Has it been a month since I’ve written?! Man! I would say it’s because I’ve been extremely busy, but, despite being busy, I’ve just been putting off thinking about the whole thing.
Friday was one of the mandatory parent orientation for all Louisiana K12 participants and it was a mess.
We started out bright and early. Bobo and I were carpooling with his friend Tyty, Tyty’s mom and his grandmother. We all got a good start, heading out to Zachary, a nearby small town, where the letter I received in the mail and the flyer I received by e-mail stated that the orientation would be held at 9:00.
Arriving at 8:30, there were very few cars in the parking lot and no doors open. We made sure that this was the place, and it looked like the K12 people were running late. We loitered around. 9:00 came and went. Other parents started to call the Louisiana office, but all calls went straight to voicemail, which was full.
9:30 came around. More parents were there. We started talking to a few. Several parents had taken off of work and one parent had rescheduled her son’s chemo to be there. They were pretty peeved that K12 still was a no-show. More phone calls – trying to reach anyone who knew what was going on. Of course we’re thinking that something horrible happened. We saw the K12 people in a accident from the commute from New Orleans. Our logic: if they changed the location, surely we would have gotten an e-mail, phone call or they would have left a note on the door of the original location letting us know.
Now it’s hot. If you have never been in Louisiana in July, you don’t know what hot is. By 10:00 it’s over 90 degrees, the sun is brutal, and the humidity makes your glasses perpetually fog up. There is little shade, and even the shade is hot. We take our chances and run to the local convenience store for cold drinks. I brought snacks, but I assumed that we would have access to a water fountain shortly after arriving.
It was 10:30 when we got back to the parking lot. As soon as we pulled up, the group of parents in-mass walked away from the overhang and headed towards our van.
“They changed the location,” one of the moms said. What nice people to stay for us to get back! One mom gave us the new address and said that the K12 people told them that we could attend the 1:00 session.
We were livid. Having just been watered and fed, we went straight to the new location, arriving at 11:00 quite peeved. The head of Arkansas’s K12 met us outside and apologized profusely. He explained that we could attend the 1:00 to 3:00 session. We explained that we’ve been on the road since 8:00, I had a babysitter who was only willing to keep my other kids until 1:00 and he needed to make special accommodations for us, like right now.
A couple of other families, who we recognized from the other parking lot, also showed up. I admit, the guy was more than accommodating. He had us register then and there and immediately brought us to get the vision and hearing screenings done.
Then after the morning session was over, he had the main speaker give us a condensed version of the orientation so that we would all be out of there by 1:00.
I understand that mistakes can be made, miscommunication happens and K12 is just getting started in Louisiana this year. It’s not that one makes mistakes that counts, it’s how one handles the mistakes that matter. They handled it pretty well.
The speaker said that we should have gotten a k-mail (K12’s e-mail system) letting us know the correct location. Some of the parents had not yet logged into their k-mail. I had, and I told her that I checked my k-mail that morning and there wasn’t an e-mail saying that they changed location.
“It was sent out several weeks ago,” she said.
“I didn’t get one saying that the location had changed,” I replied. Of course, when I got home, I rechecked my k-mail. There was a k-mail about the orientation, but it had the same wording as the paper mail and personal e-mail I received. There was no mention of location change.
However, when I pulled up the attachment on the k-mail, it had the new location. I know the K12 people probably think “stupid parents – can’t even read an attachment properly!” How were we supposed to know that this one attachment, which we received around the same time we got the other two, would be different, especially if they don’t even mention in the k-mail’s body that “Hey! Locations may be different than what was written on all the other messages about orientation you received!”? Seriously!
Wow! That was a long rant. I think I got it out of my system.
Now for the good bits:
What I Learned from K12 Orientation
I knew most of the information from what I had gathered for the K12 and CA comparison (http://flyingmonkeyshomeschool.blogspot.com/2011/05/louisianas-virtual-charter-schools.html). A few new bits were gathered.
- Partner School: K12 is partnered with CSAL (Community School for Apprenticeship Learning) charter school, which ironically was where the meeting was moved to.
- No 11th or 12th Grades: In case I hadn’t mentioned it in the comparison, K12 doesn’t have 11th or 12th grades this year. Next year they will add 11th, and they will add 12th the year after.
- Core Subject: For Louisiana they have 6 core subjects that all children take:
o Language Arts
- Foreign Language: For 4th graders and above, you can sign up for a foreign language, but they don’t recommend it for the first semester of anyone just starting K12, but you can add it half-way through the year. The foreign language doesn’t cost anything since it’s included in the package for Louisiana students. They offer:
- Secondary Sites: Some of the things offered through K12 are actually not part of K12 but secondary sites they highly recommend. An example is for typing. They encourage students to use Dance Mat (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing/) which is sponsored by BBC for British schools.
- Dates: School begins August 17, 2011 and ends May 11, 2012.
- The total days a child has to attend is 177
- ILP: Individualized Learning Plan. At the beginning of each year, your child’s teacher will create with you a learning plan based on your child’s needs and abilities. Every 9 weeks this ILP is reviewed and adjusted. I like this aspect. It means that if your child starts out behind but catches up quickly, then they aren’t held back for being initially behind. Goals are actually set, and your child tries to achieve them.
- Mastery System for K-8: I did say this in my comparison, but I think it needs repeating. K12 is a mastery system – your child works on a concept until they have mastered it. It does not work by your child going over a unit, taking a test (assessment – they do not call them tests) and moving on unless they score at least 80% on the assessment. If they don’t, then the child keeps reviewing. On the other hand, if your child catches on very easily to that concept, they don’t have to spend copious amounts of time reviewing something they know.
- High School: is more like on-line college classes. If you have experience with these, you know what I mean. If not, I don’t know how to explain it.
- Scan-tron Tests: For language arts and math for 3rd to 10th graders (maybe for 11th & 12th when K12 gets them, but I don’t know). These tests will help determine what level your child is working on in order to adjust their curricula up or down to meet their needs. Also a teacher can asses if they need one-on-one work with them in order to get back up to level.
- Learning Coach Duties
o Who: Most likely the learning coach is a parent or grandparent.
o Work with the teacher. From what it sounds like, until high school, the learning coach is the one who interacts with the teacher. The student has very little actual interaction. Depending on the student’s needs, the parent may be in contact with the teacher often or only every now and then.
o Logs Hours Daily: K12 made an agreement with Louisiana that K12 students would average 6 hours a day or 30 hours a week of educational time. Totaling 177 days or 1062 hours.
§ For the most part, these hours are logged in doing the core subjects. If your child spends 60 minutes on math, you log in those 60 minutes in the math column.
§ Education time is fairly subjective. There is a Supplemental Hours category to fit in non-core subject time. In other words if your child helps you cook dinner, it can be considered educational. After all they are learning fractions, measuring, and chemical reactions.
§ Fieldtrips count in this Supplemental Category, which does count towards the 1062 hours.
§ Daily: Hours should be logged in daily. K12 needs to be able to generate a report of student attendance for the state at any time. So if everyone logs their hours in only once a week, their report would be inaccurate. The reminders to do this are plenty.
§ At any time of night or day, you can log in your hours for the school day. For example, at 1:30 am on August 23rd, you can log in your hours for August 22nd.
§ Hours can not be logged in for dates that are school holidays, but you can enter the hours worked on that day for the next date. For example, school is closed for Labor Day, September 5. But if you and your child do schoolwork that day, you can log it in for the September 6th slot.
o Student Accounts: If the student is 3rd grade or above, the learning coach should create a student account for their student to use. That way the student doesn’t have access to administrative features that they don’t need (like logging their hours).
o Portfolio: The learning coach should keep samples of their student's work to submit to the teacher at least every 9 weeks. This work should show their best attempt as well as early attempts to show progress.
- Teacher’s Duties:
o The teacher is considered a curriculum and assessment specialist. What does this mean? Assessment: you teacher figures out at what level your child can do. Curriculum: after figuring out what your child can do, they assign him work according to his ability and goals.
o The teacher is your first point of contact within k12 about your student. In other words, whatever your questions or concerns may be, contact your child’s teacher first. Their contact information can be found when you log into your OLS (On-Line School) at www.k12.com.
o Teacher should know about all special circumstances. If your child has special medical needs, your teacher should know. If your child has special educational needs, your teacher should know. If your child has behavioral, mental or emotional issues, your teacher should know.
- DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) Testing. If your child is going into K-3rd grade, they will have a DIBELS test. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes and simply shows the teacher how well your child can read or, if they can’t, how many early literacy skills (like knowing the alphabet) they know.
o DIBELS testing is going to happen August 24-26. The location is unknown yet.
- Louisiana LEAP Testing: For kids entering 4th and 9th grades, they have to take the Louisiana LEAP test with K12. They can not simply go to their local school to do it. K12 testing locations will be all over the state for accessibility. It is a multiple day test.
- Special Services: If your child has special needs, such as dyslexia, speech impairment or other disabilities, let your teacher know. In the 2nd or 3rd week after school starts, they will arrange for your child to be tested. If necessary, you child will then get help. This is a big deal for those of us going from homeschooling to using a state funded charter school. Things that we were denied by the school system, from speech therapy to reading help for our dyslexic children, will now be addressed.
- Field Trips:
o Always happen on Fridays
o Will occur all over the state to give different families a chance to take part
o May be limited to the number of children
o Mostly it’s okay to bring non-K12 siblings, unless stated
o Need to be registered for
o Count as supplemental hours for the day/week
Some Useful Sites and Links:
- K12’s main site. Use to log on to your On-Line School (OLS): http://www.k12.com/
- Louisiana’s K12 main page (LAVCA): http://www.k12.com/lavca/
- LAVCA site for loads of help: http://lavca.k12start.com/ On this site you can find tutorials on getting started plus step-by-step instructions. Exploring this site has been way helpful. Especially look at these tabs:
o Getting Started
o Secrets of Success
- Facebook pages for K12 Louisiana (I wish I had known about these before the meeting location mix-up):
o Louisiana’s official K12 Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Louisiana-Virtual-Charter-Academy-at-K12/158178810919178
o Greater Baton Rouge Area LAVCA K12: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Greater-Baton-Rouge-area-Lavca/144331215647693
o Central Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy (LAVCA is K12 in Louisiana): https://www.facebook.com/groups/234453036574490/?ap=1
o K-12 LAVCA Families from Slidell to Baton Rouge: https://www.facebook.com/groups/janegordon/?ap=1
I think that’s it. The orientation overall was worth going to. Our questions were answered. The speaker made a distinction between the K-8 students and the high school students, letting us know that these grades act very differently within K12.
If you remember anything that I left out, please leave a comment.