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Celebrating School Choice and Online Learning

MTS Minnesota Connections Academy, a free online public school for students in grades K-12, is celebrating School Choice Week (January 27-February 2, 2013) and Digital Learning Day (February 6, 2013).

 
PRLog - Jan. 30, 2013 - MINNEAPOLIS -- National School Choice Week (January 27 to February 2, 2013) and Digital Learning Day (February 6, 2013) have both gained momentum the last few years to shine a spotlight on the need for effective education options for all children. As the names imply, School Choice Week celebrates school options and Digital Learning Day recognizes how technology is transforming education. As the principal of MTS Minnesota Connections Academy, a tuition-free full-time virtual public school, I celebrate both proudly as I see, first hand, the benefits of school choice and technology everyday.

I see it in the way our students, for whom a traditional classroom setting may not have been the best fit, are flourishing in their online learning environment. I see kids learning, with the help of technology, at a pace that meets their individual needs; connecting with teachers one-on-one. I hear from parents who tell me that their child “loves school!”

But just as the traditional classroom is not the best fit for every child, our online school is not the best fit for every child either. This is about what works for the individual student and offering choices to best meet his or her needs.  

This year, National School Choice Week will feature 3,500 independently-planned special events across all 50 states. Participants are families, educators and others who support access to high-quality public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, virtual schools and homeschooling. Last year, tens of thousands of teachers participated in the inaugural Digital Learning Day and represented nearly two million students. The event promoted successful instructional practice and effective use of technology in classrooms across the country. The recent Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning report estimates that 275,000 students nationwide attended fully-online schools during the 2011-2012 school year, while millions participated in other technology-enhanced learning—such as online classes and blended learning. More than ever, people want educational choices, and people want technology.  

At our virtual school, technology plays a vital role. Students connect with the curriculum online, they attend real-time online classes with Minnesota state-certified, and they engage with the curriculum through the computer. Our technology allows teachers and parents to see exactly where a student is academically and can adjust the pace and lessons, as needed. Students also have the option to rate their lessons, providing real-time feedback to teachers and curriculum experts about each lesson. This useful tool, powered by technology, allows us to fine tune our curriculum as we strive for continuous improvement.

Too often, people like me who grew up without technology in school, can’t imagine a fully-online school. They worry about student socialization or how students can develop a relationship with teachers. I can tell you from experience that our students are socializing and developing meaningful bonds with passionate educators. In fact, each year we conduct a Parent Satisfaction Survey, and each year our teachers get high marks—96 percent satisfaction! For socialization, students have their pick of exciting clubs, activities and regular, in-person field trips.

This year, more than 1,400 students have chosen our school option. In that way, we celebrate school choice and digital learning everyday.

As our school gears up for enrollment for the 2013-14 school year, I want to thank all of the parents, students, educators, advocates, and policymakers for making their voices heard and making our school, and all of the other school choices, possible. We owe it to our students to continue to develop new and innovative learning tools and options.

Melissa Gould is principal at MTS Minnesota Connections Academy, a K-12 state certified, tuition-free online public school available to students throughout the state. To see if the program may be right for your family, visit www.connectionsacademy.com.

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