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Learning Center Grand Opening

 

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PA Virtual is pleased to announce the opening of our new learning center 
in Harrisburg! Please join us for a Ribbon Cutting to celebrate the
Grand Opening of the new central regional center for PA Virtual.

  • When: Monday, June 1, 2015 from 11 AM – 1 PM
  • Where: 909 Green Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102 Google Map
  • What: Ribbon Cutting to celebrate the Grand Opening
    of the new central regional center for PA Virtual.

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Posted on: May 29, 2015 by M. Dubbs in

Happenings & Perspectives

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How to Help Your Child Navigate the Digital Landscape

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Say you are considering (or already have) cyber education for your children – how can you as a parent, know that you are keeping them safe while they spend countless hours online?

All cyber charters in PA provide their students with the hardware and software needed to best suit their educational needs. A secure internet connection, along with learning platforms that are all password protected are just the first step to keeping our children safe. PA Virtual also has an Internet Safety Policy pursuant to the Children Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

Common Sense Education has created a game (Digital Compass) that is great for teaching students how to navigate the digital landscape, and illustrates the outcome their decisions may have on their future, their family and their friends. Each of these animated characters let the student control their actions and reactions to various social and online situations. As a whole, Common Sense education strives to provide students, families and educators tools for harnessing technology in both learning and life.

Digital Compass, suited for children in grades 6-9 takes the basic principles of being a good standing digital citizen to the next level, allowing for a deeper understand of the impact decisions may have as they get older.

The main principles for early learners of social connection are:

  1. Protection of all private information – for themselves and for others
  2. Respect themselves as well as all others in an online community
  3. Stay safe online – listen to their gut feelings
  4. Stand up to cyberbullying when they see it happening
  5. Balance the time they spend using media and the internet with other activities

Each of these principles is expanded upon for students who already have a grasp on connecting with others online. The game also allows them to make choices that might not be in the best interest of the character and shows the aftermath of a poor decision. Ultimately, the child will go through various segments of the game, eventually making the right decisions and applying those to their real life social interactions.

What tips do you have for making sure your child is a noble digital citizen? Let us know in the comments below!

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Posted on: May 27, 2015 by M. Dubbs in

About Cyber Education, Did You Know?

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Cyber-charters are "schools that teach" Gov. Wolf: Maurice Flurie, Joanne Barnett and Patricia Rossetti

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By Maurice Flurie, Joanne Barnett and
Patricia Rossetti

As educators of schools that teach more than 36,000 students, we welcome reforming Pennsylvania's charter school law.

We are, however, extremely disappointed that the needs of students and opinions of parents are seemingly being ignored in the current political debate.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education  has increased its oversight of public cyber charter schools over the past three years.

The accountability measures of House Bill 530, recently passed in the House and currently residing in the Senate, will only improve those efforts. These changes are welcomed by the CEOs of all 14 public cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania.

As additional accountability measures are discussed, it is important for taxpayers and lawmakers to remember that charter and cyber charter schools serve a critical role in the educational landscape of Pennsylvania.

For many families, these schools of choice are the only avenue for an acceptable public education.

Cyber charter schools are "schools that teach," and 10s of thousands of parents want us to teach their children.

These students attended traditional public schools and it did not work for them. The data shows the largest concentration of students who attend public cyber charter schools are in grades nine through 12 and frequently arrive performing well below grade level.

However, academics are not the only reason a parent chooses a cyber charter education

Many times, parents choose public cyber charter schools because their student is being bullied, or because they may have a specific medical need that prevents the student from succeeding in a traditional classroom.

Either way, it is clear that parents do not choose to enroll their student at a public cyber charter school because something is right at their traditional school, but rather because something is wrong.

It would be wrong to take that choice away from a parent or force them back into an option that previously did not work for their student's unique needs.

The strengths in public cyber charter schools reside in students' "academic growth" and graduation rates. This is due to intense remediation and support mechanisms put in place after assessments are taken shortly after enrollment.

Public cyber charter schools are very open and transparent about their fiscal operations and must file annual reports and audits, just like traditional schools. On average, public cyber charter schools spend just 1.5 percent of their total budget on statewide marketing and any advocacy efforts.

This is a mere fraction of the amount used to support the lobbying efforts of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA),  which draws dues directly from teachers' taxpayer-­funded salaries to influence election efforts and policy decisions.

In 2014, PSEA spent a reported $3.6 million in political activities and lobbying, with additional spending of a reported $2.7 million from their Political Action Committee (PSEA­PACE). That equates to $6.3 million in 2014 political spending alone.

Additionally, it is clear that the state funding formula needs to be addressed across the board – this includes traditional schools, as well as public charter and cyber charter schools.

The funding commission that would be created under House Bill 530 is welcomed by the public cyber charter school community. However, we do not support the arbitrary cuts in Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed budget nor its comparison to online programs offered by Intermediate Units.

Charter school reform is long overdue. That is why we remain hopeful that many of the provisions of legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Reese, R-Somerset, will lead to necessary updates to the Charter School Law to provide for increased transparency and accountability measures. Such accountability, we might add, is not and has never been discussed for traditional public schools and it should be.

Public cyber charter schools are "schools that teach," and tens of thousands of parents want us to continue teaching their children.

Maurice Flurie is the CEO of Commonwealth Connections Academy
Dr. Joanne Barnett is the CEO of PA Virtual Charter School

Patricia Rossetti is the CEO of PA Distance Learning Charter School.

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PA Virtual Learning Coaches & Bank Street College

 

bank street logo.pngRecently fifteen PA Virtual Learning Coaches completed a course with Bank Street College in New York entitled “Meaningful Discipline”. The classes were geared toward ages
5 – 13 and even though our daughter is approaching her 16th birthday,
I nonetheless benefited as a Mom and Learning Coach. Our instructor, Virginia Perrin kept the classes lively and gave many tips for teaching your children discipline as well as how to discipline for positive results.

My most important reminder throughout the weeks was that our students are people. People with personalities, strengths and weaknesses, a mix of different learning styles, and sometimes quirks. Not only that, but I too am a person with a personality, strengths and weaknesses, a particular mix of learning styles and yes, at times, quirks. Student and Learning Coach may find themselves similar or poles apart. That certainly can make the school day interesting.
HoneyandFlies

Nevertheless, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. There are many thoughts as to the original meaning of this expression, however; it could propose one can achieve more with pleasantness than not. (That doesn’t negate consequences for bad decisions/actions, however; communicating those consequences ahead of time gives a student the fuller picture on discipline.) Accordingly, during the school day, if your student needs more attention in a certain concept, give it to them. If both of you need a break, take one. Plan regular snacks/drinks to stay focused on learning instead of hunger. Perhaps giving choices would allow your student to be more involved in the day. Listen to your tone as you speak to your students. Purposefully make your tone one you would respond well to yourself. Learning Coaches do well to acquire new concepts and keep on top of the schools expectations. Learn to bend a little in the present so you don’t break later. Be proactive in giving your students the best you.

One way to ‘catch your flies’ is to consistently communicate expectations and schedules with your student(s). Giving processing time for change during the day works much better than springing a demand on a child (such as - ‘get in the car, we are going to the dentist’). Good communication can result in a student(s) taking on responsibility that actually makes the Learning Coaches’ day more productive.

Personally, I had many ideas to take away from our class time and understood more than ever that we learn not only from the instructor but also each other. (PA Virtual outings are a great avenue for this.) As we completed our homework assignments and discussion boards; both initiating conversation and responding to others comments, I began to follow individual Learning Coaches’ threads as they acted upon the positive in their daily routine. Being proactive in that manner didn’t mean instantaneous success but enabled a Learning Coach to approach their daily role with suggestions from others as to what may work well in their own home. Conclusion – learn all you can from others, trying new ideas – they may have just what you need to ‘catch your flies’.

Cindy Dingeldein
Central Parent Ambassador Regional Coordinator

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Special Opportunity for Cyber School Athletes

special-olympics PA Virtual

specialolympicslogoSpecial Education & Life Skills teacher, Stacey McGowan spends all year working on social skills and training students in the online setting. Next week, for the 11th year in a row, PA Virtual Students will compete in the Montgomery County Special Olympics held at Souderton HS.

Cyber education in Pennsylvania tends to attract a high percentage of special needs students due to the opportunity and flexibility families can have with their education in their own homes. Oftentimes, cyber charter schools are also able to accommodate the needs of the student with added care and individualized learning curriculum.

At traditional brick and mortar schools, teams take special education classes together during the school year. However for the PA Virtual students, many of them will be meeting for the first time on Monday. The opportunity to bring students from a virtual setting together is truly unique to cyber learning. “It is really the highlight of the year for me as the coach and teacher and for the students as well,” McGowan says.

The mission of Special Olympics PA: Provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community. Each region or county has a chapter that organizes events in the area.

In the area? Come out and cheer on your friends from PA Virtual and all of the participating athletes! Opening Ceremonies start at 9 AM and events will take place throughout the morning. Closing Ceremonies will take place after all of the events have ended, which is usually around 12:30 PM.

Event Details:

May 16, 2015

Montgomery County Area Special Olympics

Opening Ceremonies: 9 AM

OClosing Ceremonies: Upon the conclusion of all events, around 12:30 PM

Souderton Area High School - S.A.H.S. Stadium

625 Lower Rd, Souderton, PA 18964 Google Map

Overflow parking is available at Indian Valley Middle School

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Google Education on Air – Bringing Technology into the Classroom

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This week, Google Education On Air will offer a completely free online education conference which will focus on the impact of technology and education around the world. Over the two days, Google will pose the question “how do we prepare our students for a future that is ever-changing?”

Online education choices offer a wide range of technological advancements that prepare students to enter the world after their K-12 education is completed with a knowledge base that is imperative for success. Students need to be prepared differently in this digital age, and with the fast paced advancements, we look for every opportunity to share resources that could help us all learn a little something.

The conference is open to anyone with internet access – which is perfect for our cyber learning families! Sessions will cover topics that interest students, administrators, teachers, parents and IT professionals. Anyone who is interested in using technology to further their educational process would benefit from these sessions. On Day 2, viewers can also select sessions that are relevant to particular themes such as “Digital Citizenship” or “Empowering Students,” as well as by what grades / ages that are relevant to them. Tune in and join the conversation using the hashtag #GoogleEduonAir

Session Dates & Times:

  • May 8: 10 AM – 3 PM (Eastern Time)
  • May 9: 7 AM – 9:30 PM

A full list of sessions & speakers can be found here: https://educationonair.withgoogle.com/live/2015-may

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An Overview of Common Core Philosophies

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Across the nation, the term “Common Core” has found its way into our homes since 2010. As defined on the Common Core Standards website, “The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live.”

As No Child Left Behind lost support, Common Core emerged as a state-led way to define clear goals and expectations of teachers throughout the United States. States are not required to adopt Common Core practices, but when they do, the goals are aligned nationwide. The idea behind the movement is that a student could move seamlessly from school to school in any state – provided the student and the schools are reaching the Common Core benchmarks. In Pennsylvania, the policies were adopted in the summer of 2010, promising full implementation in grades K-12 by the 2013 – 2014 school year. Pennsylvania has now completely aligned all public schools with the Common Core goals.

Each state implements standardized testing modules to measure academic benchmarks. Pennsylvania has chosen not to administer the national exams, but to continue to use the PSSA and Keystone Exams which have been in place for many years:

  • Every Pennsylvania student is assessed in English Language Arts and Mathematics which are taken by students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.
  • Every Pennsylvania student in grades 4 and 8 are administered the Science PSSA.
  • The Keystone Exams are end-of-course high school assessments designed to assess proficiency in the subject areas of Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Literature, English Composition, Biology, Chemistry, U.S. History, World History, and Civics and Government.

Source: PA Department of Education

As it stands today, 43 states have adopted the Common Core practices. Subject areas only include Mathematics & English language arts, and allow for teachers to explore other subjects as ways to define the standards for the subject they teach. In Pennsylvania, many students may not have noticed a shift, as roughly 85% of the Common Core Math and English benchmarks in the state already matched or exceeded the “new” national standards.

How does Common Core affect cyber school education? Check back later this month as we look at how Common Core standards and practices impact online learning choices.

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