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[Talking Ed] 6 Things to Consider When Partnering with a Virtual School

[Talking Ed] 6 Things to Consider When Partnering with a Virtual School

Beginning the search for a virtual school partner can feel overwhelming. In this brand-new episode of our Talking Ed series, Edmentum’s Kate Weber, product manager, will discuss the six things a school should consider when choosing a virtual school partner.

Download the workbook Kate mentions here!

Video Transcription

Welcome back to another Talking Ed. I'm Kate Weber, Product Manager with Edmentum.

There are six things we want to consider when partnering with a virtual school, and actually, there's probably a lot more than that. So, if you check the link below, we've created a workbook for you to work through all the nuances and idiosyncrasies about this. But, from a top level, I really want to talk to you about the three most important things for both digital curriculum and a virtual school provider. These are really two sides of the same coin, and they go hand in hand.

Curriculum

1. Customization and Flexibility

When you're looking at digital curriculum, first of all, you want to look for customization and flexibility. It's so important that you have a standards-aligned, grade-level-appropriate content, but moving lock step with a curriculum tends not to benefit students. The magic of education comes when educators can adjust the curriculum in front of them to modify pasting and the resources available to reach and teach students. Your curriculum has to have that standards backroom, has to be grade-level appropriate—but it needs to allow for teachers to pull in what they need and to omit things they don't to get all students on the track towards success.

2. Course Variety and Catalog Expansion

Next thing you want to look at is course variety and catalog expansion. There is a temptation to go with the lowest cost today, but finding a partner for digital curriculum takes time, resources, and money. You want to find what works for today and works for tomorrow. You want to find a partner who has a big library that they're ever-expanding and also keeping it up to date—this is really important. I saw it with a partner who came through recently looking for secondary world languages. That's what they needed today, but they thought towards the future, and they got elementary and secondary world languages into their partner And then, not six months later, they discovered a need for Spanish at the elementary level. So, because of their foresight, they were able to save time and save money. Look for somebody who's going to grow and has a huge offering now.

3. Quality, Standards-Aligned Content

Next, you want to look at quality standards and aligned content. This can be a little tricky because third-party reports haven't been so favorable for all digital curriculums. They've been designed for print, and they tend to grade according to print standards instead of digital ones. However, there are some third-party review sites out there that are extremely high quality, such as Quality Matters. Reach out into your community, and figure out what schools like you are using, what standards they're looking towards, and what standards align to your vision for excellence for your students. And then, find a partner who's willing to share that vision with you.

Lastly, don't copy somebody's RFP [request for proposal]. I recently saw an RFP that wanted their digital curriculum providers to align to iNACOL standards, which haven't been updated since 2015 and won't be updated at any time in the future. Look for what's happening now, not what's been done in the past.

Virtual School Partner

4. Highly Qualified, State-Certified Teachers

When you have a great digital curriculum partner, it behooves you to also have them be your virtual school partner, but this isn't totally necessary. These can be two different providers. There is no shame in the partnering game when it comes to virtual education because not every teacher knows how to succeed in a virtual environment, and not every administrator knows how to set up a school for virtual success. So, look for a partner who can do those immediately for you. Make sure that they have highly qualified, state-certified teachers who are experienced and educated in reaching and teaching in a virtual model.

In the same way that you wouldn't ask a very successful science teacher who gets kids thrilled about STEM at the middle school level to bump down and teach foundational reading skills in kindergarten, it's not right to ask teachers of yours who are rock stars in the classroom to move successfully into a virtual model without a great deal of support. Find somebody who can do that from day one for you and your kids.

5. Flexible Program Options

Next, look for flexible program offerings. Just like you don't know what you need for tomorrow, flexible offerings provide you the ability to grow within your virtual program. You may need credit recovery today, but you may also need an accelerated program for overage but under-accredited seniors to get towards graduation tomorrow. You may need a program that can reach out to elementary-aged, homebound students. So, find a partner who isn't niche that can work with you in flexible model so that you only have to partner with one and not multiple providers.

6. Accreditation

And lastly, look for accreditation. Accreditation is extremely important because, just like standards, you want to make sure that the school is evaluated by a third party, that they know their strengths and their weaknesses, and [that] they're working on a continuous improvement model. You want them to grow with you, and you want evidence of them growing. So, look for a school that has accreditation, such as AdvancED [now known as Cognia], to be your partner. Don't go with some fly-by-night group that seems flashy but doesn't really have any data to back them up

Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to me today. I hope you have a nice one!

Interested in more episodes of our Talking Ed series? Check out our full episode list on the blog!

beth.holine's picture

Beth Holine joined Edmentum in 2011 as a Marketing Specialist. In her role, she works to provide teachers and educators with innovative, useful resources. Beth has a B.S. in Psychology from the Iowa State University.

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