Monday, April 23, 2007

Virtual School Instructional Leadership

How are teachers evaluated in an online model? Virtual schools present different challenges to administrators as they do not exist within the Hunter-esque model of evaluation. Barbara referred to this when she posted on her blog about the unique problems associated with School 2.0 and evaluations in the traditional sense.

How are teachers hired?

  • teachers must first take an online survey before they are asked to come in for an interview or a phone call.
    • minimum score required
  • Instructional Leaders are like "principals" of the the virtual school.
  • The interview process is unique
    • face-to-face and phone all at once
      • integral because of the nature of the teaching--a lot of the teaching is done by phone.
    • There has to be some thought put into how different the hiring process will be than the traditional interview and screening process. In addition to the teaching craft, the interpersonal skills are essential to the success of the online teacher.
  • Mentoring program
    • reduced class load for the mentoring teacher
    • follow-up calls and once a week to the new teacher
    • The drop aspect of this is an often-discussed

Florida has a policy of open enrollment where students can drop or add the class at any point during its progression. This means that the learning and teaching is completely asynchronous on two levels:
  • learners are not always accessing the information at the same time, even if they are at the same point in the class time line.
  • learners in the class may be at several different points in the time line. (imagine an American History class where one group of students is working through the Depression while another group may still be working through Lincoln's presidency. The teacher is responsible for teaching, re-teaching, re-teaching, until the class has finished).
In addition to the open enrollment, teachers can also drop a student after a series of missteps or lack of performance. WHAT! Imagine that in a regular classroom!

The appearance of an online teacher, to their families, is very different.
  • because the teacher works from home, families tend to view the teacher as a non-teacher. After all, they don't look like they are working because they are sitting in front of the computer or talking on the phone.
  • Here is the beginning of the difference for teaching and evaluating, perhaps. When becoming an online teacher, the applicant needs to be made aware of exactly how different the profession is in this new model.
  • In addition, the strategies teachers use to admonish or to motivate, can be extremely creative
    • contests
How do we know that the students are the ones doing the work?
  • Mirrors traditional classrooms in that the teacher will get to know the student's writing and style
  • Phone conversations also let the teacher know more about the students.
  • Database of student work to compare to. As more assignments get put in, the database grows.
  • Teachers can view how long a student has spent on an assignment through the LMS.
  • Oral assessments
    • "how did you come to that conclusion?"
  • Requiring a student to take a face-to-face exam
  • Students are also allowed to resubmit assignments at any point throughout the course.
  • Pacing
    • three paces allowed by FLVS
      • traditional pace- similar to what a traditional school would offer for a full-year class (about 8mos.)
      • extended pace
      • accelerated pace
    • flexibility within each of these paces.
  • Students and parents also complete an evaluation when the student is 65% completed with the course. This feedback is used to reshape how the teachers are selected, how the classes are structured, and the type of professional development the teacher needs to focus on.
How do administrators know that the teachers are doing their job?
  • Each teacher has credit goal that they are expected to meet.
    • it becomes evident when a teacher has a weak point in their pedagogy
    • There is data that may reflect
    • Each teacher is required to complete so many students throughout the course of a year.
      • performance-based
  • The Instructional Leaders look at the teachers each week
    • data from calls
    • student ebb and flow from the class
    • weekly student progress- pace and academic average.
  • This might not reflect everyone's model, but since FLVS is performance-based, what happens when a teacher is floundering?
    • when the IL picks up trends within the teacher's performance over time, then they intervene much as they would in a normal school.
      • providing strategies and support.
      • Content-buddies (at FLVS): new teachers are placed with a content-buddy as well as a mentor to help troubleshoot areas of curriculum.
      • Team teaching: working with a group of teachers on a class so that they can all interact with the group of students.
  • Three evaluations per teacher
    • beginning of the year
      • credit goal- there is a standard that all teachers are expected to meet with how many student credit-hours are completed by their classes.
      • leadership goal- how a teacher communicates within the course and how they work within the team
      • business goal
      • professional development goal
Teamwork and getting teacher stakeholder buy-in is essential, and in thinking of how to set this up in my district, the decision to include some and not others will make or break whether or not the Sparta Virtual School becomes a reality. This, like many other areas of School 2.0, requires a certain ability within the stakeholders to be able to suspend disbelief and be comfortable with not knowing how it is going to look upon completion.

This is such a different model of learning, and so much of it lives in opposition to traditional teaching (hours of operation especially) that not to spend time on the training of staff would be disastrous to the success of the virtual school.

1 comment:

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