WESTON, Fla., Oct. 19, 2006 — At Global Visions Academy, they’re serious about science. So when Global Visions was unable to hire a certified Physics teacher this fall, there were more than a few people concerned.
That’s when Dr. Sandra Atols stepped in with a solution. Atols, Manager of Distance Learning for Chicago Public Schools, pitched a partnership with the University of Miami Online High School (UMOHS). UMOHS would provide the school with its online Physics curriculum and a “remote online teacher”; Global Visions would provide students with computer access and an on-site facilitator to monitor students during class.
Now, 72 students at Global Visions are enrolled in online Physics classes that meet in a computer lab during the school day. Their teacher, a thousand miles away, gives lectures using “whiteboard” technology that enables synchronous audio-visual communication between all members of the class. Students listen using headsets while the teacher works out example problems seen on their computer screens.
“It’s a completely new mode of instruction, for the students and for me, so we’re still learning,” says Physics teacher Alison Freeman, “but the students are doing really well so far. They adjust very quickly and it’s really exciting to see their progress.”
Chronic teacher shortages in Science and Math have hit urban schools especially hard. According to a survey by the National Teacher Recruiting Clearinghouse, 98% of responding urban school districts reported an immediate need for certified Science teachers in the year 2000. Schools like Global Visions Academy face an annual crisis when it comes to meeting the standards of the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires teachers to be “highly qualified” in their subject areas.
Dr. Howard Liebman, Chief Operating Officer of UMOHS, is happy to help. “We look at this as an opportunity to level the playing field–to promote equity in education,” explains Liebman. “Together with Chicago Public Schools, we found a way to provide these students not only with an excellent Physics teacher, but also with technology-based instruction that will prepare them for the 21st century. That’s something I can feel good about.”
For Atols, the arrangement with UMOHS has been a perfect fit. “The UMOHS Board Certified teacher meets the No Child Left Behind requirements and is available during the day for communication,” she says. “UMOHS’ willingness to adapt and address our unique issues including administration changes, overcrowded classrooms, or students scheduled into class without proper prerequisites, is commendable.”
“That ‘willingness to adapt’ is part of what makes UMOHS such a unique online school. We’re a very dynamic organization,” says Liebman. “We’re in a position to provide a wide range of services for public schools, private schools, and even individual students–and we’re not afraid to be creative.”