Virtual school opens doors for Nevada students

As a long-time educator, I am proud of recent strides our state has taken to enhance the public education options available to students, including the expansion of online public school programs. If the approval of the expansion of Nevada Virtual Academy by the Nevada Board of Education earlier this year is any indicator, we can expect an exciting future for Nevada's education offerings so all of our students can thrive " no matter where they live in the state.

As the head of school for the Nevada Virtual Academy, a fully accredited, innovative public charter school, it is part of my duty to ensure all students have the opportunity to reach their potential. Online learning helps make this possible. It renders geographic and distance barriers obsolete, giving our rural students access to a more diverse and rigorous curriculum-including Advanced Placement courses to better prepare them for higher education.

But it's not just rural and geographically isolated students who can benefit by online schools. For many students faced with learning disabilities, allergies or other medical challenges, online learning is sometimes the only option that enables them to recognize and meet their full potential. In addition, some students learn at a much faster pace than their classmates and can become bored by the traditional class structure. They too benefit from this individualized learning option. There are many reasons families turn to this alternative option. Whatever the reason, we can feel confident we are working to meet the unique needs of our students.

Since its initial launch in 2007, the Nevada Virtual Academy has grown to include 950 students. Students benefit from a rigorous, personalized, one-to-one learning experience using excellent curriculum developed by K12, the nation's leader in K-12 online school programs. Students receive instruction, guidance and support from state-certified teachers who are trained in the best practices of online learning. Because each student is unique, with his or her own learning style and interests, the virtual classroom maximizes the education experience.

They may not take the bus to school every day, but students are still held accountable for attendance requirements, assessment tests and any other achievement measurements

Online learning has seen explosive growth in recent years, both in Nevada and nationwide. Students are part of a larger peer group of students in 44 states that now offer some form of online education, and some have even made online learning a graduation requirement. These students represent neighborhoods in our most rural to our most urban communities across the country.

One family I have had the opportunity to get to know during my tenure as head of school embodies the benefits the online learning option delivers for families. Their son and daughter are both enrolled in the academy. With a father who works in the travel industry and required to travel frequently, their kids can bring school with them on their travels. In addition, the two students are able to participate in the local school's extracurricular programs. Their daughter is in the chorus group and their son is able to hone his music skills as part of the school band.

It is difficult to watch the news, or read the paper today without hearing about the latest technological advancement that is changing our lives. It is encouraging to know that students in Nevada have access to a challenging curriculum as they learn the basics -reading, writing and arithmetic--but are also developing innovative skills that will help them compete on the 21st Century campus and the corporate office. Our state should serve as an example for others that have yet to embrace this learning option.

Mike Kazek is Head of School for the Nevada Virtual Academy, a statewide virtual public charter school serving grades K-12.


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