Virtual School, Real Success
In a definition search of the word “virtual,” multiple synonyms and meanings appear. Words such as “almost” and “nearly” are the first, which make clear why some may have misconceptions of being a full-time student of virtual school. While most people know that virtual school most directly means school that happens online, how many understand the day-to-day realities of virtual students?
Much of the available information on virtual schools almost or entirely omits the incredible work of successful virtual school students, particularly in Florida. Perhaps this is the reason that some may say “virtual school” is “almost” school. However, other meanings of the word virtual much more closely fit the work of Florida Virtual School: effective, practical, essential. With this understanding in mind, this three-part post illuminates real-life virtual school with evidence from FLVS Full Time students.
FLVS Full Time is unique because of the flexibility and personalization it affords within a structured public school environment. Students have made clear in recent surveys that they primarily enroll due to the following reasons: they can access courses any time, day, or place; they can learn in a safer school environment free of bullying and with fewer negative social issues; and they can learn with fewer distractions.
Social Opportunities and Parental Involvement
In addition to the benefits above, FLVS Full Time offers 12 clubs in grades K-5 and 40 clubs across grades 6-12, with frequent online and face-to-face meetings. FLVS Full Time clubs offer places for introverts and extroverts alike.
News in a Click, the FLVS student newspaper, offers even more opportunities for students to showcase writing about important topics. Virge, our online literary magazine, provides a space for student literature and art creativity to bloom. Even our blog provides opportunities for students to share ideas and blog about issues that mean the most to them! From Math Club to International Club, Spanish Club to Cheerleading and Teen Driving Clubs (and everything in between), FLVS Full Time students have multiple opportunities to take part in exciting activities that interest them. See www.flvs.net/clubs for details!
FLVS Full Time also has a Family Engagement Specialist that focuses specifically on ways students and families can become involved in school. This specialist leads student and family orientations, oversees and organizes monthly face-to-face events and quarterly virtual coffee chats, and plans the yearly schoolwide field trip that provides parents and students from across the state a chance to come together. The Family Engagement Specialist also gathers input from families through the School Advisory Council and communicates our School Improvement Plan. For the 2018-19 school year, the FLVS Full Time middle school alone offered six face-to-face events, 18 virtual events, and five newsletters to families. FLVS Full Time provides many ways for students and families to come together as a school community.
Academic Success in the Virtual Setting
Virtual school students can compete with (or advance beyond!) their peers in achievement.
FLVS Full Time students have accomplished impressive academic achievements. Here are a few statistics. In the 2017-2018 school year, all levels in FLVS Full Time (Kindergarten-12th grade) beat the state average pass rates for English Language Arts. In addition, FLVS Full Time Middle School ranked second in the state for the percent passing the same state test; the high school also ranked second in the state.
One might wonder whether these types of achievements apply to students who have struggled with reading and writing in the past. Indeed, FLVS Full Time students who took the 11th grade Retake for English Language Arts earned a pass rate that was 44 percent higher than the state average. Students in 12th grade who took the Retake scored 15 percent higher than the state average. These scores merely skim the surface of the many accomplishments of FLVS Full Time students!
The Importance of Teachers
Teachers are just as important in virtual school as they are in brick-and-mortar school.
Dissenters of virtual schools may allude that learning virtually means that school does not offer the support individual students need. The truth is, FLVS Full Time teachers always seek to serve students above all else. Teachers personalize instruction by providing help when students need it, as well as allowing them to move ahead when material comes naturally. FLVS Full Time teachers place students in small or one-on-one intervention groups to provide detailed reviews and support if they are having difficulty with a particular module; our teachers also present live lessons each week during which students can ask questions and collaborate with their peers.
FLVS Full Time serves students across the state of Florida and its teachers are also statewide. The teachers are highly effective and well-trained. They undergo rigorous evaluations that combine internal and external feedback regarding online course content and teaching knowledge, as well as communication with families and students, and engaging students in learning. Students and parents report that FLVS Full Time teachers are “amazing” and “do everything” to ensure the very best learning experiences for their students. Without its teachers, FLVS Full Time would be virtually lifeless.
The evidence presented above illuminates only a handful among numerous successes and benefits FLVS Full Time students and parents experience. We look forward to sharing many more successes!
Post by April Fleetwood, FLVS Research and Evaluation Administrator