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Virtual School Myth vs. Facts

Albuquerque Public Schools is pleased to offer yet another choice for students to help them reach their goal of graduating from high school and transitioning to post-secondary and career opportunities that will allow them to reach high levels of personal success.

Virtual education offers a rigorous high quality instructional program led by APS online certified teachers who are highly qualified in the state of New Mexico. This is a fantastic option for students who would like a break from a traditional educational setting, require varying levels of differentiation, want a more personalized learning experience, or need a more flexible option because of their immediate circumstance.

Below are some myths about virtual education and clarifying facts.

MYTH: The APS virtual school will be run by an external education management corporation that profits on district students.

FACT: APS will manage and lead the virtual school in the same manner that other district schools are managed and led. The APS Board of Education will govern the new virtual school. Digital content/curricula will be purchased through a publisher or commercial vendor, which is also the case in a brick-and-mortar school. APS has one goal, which is to help students reach their goal of graduation and successfully transition to post-secondary and/or career opportunities. As the largest district in the state of New Mexico, we are confident that we have the talent and resources to offer the highest quality virtual schooling option in the state.

MYTH: Teachers at the APS virtual school are not state certified.

FACT: Teachers at the new APS virtual school will possess an APS online certification, will have attained highly qualified status in the areas they teach, and will complete the mandatory school–specific training. All school staff is local, which will foster family–student–school relationships and increase family involvement as well as overall student participation.

MYTH: The virtual school is tuition–based.

FACT: The APS virtual school is a tuition-free public schooling option that results in the ability for enrolled students to earn a New Mexico High School diploma upon completion of graduation requirements.

MYTH: Admission to the virtual school is performance-based.

FACT: The APS virtual school is open to all students regardless of disability or socioeconomic status. We encourage all students who are interested in our virtual program to take advantage of preregistration as it becomes available in the coming months. 

MYTH: Students can complete coursework at their convenience.

FACT: Students will be expected to satisfy seat time requirements that requires they complete 5.5 hours of “uninterrupted” instruction per day at the 6th grade level and 6 hours of “uninterrupted” instruction per day for students in grades 7 – 12. This equates to 27.5 and 30 hours per week for grade 6 and 7 – 12 respectively. In satisfying required weekly hours, students still have flexibility in when and where their asynchronous learning takes place.

MYTH: The virtual school environment lacks integrity because students can cheat their way through their courses.

FACT: APS' virtual school students and parents must sign an academic integrity policy prior to beginning coursework. This agreement will help ensure that students are personally responsible for learning. Furthermore, written work submitted by students will be run through anti–plagiarism software housed within the virtual school’s learning management system. Teachers will conduct Formative Assessment Checks (FACs) via synchronous communication methods such as web-based lessons and telephone conversations that will allow teachers to measure student understanding in real time. Finally, students will still be required to take End-of-Course exams, District Benchmark Assessments, and PARCC exams within a secure testing environment that are proctored by licensed virtual academy teachers.

MYTH: Students enrolled in the APS virtual program are at a disadvantage because of the nature of online instruction.

FACT: The APS virtual school academic program will comprise a balance of synchronous and asynchronous communication and instruction. Synchronous communication and instruction offers immediacy. Learning and communicating in real time promotes interaction that enhances teaching and learning. Asynchronous instruction occurs outside of real time and allows the flexibility offered through an online schooling option. Curricula will be aligned with the APS scope and sequence, aligned with standards, and modified to fully meet the needs of district students. Students and learning coaches will consistently communicate with teachers and school staff. Virtual and in–person supports will be available throughout the year while school is in session.

MYTH: Only students with exceptional technical backgrounds can succeed in a virtual school.

FACT: Tutorials and supports will be provided for students who are not fully comfortable using technology for learning purposes. Technical support is also available to students and families. However, it is important to note that a certain level of computer literacy must be attained in order to maximize teaching and learning within a virtual education environment. Therefore, prior to enrolling in the APS virtual school program, families and students may wish to self-assess their current skills and analyze their willingness to develop technical skills needed to succeed within a virtual learning environment.

MYTH: Virtual schools hurt students by taking away the opportunity for social development.

FACT: As in all quality learning programs, interpersonal learning strategies will be employed. Teachers will utilize a student-centered learning approach that calls upon students to take ownership for their learning. Group projects, student presentations, service learning projects, and job shadowing and internships will serve as opportunities for students to apply their learning within real–world settings. In addition, APS virtual school students will have the chance to participate in structured field trips throughout the school year that help extend learning. Finally, students enrolled in the APS virtual school may also tryout for athletic teams and other groups at their home schools.

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