Virtual School Reality


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  • Charters and Homeschooling especially are on the rise in Florida. To give you some idea, this past August, 3 charter school applied to enter Seminole County Schools. Orange Co (Orlando) got 30. Dade County got 92 – and 28 of those were virtual schools. And we believe we are only at the beginning of what is to come.
  • A charter school opened in a neighborhood, and has about 650 students. Last year, in that same neighborhood, we had to close an elementary school. It was under-enrolled by about 500 students. We lost that competition.As you look to the future of your competition,Virtual school will represent a cornerstone in your efforts to compete and I hope to make that clear today.
  • There are a lot of myths that cause districts to discard the idea of starting a virtual school and I’m going to discuss some of them today.
  • When I Googled homeschooling in Illinois, the first three hits were virtual schools, and none of them were your state program. There are large companies that are – so far quietly – coming into your state and attracting students into their virtual programs. They won’t stay quiet. They have aggressive marketing campaigns, most of which you won’t see – they market to kids on facebook and other social networking sites. Many of them are well-connected in government, so you may start to see legislation working in their favor. This is one of the first reasons why YOU should get involved and work with your legislators to ensure the laws work in YOUR favor.
  • Who here is proud of their brick and mortar schools? Why are you proud – how do you ensure that pride? Are all brick and mortar schools across America equally good?Who knows your students better? You or some nationwide company?This is why you need to get out in front of this. Otherwise others will dictate to you the kind of education your students can get online.We have an excellent state virtual school – so I franchise with it. Franchising gives me an established tested curriculum, but all the local control that I need.Virtual School is not a “lesser education”Virtual school is challenging and requires discipline and monitoring at homeVirtual school students spend 6 hours per day on average working on school work
  • Let me share with you some of our financial story:We are completing our 3rd year – we have turned a profit for the district each year. We started very very small – just grades 6 – 12 and just 17 courses.In grades 6 – 12 this year we had over 250 full time virtual students, over half from home school returning to full time public virtual school. 125 new students being funded returned $625,000.00 to the district. Many of the balance WOULD have gone to home school, but remained public because of virtual. I won’t even count those for now. In addition, we served about 1500 additional course enrollments just to home school students. That’s another $625,000.00 returned to the district. So – just this year, and just in grades 6 – 12, and just in new revenue we would not have realized, our district regained $1,250.000.00. Add to this – private school and serving our own public school students that would have selected a state virtual course, K-5, and beyond the money, the BENEFITS it provides to our students…You can’t afford NOT to open a virtual school.
  • Class size, falling enrollments, loss of teachers
  • Class size, falling enrollments, loss of teachers
  • For every student, there is a story.We see ourselves as problem solvers – we don’t like to say no.
  • Again – this is why YOU want to run your school. Keep your class loads small enough for the support that creates quality.And by the way – just how sure were YOU about who was doing homework and projects when you taught? Ever catch a kid cheating on a test? How many didn’t you catch?
  • When I googled homeschooling in Illinois, the first three hits were VS and none were your state school.
  • First year, a closet in the back of a computer lab at the district office.Graduated to a room and use of the labNow graduating to a new location with multiple roomsLegitimizing the school through hard work, now a cornerstone of district wide efforts
  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this can happen after a full time job or blended with b/m8 – 8
  • These changing realities begin with virtual, but head right into b/m school.If I play videoSay YES to innovationSay YES to changeSay YES to virtual
  • This so sums up the impact virtual school has – and you can either be part of the new model, or you can be part of the obsolete model.
  • Virtual School Reality

    1. 1. Virtual Reality Diane Lewis
    2. 2. SCVS Seminole County Virtual School SADL SCVS Vendor
    3. 3. Poll• How many of you have or are considering starting a virtual school option in your district within the next two years? (• Text answer to: 22333• For YES, put 409215 in the message• For NO, put 409216 in the message
    4. 4. A Time of Choice Home Private Charter
    5. 5. RealityYou will be competing for students.
    6. 6. Myths No Virtual School!
    7. 7. RealityVirtual school isn’t just coming – it’s here.
    8. 8. Myth: Virtual School Is Not AsGood As Traditional SchoolReality: Virtual school is what YOU make it.• Your virtual school should: – Be operated by your district – Use local teachers – Have local control – Use good quality curriculum – Be a source of pride for your district
    9. 9. Myth: We can’t afford to start avirtual school. Reality: You can’t afford not to.Reality: Virtual school is easily a break-even or even positive financial venture if managed properly.• Initial investments: – Staff – Office space – Eventually other spaces will be needed – Marketing – Start up funding (our funding is realized at the end of the year.)
    10. 10. Myth: Students Don’t NeedVirtual School Reality: Virtual School is an important option for today’s students• Not all students fit the mold of 4 walls and a clock• FL requires 1 virtual course to graduate• Much of the post-K12 education will be virtual
    11. 11. Myth: Students Don’t NeedVirtual School Reality: Virtual School is an important option for today’s students• Many of our students are able to take courses they otherwise would not – AP courses – Core subjects (Class size or choice) – Electives • Chinese, French, Spanish • Middle School electives • Game Design, Digital Photo
    12. 12. Myth: Virtual School is Only for“Certain” StudentsReality: Virtual school is not for all students, but it is for all types of students.• Elementary, Middle and High School• Advanced• Struggling• ESE• Gifted• Athletes/Performers• Average students• Alternative Education
    13. 13. Myth: Virtual School is Only for“Certain” StudentsReality: Virtual school is not for all students, but it is for all types of students.• Success in virtual school is more dependent on the following factors than the student’s label – Support at home – the amount and type of support varies by curriculum/program and age of the student – A good program/curriculum – Active, engaged, caring teachers that are in touch frequently – An administrative staff that is involved and monitoring student success
    14. 14. Myth: You Don’t Know Who IsDoing the Work in Virtual School
    15. 15. Myth: You Don’t Know Who IsDoing the Work in Virtual SchoolReality: My teachers know their virtual school students better than they knew their face to face students.• How: – First month, weekly phone calls – Monthly phone calls – Face-to-Face sessions – Discussion-Based Assessment for every unit
    16. 16. Myth: We Can Wait Reality: The first to stake a claim in your area will develop the strongest foothold. Will it be you?
    17. 17. When You Are Ready to TakeThe Plunge…
    18. 18. Virtual School Does NotHappen By Magic
    19. 19. Myth: Running a Virtual SchoolRequires No Space, Personnel, Effort Reality: …Wait…Really??• Parent calls credit check/graduation• Counseling parents requirements decisions • Managing faculty and• Managing enrollments staff• Data reporting • Professional• Student files development• Student support • Virtual walk-throughs• Counseling students and
    20. 20. Myth: Virtual School is AboutTechnology Reality: People are the heart of virtual school• The two most important staff members starting the school are: – An administrator – A data clerk• Avoid using teachers by a provider – Hire the RIGHT Teachers – Use FULL TIME TEACHERS
    21. 21. Myth: Virtual School is AboutTechnology Reality: People are the heart of virtual school• Research and Forecast – Do your homework and forecast enrollments if there is existing virtual data in your area – You will have to hire before you know your enrollment, so there is an element of financial risk• Beyond that, additional staff will be required as the school grows: – Telephone help – A counselor – More administrative/support help
    22. 22. Myth: Teaching Virtual Schoolis Easy!
    23. 23. Reality!
    24. 24. So What’s Next?• What does Illinois want for their students? – Vendor-driven virtual schooling? • Loss of students • Loss of funding • Loss of control • Quality is not up to you – State-level virtual schooling? • Quality courses built on your standards • Provides opportunities to large and small districts, rural areas, etc • Potential for Districts to franchise or lease courses
    25. 25. So What’s Next?• What does Illinois want for their students? – District-level virtual schooling? • Lease from state, purchase digital curriculum, or build your own • Keep students in your district • Local control • Quality control • Bring students back from home school
    26. 26. Your Final Reality Virtual Changes Existing Realities• Mastery-based learning• Individualized pace• Digitizing curriculum – no text books• The end of grade levels• MUVEs• Customized learning pathways
    27. 27. Change… You never change things by fighting the existing reality.To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.– R. Buckminster Fuller
    28. 28. Contact This presentation is available on Diane Lewis Director of Instructional Technology and Virtual Schools Seminole County Public Schools 407-320-0157