understanding of science and social studies topics. Work with content-specific teachers. Variety of electives and clubs. Option to earn high school credits. Click here to see information about the Math and Language Arts Curriculum for grades 6-8.
    11. 11. Scope of Offerings High School (9-12)  English, math, science and social studies are the main subjects, but electives like yoga and web design allow for additional enrichment.  Career Technical Education courses allow students to explore career options.  Honors and Advanced Placement classes available.  Advisory teachers help develop Personalized Learning Plans that will prepare students for the future. Click here to see information about the Science Curriculum for grades 9-12.
    12. 12. Student Body Connections Academy strives to meet the diverse needs of K-12 learners, such as:  Students who want an alternative to home schooling or a brick-and-mortar school  Struggling students who might be losing interest in school  Gifted and talented students who need acceleration  Students who have busy schedules because of sports or other activities  Students who constantly move  Students with health problems
    13. 13. Student Body Learn about: Actress Ashley Argota’s experience with Connections Academy. Skaters who needed an alternative to a brick-and-mortar school. A student who was struggling in a traditional school.
    14. 14. Student Body Student Enrollment by Race (School Year 2011-12) (Ed-Data Partnership, 2013)
    15. 15. In the News Read articles and watch videos about the great things happening at CenCA:  “A New York music education experience from Porterville”  “Celebrating Earth Day with Central California Connections Academy”  “Keeping Your Child Motivated for School On Set”  “Online school offers flexibility, convenience”  “Alternative Education”  Awards & achievements for California Connections Academy Schools
    16. 16. Evaluating CenCA’s Website For a full evaluation of CenCA’s website and online resources, watch this YouTube video.
    17. 17. Interview Attempts Communication Log: Tuesday, June 25 Emailed following staff at CenCA: Richard Savage - Principal Shana Hollman – Special Education Director Mia Hardy – Manager of Counseling services No response Thursday, June 27 Emailed main email address for Connections Academy ( Email forwarded to Central Connections Academy office with no response Monday, July 1 Left voicemail at CenCA’s Administrative Office No response
    18. 18. Conclusions Students attending CenCA receive a well-rounded education. With parental support and the motivation to learn, K-12 students can find success at this school. The programs they have in place to support both accelerated and struggling students demonstrate their commitment to personalizing education for every student. There are varied and diverse classes to choose from and a supportive community to rely on. Central Californians who are looking for an alternative to a brick-and-mortar school should explore what CenCA has to offer.
    19. 19. References Avila, Ester. (2011, September 7). Alternative education. Retrieved from Avila, Ester. (2013, March 22). A New York music education experience from Porterville. Retrieved from California Connections Academy Schools. (2012). What makes us a quality choice for your child’s education? Retrieved from Connections Academy. (2011, August 8). Virtual school: A day in the life of a connections academy family [Video file]. Retrieved from Connections Academy. (2013a). Central California Connections Academy 2012–13 school profile. Retrieved from Connections Academy. (2013b). Connect engage achieve: Connections Academy 2013-2014 program guide. Retrieved from Connections Academy. (2013, February 20). LiveLesson session: Inside the online classroom [Video file]. Retrieved from Connections Academy. (2013, April 22). Celebrating Earth Day with Central California Connections Academy [Video file]. Retrieved from ConnectionsAcademy1. (2009, October 26). Online learning: Helping dreams become reality for competitive athletes [Video file]. Retrieved from ConnectionsAcademy1. (2011, May 12). Online learning with Ohio Connections Academy [Video file]. Retrieved from ConnectionsAcademy1. (2011, June 20). On the set of Bucket & Skinner with online high school graduate Ashley Argota [Video file]. Retrieved from Connections Education LLC. (2013). Central California Connections Academy. Retrieved from Ed-Data Partnership. (2013). Executive summary school accountability report card, 2011-12. Retrieved from school/home.aspx Luiz, Joseph. (2012, September 22). Online school offers flexibility, convenience. The Sentinel. Retrieved from Wheeler, Mary. (2012, September 19). Keeping your child motivated for school on set. Backstage. Retrieved from