Monday, April 12, 2010

Carden Virtual Academy Approved

The San Bernardino City Unified School District governing board approved Carden Virtual Academy’s charter petition on Tuesday, April 6. The new school is set to open in August. At the dais, Trustee Barbara Flores, Board President Danny Tillman, Superintendent Arturo Delgado, Trustee Judi Penman, Trustee Louis  Ayala, Trustee Linda Savage. Photo by Chris Sloan

 Carden Virtual Academy Executive Director Tim Smith addresses the San Bernardino City Unified School District governing board moments before it approved the new charter school. Photo by Chris Sloan

(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) A newly approved charter school, Carden Virtual Academy, gives San Bernardino families a new option for their children’s education.

The San Bernardino City Unified School District governing board approved the charter for Carden Virtual Academy on Tuesday, April 6, on a 4-2 vote, with trustees Danny Tillman, Judi Penman, Linda Savage and Louise Ayala in favor.

“The mission of Carden Virtual Academy is to deliver a high quality, high tech, high touch, standards-based, personalized learning environment,” says Tim Smith, executive director of Carden Virtual Academy. “Now that we are approved, we will move forward with that mission.”

Carden Virtual Academy will be set to open in August.

Carden Virtual Academy will provide education options for all families with children in grades K-12 residing in the San Bernardino area. These options include in-class instruction, online instruction and independent study.

“Our highly qualified, certified teachers will work with parents as educational partners to design a personalized learning plan,” Smith said. We strive to help students develop the character, confidence and skills needed for success in the 21st Century.”

Carden Virtual Academy’s curriculum begins with the state and national educational standards. These put in writing what students are expected to know in any given grade or subject. These standards will be taught by local California certified teachers, most of whom will have already had teaching experience in traditional schools.

Add to that a strong character education program encouraging citizenship, character, responsibility and school and community pride. Carden Virtual Academy also stresses the importance of integrity, gratitude, teamwork, compassion, leadership, parental involvement, patriotism, respect, classical literature, arts and music appreciation, citizenship, self-directed learning, technology literacy, problem solving skills, and time management.

Carden Virtual Academy will develop individualized learning plans, keeping in mind each student’s educational goal. For some students, that will be catching up academically to graduate from high school on time. For others, it might mean getting a head start on college.

“We serve students that may not have had success in a larger comprehensive high school setting,” Smith said. “Students work at their own pace on an individualized learning plan.  If they are behind in credits, we can help them catch up.”

“We are also a good fit for college preparatory students who seek opportunities to learn as much as possible.” Smith said. “They can graduate from high school early if they wish. We can also help them take college courses while they are still in high school,

Elementary and Middle School Educational Philosophy

Carden Virtual Academy provides a comprehensive (all in one classroom) curriculum for grades K-8. Subjects taught in the comprehensive curriculum include language arts, math, science and social studies, physical education and art. 

Students may also choose from elective courses as well, at both the elementary and middle school levels.

The philosophy of Carden Virtual Academy’s elementary and middle school teaching was based on the work of Mae Carden, a 20th Century educator and author who developed a system of instruction for developing the whole child.  She believed that character played a large part in the role of learning in a school environment.  She believed that “life is a joy and so should be learning.”

Ms. Carden wrote two books, Let’s Bring Them Up Sensibly, which offered advice to parents about working with and educating young people and Quality Teaching, Successful Learning, which offered instructional support and mentoring to teachers and school administrators. 

Many people believed in Ms. Carden’s teachings and asked her to establish her own school.  Many other educators followed suit in the 1960s and many Carden private schools were established. She has since passed away and the Carden Educational Foundation was established to continue her legacy and continue to instruct schools in using her philosophy.

Carden Virtual Academy has partnered with several other programs that deliver research-based, standards aligned curriculum content.  Among these are Carden Traditional Schools, a system of K-8 schools in the Phoenix, Arizona area.

Carden Virtual Academy will ultimately work with its sister schools in Arizona to develop curriculum for all of the schools, but will start out with programs Carden Traditional Schools have already found successful.

“In the teaching of reading, Carden Traditional School teachers and administrators have had much success in working with a McGraw Hill program called Open Court Reading,” Smith said.  “Open Court Reading uses a strong phonics-based approach to reading and writing instruction.  McGraw Hill has most recently launched the 2008 update of Open Court Reading with Imagine It, which has several online tools and resources that supplement the traditional textbook offerings. “

Open Court Reading has many supplemental components that make instruction more effective including:
·      Leveled readers
·      Games and other fun learning tools
·      Cross curricular activities in science, social studies, math and art
·      Resources for English Language Learners

Carden Virtual Academy’s K-8 program will utilize Real Math from McGraw Hill to challenge students in math.  Additionally, units and lessons will be designed around the California state standards.  Real world applications connected to state performance objectives will be emphasized.

Virtual Education

Carden Virtual Academy plans class sizes of no more than 25 students per teacher in all grades. Its staff believes this is the best way to help students graduate with a high school diploma and a grade point average that would not limit their choice of college.

But attending class with 24 other students is not the only option for Carden Virtual Academy students. They can also attend class online, in what is known as a “virtual course.”

For virtual education to work, teamwork between teachers and parents is crucial.

The teacher’s job is to manage each student’s individualized learning plan by developing lessons and assessments.

Teachers also work with the parents and other caring adults in the students’ lives, who serve as “learning coaches,” providing them strategies for teaching the lessons at home. The learning coach’s job is to manage the day-to-day instruction of the student.

“Virtual education offers many benefits to families of children in the K-12 grades including increased parental involvement, flexible options for schooling that can happen anytime, anywhere, and preparation of our youth to develop 21st century skills,” Smith said.

“In an increasingly competitive global economy, it is not enough for students to acquire subject-level mastery alone,” Smith continued. “Skills such as creativity, problem solving, communication and analytical thinking are necessary for all levels of success, from entry-level jobs to engineering and technical fields.  However the United States K-12 education system as a whole does not yet teach and measure these skills directly.”

Smith offers these sobering statistics:

  • Eighty-four percent of employers say K-12 schools are not doing a good job of preparing students for the workplace; 55 percent say schools are deficient in preparing students with basic employability skills (such as attendance, timeliness and work ethic); 51 percent cite math and science deficiencies; and 38 percent cite reading and comprehension deficiencies.

  • A very small percentage of U.S. 4th and 8th grade students (less than 30 percent) perform at a proficient level in math, while up to 20 percent lack the competence to perform even basic mathematical computations. (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, November 2006)

Virtual schools and online learning are growing rapidly—an estimated 30 percent annually in K-12 education.  Recent research highlights that virtual schools expand access to rigorous academic courses and curriculum; and, training teachers to teach online can improve instruction.  When virtual schools intentionally focus on mastery of 21st century skills, these schools take full advantage of their strengths. 

“In an online class, the student must learn a host of technical skills such as posting to discussions, attaching documents, and accessing online white boards,” Smith said. “This teaches self sufficiency and basic computer skills regardless of what class they are taking.”

Methods of Assessment

Learning coaches evaluate their students’ work on a daily basis at Carden Virtual Academy.  Certified teachers regularly evaluate tests, quizzes, portfolio samples, and are also responsible for determining grades and making promotional decisions. 

Quizzes are assigned after every few lessons within a given course, and are usually short checks to make sure that students are on track with their understanding of the material.  Unit tests are larger assessments that may also require some teacher review when answers include short or long answers, or even essays.

Other forms of testing, known as benchmark assessments, take place on a quarterly basis to measure overall student progress and mastery of subject matter.  The benchmark assessments act as an additional tool to measure student pacing.

Portfolio samples and other student work are also required.

In a virtual program, students and their learning coaches mail these assessments to the teacher.  These scores are then entered into an online grade book.

Carden Virtual Academy opens in August 2010, and will offer both in-class and online instruction for grades K-12. It is an option for families who wish to be directly involved in their children’s education, for teens who seek an accelerated schedule to begin college early, and for teens needing to catch up on credits to graduate with their classmates.

For more information, call Shannon Brander at (760) 927-5134.

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