5 steps to building a robust online CTE program

For more than 16 years, my goal has been to help students discover their passions and see their potential through career and technical education (CTE). From when I taught math and programming in a brick-and-mortar school, to creating and designing CTE courses, to teaching AP computer science and the foundations of programming at Florida Virtual School (FLVS), to now researching, developing, and maintaining the FLVS CTE program alongside my incredible colleagues, CTE has never been more important to me. 

You may be asking yourself, why are you so passionate about CTE? The short answer is that during my teaching career, I quickly learned that some students do not want to go to college. Rather than forcing them to do something that their skills sets, talents, and desires don’t align with, I encouraged them to explore their passions to see if they could turn it into a career later in life. All students deserve the opportunity to do what they love, and it’s our jobs, as educators, to help them get there. 

Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Education, eight years after their expected graduation date, students who focused on career and technical education courses in high school had higher median annual earnings than students who did not. There are also 30 million jobs in the United States that do not require a bachelor’s degree that pay median earnings of $55,000 or more, further highlighting how CTE programs can set students up for success. …Read More

Using the book club model in the classroom

I vividly remember my English teacher, Mrs. Grant, bringing a stack of 20 well-read copies of A Wrinkle in Time out from the closet for everyone in the class. She would read a chapter or two out loud during class and later we would read independently until it was time to take a test or write a report on what we learned. I don’t remember ever debating my classmates about the themes in the book or frankly ever even talking to fellow students about what we read.

Yet, for most of my childhood, I spent my free time with my nose in a book. I was an avid reader who read well above grade-level, but even I didn’t like to read the books that were forced on me.

Which is why middle school English teachers like Carrie Friday at Southwest Middle School in Palm Bay, Florida are using the book club model instead. Friday is her school’s librarian, and she also teaches several English classes. With 80% of her students reading between two and three grades below level, Friday says offering students’ choice in literature is a game changer. “Even if you just give them a couple of titles to choose from, they are going to be invested because they had a say in the process.”…Read More

Parallel Learning Expands Executive Team With New Esteemed Digital Health and Education Talent to Further Scale and Accelerate Growth

NEW YORK, NY (FEBRUARY 4, 2022) – Parallel Learning (Parallel), the digital health platform that provides a new way to test, diagnose, and empower students with learning and thinking differences, announced today two new key hires to its growing executive team, in addition to plans to expand its services into Illinois, Texas and Florida next month. Susan Liu joins as Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Robert Stager joins as Director of Partnerships, with both executives bringing extensive knowledge to the digital health and education space. The recent hires will support Parallel’s continued growth plans, fueling its mission to support and advocate for children with learning or thinking differences.

Prior to Parallel, Liu was VP of Clinical Operations at Cerebral Inc., a fast-growing online mental health company, where she led the clinical operations and customer service function through the company’s rapid growth from pre-Series A to a multibillion valuation Series C. As an experienced start-up operator with a background in public health and a passion for building teams from the ground-up, Liu scaled the operations to serve over 200,000 patients in less than two years and grew the clinical network from less than 100 to more than 2,000 nationwide in less than one and a half years. In her role as COO at Parallel, Liu will focus on building the systems and processes for scale and growth, in go-to-market operations as well as clinical and care operations.

“I’m thrilled to join the Parallel team and to dedicate my focus to empowering young students—especially during this dire time of need as the U.S. faces a massive education crisis,” said Susan Liu, Chief Operating Officer at Parallel Learning. “As a proud immigrant and a product of the public school system myself, I am passionate about increasing access to care and opportunity for kids of all ages. I look forward to bringing my expertise to this role to help us continue to grow and achieve our goals, and I could not be more excited to be part of this dynamic team.”…Read More

How to establish rapport with online students

My experience with online education began 19 years ago after I took a break from teaching in the brick and mortar setting to give birth to my daughter. When I was ready to get back in the game, several of my colleagues recommended Florida Virtual School (FLVS), which at the time was in its infancy. What really sold me on FLVS was the organization’s dedication to meeting students where they are. It also seemed like the next natural step for me, because during my traditional schooling days I was constantly looking to add innovative methods and technology to my classroom.

Within a couple of months of teaching online with FLVS, I witnessed how intentional the instructors were when serving our students’ individual needs, and I knew this was the place for me. I remember being in awe of the relationships teachers were able to form not only with their students, but also parents and other stakeholders.

With that in mind, there were several skills I needed to learn, especially when it came to establishing rapport with students. There are many skills that teachers need to be successful teaching online, including basic technology skills like how to use a computer, run a webinar or video conferencing platform, and use a variety of systems. But the most important skill is communication. Specifically, how to actively listen, build relationships, and at many times, be a shoulder to cry on and a mirror to see in. Being an online teacher can be tough, because you are juggling a lot at one time, but the focus should always remain on the student and what they need.…Read More

Air filters are playing a big part in safe school reopening plans

As schools kick off the 2021-22 school year, the air is thick with questions — and with COVID-19 hesitancy. Will students and faculty have to wear masks? Will they have to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19? Will we see remote learning play a major role this year, as it did last year? How can we keep classrooms safe while the delta variant seems to be running rampant and vaccination rates lag behind national goals?

The unfortunate answer to all these questions is that there is no clear answer. Each state, and even each school district, is handling things differently in the U.S. In Florida for example, Governor DeSantis is threatening to withhold funding from schools that enforce mask mandates. Meanwhile, California has lifted its state-wide mask mandate for schools but highly encourages school districts to enforce their own policies.

An airborne virus doesn’t respect state borders, and the longer it’s allowed to circulate, the more likely the virus is to mutate into a new variant. Perhaps even one that ignores the protections of current vaccines. Which is why it’s important for schools to do everything in their power to protect students, faculty, and everyone else on their campuses.…Read More

This virtual science course uses real-life conservation examples to inspire students

According to a survey conducted by Amnesty International in 2019, Generation Z ranks climate change as the most vital issue facing the world today. With a generation that is so empowered, connected, empathetic, and with a drive to make a difference in the world, having real-life examples and tools to teach them about conservation and sustainability is crucial.

When our Florida Virtual School (FLVS) curriculum team and teachers began to develop our brand-new environmental science course, we knew we wanted to partner with the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, which conducts scientific research and hosts educational programs aimed at conserving the marine environment, as well as funds affiliated working researchers and educators to better understand our ocean ecosystem and help foster the next generation of marine conservationists. 

By partnering with the foundation, we can teach students about sustainability and conservation through real-life examples and activities so that they can build a connection with the environment around them. This is important for student success because we want them to engage with the lessons and master the content, while also feeling excited and passionate about the work they are doing.…Read More

After Successful Pilot, Schools Adopt EarlyBird Game-Based Screener to Identify Children at Risk for Dyslexia and Reading Difficulties

BOSTON — Aug. 12, 2021 — After participating in a pilot trial of the new EarlyBird game-based early literacy assessment, schools and districts across the United States have chosen to adopt EarlyBird for the 2021-22 school year. Developed and scientifically validated at Boston Children’s Hospital in partnership with faculty at the Florida Center for Reading Research, EarlyBird brings together all the relevant predictors of reading in one easy-to-administer assessment, and provides teachers with customized action plans and resources for each student.

During the 2020-21 school year, schools and districts from Maine to California tested EarlyBird with approximately 2,000 children. Maine School Administrative District No. 11 (MSAD #11), for example, began piloting EarlyBird in one elementary school in March, then expanded to a second school in May. This fall, it will implement EarlyBird in all kindergarten classrooms district-wide.

“As soon as we began using EarlyBird, we realized it had a lot of power in terms of the experience it offers students and the actionable data it provides to classroom teachers,” said Angela Hardy, director of curriculum and instruction for MSAD #11. “This data not only helps teachers respond to the needs of the students in front of them, it also helps them think about how they might change their practices or scope and sequence in years to come.”…Read More

Florida Department of Education Approves Lexia Learning for ELA Intervention Courses

Rigorous review process confirms Lexia Core5 Reading and PowerUp Literacy programs are strongly aligned to Florida’s newest standards

BOSTON (June 8, 2021) – Lexia Learning, a Cambium Learning® Group company, announced today that Florida’s Commissioner of Education has approved Lexia® Core5® Reading (Core5) as curriculum in elementary intervention courses. Lexia® PowerUp® Literacy (PowerUp) has also been approved for intervention courses in grades six and above. The two programs have been approved for a five-year period, beginning April 1, 2021 and ending March 31, 2026.

Core5 and PowerUp underwent a rigorous review process before obtaining approval. In fact, Lexia was the only company to make the list across K-5 intervention courses. The process saw education experts review the materials and ensure they aligned with Florida’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards. In addition, each school district superintendent nominated a classroom teacher or district-level content supervisor to perform independent reviews. Members of the public were also able to review the materials online for two weeks. Finally, the Commissioner of Education assessed the state and district reviewer evaluations, public feedback and cost of the materials before giving approval.…Read More

EdTech Company ChalkTalk Earns Funding to Help Shape The Future of Teaching

Florida Funders Invests In ChalkTalk, Personalized Learning Program for Real-Time Instruction, Designed to Shape The Future of Teaching & Training

TAMPA, Fla. (May 25, 2021) Florida Funders, a hybrid of a venture capital fund and an angel investor network that’s recognized as the top VC in the Southeast region by Pitchbook, announced its sixth investment from its Fund 2 in ChalkTalk, a machine-learning platform for teachers and trainers to create real-time curriculum to personalize lessons and rapidly help students learn.

Using results from a student placement test, ChalkTalk’s machine-learning software generates a standards-aligned curriculum customized to fit within existing class schedules. Acting as the ultimate teacher’s assistant, ChalkTalk enables teachers to build hyper-personalized courses in under 2 minutes. Unlike fully self-paced competitors that give students practice videos and content snippets for individual consumption, ChalkTalk generates personalized lesson plans and actionable teaching materials for teacher-led instruction—whether that teaching takes place in-person or remotely over a web-conferencing platform such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. …Read More

3 ways to keep your online classroom engaged

My teaching philosophy is that the content is no longer the commodity. When I was in school, I had to go to school every day because my teachers had all the information and I had to get it from them somehow. Kids these days have access to all the information they could ever ask for at their fingertips, on the internet.  

I teach computer literacy at Digital Academy of Florida (DAOF) and I’ve found numerous ways to keep my students engaged in my short time there. I start by highlighting that it’s their class, not mine. They’re in the driver’s seat. 

So, if the content is no longer the commodity, then what is? It’s the entire class experience. Every single subject, every single class should be interactive in some way.  …Read More