How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

How Should I Prepare My Child for Virtual Schooling?

 

By Jennifer K. Hale 

 

Many of us got a little taste of what virtual schooling could feel like back in the spring when the spread of Covid-19 forced nationwide school building closures and a shift to virtual education. At that time, our nation’s educators faced a mountain of challenges: lack of information, lack of understanding of virtual platforms and how to make them work for students, lack of preparation, and for many students, a lack of reliable internet or computer resources in the home. Parents faced a lack of education themselves while also confronting issues with childcare. The shift came without much warning and the unpreparedness teachers felt was not their fault. Many veteran virtual educators came together to develop resources to help new online teachers become successful.

Students got a taste of virtual education in the spring as well, but as we prepare to return to school in the fall, the expectations of virtual education will be different and you should prepare your child for the changes and enhancements they will see in the virtual setting.

The key to preparing our students to have a successful school year is in how you present the information. Your student will react to your attitude, so the more excitement and enthusiasm you show, the more likely your student is to feel the same way. Positivity is key when facing a new challenge. What a wonderful thing it is that we live in a time when virtual education is an option to keep our nation going during a pandemic!

Here are some things that you and your student should know:

  • Teachers have received more virtual education training. At this point, brick and mortar school teachers have had and continue to receive training about virtual platforms and tools and how to use them.
  • Administrators have developed a detailed plan. Students and teachers have been virtually paired together with intention and scheduling has been taken into consideration.
  • Teachers are now aware of more resources to help build a strong virtual classroom and are adding new resources daily.
  • Platforms for live teaching have been purposefully obtained by school districts. Live sessions will be held on a schedule and with the purpose of live instruction.
  • Successful virtual schooling requires support from parents and learning coaches.

So what should you do as a parent to help your student prepare?

  • Once you have your student’s schedule, go over it with your child. Make sure your child knows when to log into live sessions. Set alarms, write it out and post it somewhere close to the schoolwork space, etc. As a parent, you’ll also need to look at your own schedule, childcare plans, and create a calendar that supports your student. Keep in mind virtual schooling will require student attendance and participation daily.
  • Create a workspace at home with minimal distractions. Keep the TV off and the phone put away when students are working on schoolwork. This is absolutely vital for student engagement.
  • Get your student excited about live sessions! Remind them that they will be able to talk to their teacher and engage with their peers, similarly to how they would in a traditional classroom.
  • Communicate with teachers regularly. Read all emails from teachers and be aware of expectations, plans, and updates. This is key to your student’s success.
  • Discuss expectations with your child. Virtual schooling may be challenging for some—learning on the computer is certainly not what they are used to. Talk about why it’s important to pay attention to the teacher, complete work on time, participate in class, and treat virtual education just as seriously as they would if they were in the traditional classroom.
  • Create moments of rest and fun. During breaks from class, make sure your student is up and moving around, getting proper hydration and nourishment, and taking breaks from screen time.
  • Be realistic. We live in uncertain times and plans change from day to day. Give yourself and your student grace and praise for getting through each day and accomplishing daily tasks.

Prepare your child for virtual education by encouraging them with positivity about the situation. Make the new schedule exciting. While you might not be shopping for back to school clothes or lunch boxes, make virtual schooling just as fun in other ways—new school supplies for home, allowing them to decorate their workspace and color their own calendar, etc. Allow your student to choose their “first day of school” outfit for their first day of live classes on camera and help them feel excited about the new way the nation is learning. Remind them they are not alone—millions of children across the country will be learning virtually this fall.

We’re all in this together. Thanks to technology, our children can continue their education with qualified teachers uninterrupted. With gratitude we can take on a whole new view of our current situation and the outlook of our nation. While tomorrow may be unknown, the future is still bright for our students.

Jennifer K. Hale is an Assistant Principal at Georgia Cyber Academy High School. She is passionate about student success through high quality teaching and best practices. Originally a history teacher, she is also passionate about helping students to become active, knowledgeable citizens of our nation.

 

  

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school

Education in a COVID-19 Era

Education in a COVID-19 Era

Education in a COVID-19 Era

 

by Sam Gaby

As we continue to hear, COVID-19 has changed the education landscape for millions of families across Georgia. Parents have helped their children around the country complete an unprecedented 2019-20 school year, ending with unanticipated virtual schooling. One thing is for certain: this fall will look different than school years of the past. There will be some kids in traditional brick-and-mortar schools, some participating in virtual learning, and others changing their learning styles completely. One of the greatest takeaways of the COVID-19 pandemic – it further revealed a weakness in a “one-size-fits-all” approach to education. 

 

As someone who was homeschooled from  K-12th grade, the transition to virtual college lectures and tests was not a struggle for me. With the flexibility that comes with this schooling choice, I easily managed my schedule and the new freedoms that came with college. I credit my success so far in college to the choice to learn differently. I would not have thrived in public school, so my parents gave me the opportunity to learn in a home environment with additional tools and resources. 

 

Homeschooling is not the right option for all children, nor is it right for all family dynamics. Some lower-income families may not have the resources to support a homeschool education or any other education style other than public school. However, the point still stands: everyone learns differently and needs to have the option and financial support to choose the right learning environment for success. Public schools, private schools, online learning, charter schools, and homeschooling should be options for everyone – no matter their circumstances.  

As schools begin to open up, we should be asking ourselves whether or not individual public schools are ready to take on the challenge of hybrid learning. Some counties in Georgia are giving parents a choice in online or in-person learning. The school systems need to be incredibly prepared to handle both forms of learning at the same time. 

 

Last spring, there was a sense of chaos as schools frantically tried to transition to virtual learning. Some schools were not able to resume teaching for several weeks or longer. Has the summer break been enough time to adequately prepare schools to handle the mass technological implementations and resources needed to provide millions of students with a quality education? Will parents around the country start to reconsider their options in schooling? Will more, supportive school choice initiatives such as Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) or the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship Program begin to emerge? Only time will tell, but my hope is that this “COVID-19 Era” brings forth a broader conversation on the importance of options in education.


Sam Gaby is serving as a summer intern for Georgia Center for Opportunity. 

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

 

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school

Help! Should I Choose Virtual School for My Child?

Help! Should I Choose Virtual School for My Child?

Help! Should I Choose Virtual School for My Child?

 

 

By Jennifer K. Hale 

 

We’re all familiar with the phrase “uncertain times.” We find ourselves there as a nation, as parents, as people. We’re watching history actively develop in 2020 and we don’t know what the fast-approaching school year will bring. As the government puts out its recommendations for education and local school districts develop plans for re-opening schools, many families are trying to decide what to do. 


Should I send my child back to their regular school? Should I choose the virtual option from my local school district? Should I enroll my student in a full-time virtual school outside of my school district? There are so many options!

 

There is also much debate. Looking at social media for any amount of time will give you all the pros and cons of sending your child to school based on medical evidence, opinions and growing concerns of the unknown, so we won’t rehash that here. However, if your child or someone in your family is immune compromised, the virtual option is a fantastic choice to avoid exposure to germs. But for others, the choice isn’t so easy.

 

I’ve been an educator since 2002 and have worked in a full virtual school for the past seven years. Virtual education is new but not “new.” We’ve been refining the craft for over a decade now in Georgia, so let’s address the question of “should I choose the virtual school option for my child?” from the considerations of what virtual schooling offers and what is required. Looking at it pragmatically might help you make your choice.

 

First off, understand that virtual school doesn’t mean “homeschool.” Traditionally, homeschooling means that families choose their own curriculum, set their own schedules, and develop their own methods for learning. Virtual schooling provides accredited curriculum, certified, highly trained teachers, and expectations that mirror most public schools. This means that if your school district is offering a virtual option or you enroll your child in a public charter virtual school, you will have to meet all the same requirements as if your child was in a brick-and-mortar school, including attendance, adherence to school policies, and state testing requirements.

 

What virtual schools can provide (among other things):

  • High quality teachers
  •  Access to all the classes your child needs to stay on track
  • Supportive staff including administrators and counselors
  • Some clubs and after school virtual activities
  • Occasional in-person activities for students (outside of pandemic times)

 

What virtual schools cannot provide:

  • Access to free meals
  • Athletics or performing arts
  • Before or after school childcare
  • Daily in-person socialization

 

If your child has special needs requirements or has an IEP, don’t write off the virtual school option. Public virtual schools will be able to meet those requirements and give your student the support they need. Also, many public virtual schools offer courses for gifted students, and at the secondary level, can provide AP courses and access to dual enrollment. 

 

Here are a few things that are required for virtual students to be successful:

      • Access to reliable internet.
      • A computer or learning device (many schools will provide these).
      • A calm learning space away from as many distractions as possible.
      • A schedule for learning that can be maintained on weekdays (with few exceptions). Keep in mind that virtual schooling does not mean flexibility to decide when your student does their work. They will have a schedule to adhere to.
      • For you as the parent to be involved also as the learning coach.
      • Patience. While some virtual schools have been doing this for a while, not all virtual teachers will be veterans. Patience is key as we all learn how to live in these “uncertain times” while providing your child with a high-quality education.

 

If you’re still struggling to decide what to do, research the virtual options in your area. Make sure you look for accredited schools with certified teachers. You are your child’s best advocate and the only one who can make the best choice for your student and your family. Contact your local school district or virtual school in your state with questions!

 

Jennifer K. Hale is an Assistant Principal at Georgia Cyber Academy High School. She is passionate about student success through high quality teaching and best practices. Originally a history teacher, she is also passionate about helping students to become active, knowledgeable citizens of our nation.

 

  

EVERY CHILD WITH ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION

 

A quality education is key to a child’s future success. Academic achievement paves the way to a good job, self-sufficiency, and the earned success we all want for our children. To learn more about education options in Georgia click here

Children excited as they leave school

The Untold Story of Georgia’s Primary Elections

The Untold Story of Georgia’s Primary Elections

Georgia made national headlines after Tuesday’s primary elections. Most of the coverage focused on long lines, mail-in ballots, new voting machines, and results that were not finalized until the wee hours of the morning. (In fact, some results are still pending). 

There were some high profile contests, including a couple of congressional races. Every member of Georgia’s General Assembly (except, of course, for those retiring) were also on the ballot. 

But there was one outcome of Tuesday’s election that you’ve likely heard nothing about.

Both parties have the ability to put non-binding referendum questions on their respective primary ballots. While the results of these questions have no force of law, it is a great way to test voter opinion on various policy ideas. The results are far more accurate than a poll and can help parties and candidates understand the will of the super voters among the electorate.

This year, Republicans included the following as ballot question #1: “Should Georgia lawmakers expand educational options by allowing a student’s state education dollars to follow to the school that best fits their needs, whether that is public, private, magnet, charter, virtual or homeschool?”

The results were overwhelming: as of this writing (results are still coming in), more than 73 percent of voters said “yes.” In fact, the question had majority support in every single one of Georgia’s 159 counties, destroying a common narrative that rural voters don’t support school choice. In all but 12 counties, support was over  two-thirds. In many cases, the ballot question will ultimately receive more support than the Senate or House member representing the district. 

You might be tempted to argue that this only speaks to support for educational options among Republicans. And while the Democratic Party of Georgia didn’t include this question on their primary ballots, making an apples-to-apples comparison impossible, other polling in the state consistently shows support for school choice among all Demographics—Republicans, Democrats, rural, urban, young, old, men, and women. 

Even an AJC poll, worded in such a way as to be biased in the negative, found that 61 percent  of voters supported school choice, even when warned that it might “undercut public school funding.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting school closures, many families were forced into alternative ways of schooling for the first time ever. Families’ experience with how traditional public schools handled the shift to distance learning was mixed and inconsistent. Some schools and teachers excelled, ensuring students did not lose out on learning. Others threw their hands up  early, and kids have suffered. 

In the aftermath of these experiences, and in light of all the uncertainty facing a reopening of traditional public schools in the fall, many families have begun searching for alternatives–virtual education programs, private schools, and innovative public charter schools. 

But will public policy change to support these students who need something outside of the traditional model of education? So far, CARES Act relief has focused millions of dollars to the state Department of Education, local districts, and traditional public schools. Nothing to date has been offered to families whose students fell behind, need to play “catch-up” over the summer, or need a different environment when school returns in the fall. 

If legislators and state leaders are paying attention, that should change.

In recent years, there has been a reluctance on the part of legislators to expand existing school choice programs or create new ones. Usually, the argument goes that it will not be politically expedient to do so. 

Legislators might be dismissive of polling, but if they ignore actual voters who went all the way to the end of the ballot and chose to say “yes” when asked if money should follow the child to the best school for them, it could ultimately be at their own peril. 

Now that voters have spoken—clearly and specifically—how will legislators respond? Will they listen to the will of those who elected them? Elected officials (or those who wish to be elected in the future) have the ultimate opportunity for a win-win: they can give kids the educational opportunities they need and deserve while giving voters what they support and demand.

 

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: GCO signs on to federal policy recommendations to provide educational opportunity for all schoolchildren

PRESS RELEASE: GCO signs on to federal policy recommendations to provide educational opportunity for all schoolchildren

PRESS RELEASE: GCO signs on to federal policy recommendations to provide educational opportunity for all schoolchildren

PEACHTREE CORNERS—The Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) announced today that it has signed on to policy recommendations to Congress that would expand educational access for more schoolchildren. The recommendations were jointly issued by GCO in partnership with other nonprofit think tanks across the U.S.

“The education landscape in Georgia will look vastly different this summer and fall, and we need to include all schools—and as a result all students—in our planning to ensure full educational equity,” said Buzz Brockway, GCO’s vice president of public policy. “While the lion’s share of support will go to Georgia’s 1.7 million students enrolled in traditional public schools, we can’t afford to neglect the over 315,000 students attending public charter, private, and home schools. These recommendations would have the greatest impact on low-income, working-class, and impoverished families, the very ones who need help the most.”

The recommendations include:

Enabling educational access and providing direct support to families:
Expand the use of 529 education accounts, support education through Emergency Education Savings Accounts or microgrants, and create a “student checkup” account that provides funds to parents for use over the summer for tutoring, testing, or other expenses to foster academic progress.

Supporting private schools:
Provide a federal tax credit for donations directly to private schools, provide a temporary refundable tax credit to help low-income families continue paying private school tuition, and create equitable funding sharing requirements between traditional public schools and non-traditional options (such as public charter and non-public schools).

Improving Internet access for vulnerable families:
Address online equity issues for low-income and rural communities by expanding E-rate and providing incentives to spur the broadband infrastructure.

Supporting teachers and the transition to distance learning:
Provide a microgrant for teachers to learn and develop distance learning.

Recognizing Black History Month Is About Recalling Where We Came From

Recognizing Black History Month Is About Recalling Where We Came From

Recognizing Black History Month Is About Recalling Where We Came From

Seeing Black History Month through the eyes of 114-year-old Gertrude Baines

To celebrate Black History Month, let me take you back to November 2008.

The morning of the election—an election that would make history with the victory of Barack Obama, first African-American president in U.S. history—a small headline appeared on websites and in papers: “At 114, a daughter of former slaves votes for Obama.”

Gertrude Baines celebrating 115 yearsGertrude’s story really typified the reasons why. She was born less than thirty years after the conclusion of the Civil War, during the presidential administration of Grover Cleveland—at a time when African Americans were often kept from voting and subjected to unspeakable abuses. Her life had overlapped those of many of America’s (and history’s) great black leaders, like Frederick Douglass (he died about six weeks prior to Baines’ first birthday), W.E.B. Dubois, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

She had lived through some important milestones in the fight for civil rights and equal opportunity. She was 53 when Jackie Robinson jogged onto the diamond at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, 60 when the Brown v. Board of Education ruling was handed down, and 61 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus.

She has also been witness to some of the most shameful moments in our nation’s history. She was 61 when 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi, 69 when four black children lost their lives in a Birmingham church bombing, and just two days shy of her 74th birthday when Dr. King was assassinated. (Please take note: those are just the high profile abuses she witnessed as a senior citizen.)

Gertrude’s story reminds me of how exceptional and amazing American democracy is. How many other countries have elected ethnic minorities to lead them? Generally speaking, elsewhere in the world, such transitions don’t happen without military coups and civil wars. The fact is, America is exceptional in large part because of the many people of color who helped rise above and form it that way.

President Barack Obama taking his oath of office in January 20, 2009.

Can you imagine Gertrude’s parents ever having said to her, “One day you will cast your vote for a black man who will win the presidency”? I suspect they never could have imagined it. And yet, on November 4th of 2008, Barack Obama became America’s president-elect. And it was not by court order, legislative edict or military force, but by popular vote. The majority of American voters—black, white, Asian, Hispanic, etc.—chose him to be their leader.

The fact is, America is exceptional.

It’s worth pointing out that this is a trajectory we have been on for decades as evidenced by the fact that people of various ethnic backgrounds have been elected or appointed to become governors, lawmakers, cabinet secretaries, judges and so on.

We celebrate that this Black History Month.

Admittedly, I’m just a white guy from Orange County, California, now living happily in Atlanta. My ability to understand the plight of minorities in the U.S. is obviously limited. But I am a human. And I am able to recognize suffering, heartache and inhumanity when I see it. So I am also able to recognize both the source and manifestation of profound joy felt by millions of African Americans – and people of African descent worldwide—in seeing Barack Obama elected to the White House in 2008.

While that was a great moment, so much more remains to be done to ensure that everyone, of every color and ethnic background, has a legitimate opportunity to flourish. We’ve come a long way—but we have a long way still to go.

Gertrude Baines passed away in September 2009 at the remarkable age of 115—at the time, the oldest living person in the world. What a lifetime of progress she saw toward the realization of the American ideal—laid out (but not always carried out) by our visionary and courageous founders: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

And that’s why we at GCO we will be celebrating those who have contributed so much to our nation—those from the African-American community who, like Gertrude, remind us of what is great about this country.