Politics at Play – Open Letter to the Illinois Congress @RepShimkus @SenBillBrady

Respected Members of the Illinois Legislature,

I am reaching out to you today to ask you to get involved in the discussion about online and blended learning in the State of Illinois.  We have an opportunity right here, right now to do the right thing and develop policy that supports education, supports students, supports teaching and learning.

First, are you aware that we have a statewide Virtual School?  Illinois Virtual School was formed in 2001 as Illinois Virtual High School and then transitioned to the broader program including from 5th grade to 12th and teacher professional development in 2009.  The Illinois Virtual School partners with local districts and private schools to provide a rich teacher supported model of online learning.  Students learn and work at their own pace, anytime, anywhere.  Teachers work one on one with students via web-conferencing, phone, and a variety of social media and instant messaging platforms. Our courses are aligned to standards and offer a rigorous and robust experience.

Secondly are you aware of the trends in blended learning and credit recovery models?  Far from being correspondence courses today’s blended digital learning includes teacher contact, and student supports similar to what they might receive in traditional face-to-face classrooms.  Curriculum is contoured and shaped to address deficiencies, support growth, and meet each student individually where they are in their learning journey.  Credit recovery focuses on students who have been unsuccessful in a traditional setting and need to develop and demonstrate competency in the basics which we expect from all Illinois high school graduates.  Illinois Virtual School is working to pilot up to four blended partner schools for the 2013-14 school year.

Finally are you aware that despite the great program that Illinois Virtual School offers, our state received an F on the Digital Learning Report Card.  We didn’t receive this because of our school.  We received this on the basis of our state policies in regards to digital learning.  Policies which restrict student access, particularly the number of students and number of courses limit students. Policies that define education as time in a chair as opposed to learning accomplished make no sense if our goal is to educate students. Policies which allow districts to contract with providers with no approval process for the quality of those providers mean that in some districts our students educational needs are being contracted to the lowest and often sub-standard bidder.  And most importantly in my mind, we need a clear definition of “teacher of record.”

Why does teacher of record matter?  Because some of these institutions rubber stamp credits.  They certify grading without accountability.  In an age of common core and AYP that is simply unacceptable.

For the record, Illinois Virtual School has highly qualified certified state of Illinois Teachers in every class INTERACTING with every student.  In many cases they are National Board Certified Master Teachers.  We take our responsibilities in providing high quality educational experiences and certifying learning seriously.

Please take some time to get involved in understanding digital learning, support your IVS innovative program with policies that allow digital learning to grow and flourish in this great state. Read HB 494, get to know IVS-your state school.  Support real teaching and learning.

Thank you,

Christine Gregory
Parent of 4 digital learners
Online, Blended and Face-to-Face Instructor.
NBCT, Illinois Master Teacher