News From The Nest
What's Going On In The World Of VLA
LISD Vision: All of our students enjoy thriving, productive lives in a future they create
LISD Mission: Students, staff, and community design and implement a learning organization that provides engaging innovative experiences every day.
Virtual Learning Academy Mission: Foster independent learning by guiding and supporting all students in a flexible and innovative online framework.
Greetings from “The Nest”
Welcome to our first newsletter- News from The Nest! Why the nest (you ask)? Well we are the Virtual Learning Academy and we have been a part of LISD high school programming since 2007. We are a District created and operated supplementary high school online option for students in LISD as well as students from across Texas. Our mascot is the Owl “hoot” you see in many of our communications. The majestic Owl represents wisdom, intelligence and individuality. In many ways, this is what VLA courses represent. Students in the program learn a lot about themselves as well as the subject of each course. In addition, the flexibility of the VLA program allows students to follow their individual dreams. For some students, it is more AP classes to add to their “resume”. For others, it is chasing a dream in athletics, arts, or getting an early start on their career. Still others find the flexibility of VLA classes and scheduling allows them to take other classes of interest on their home campuses. In addition, VLA classes allow students to take classes that might not be available on their home campuses. Regardless of your reason for joining the VLA family, welcome to “The Nest”.
Dr. Chris Bigenho
Director of VLA
From the desk of Dr. Romona Thomas- VLA Counselor
As we close out week three, let me first start off by saying you all are awesome. This has been a unique beginning to the start of our 2020-2021 school year. It is my hope that you have had an opportunity to reflect on what has been effective for your on-line journey and what has challenged you along the way. If things are going smoothly, keep moving forward but If things have not gone has planned, don’t worry there is still time to shift your outcome. Here are a few tips to create and continue success with on-line learning.
1. Set Goals. In order to get the out-come you want, you want to create SMART Goals. SMART goals are just another way of saying: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.
- SMART Goal: I will find a study system that works best for me so I can do well on tests.
- Specific: I will look at a minimum of three different study strategies to better understand my options.
- Measurable: By the end of the quarter, my overall test average will increase by five points.
- Achievable: I will keep a record of all my test scores before and after implementing a new study system. Then, I will compare the averages.
- Relevant: I'd like to find a study strategy that plays up my strengths. That way, I can better prepare for tests and show my true knowledge and understanding of the subject.
- Time-Based: I have two weeks to explore study systems, then eight weeks to test out the one I think works best for me.
2. Utilize all Resources. The first resources that come to mind are the actual textbooks for the course, along with trusted websites and online instructional tools. Don’t forget that parents and teachers can act as resources as well!
3. Stay Focused. Don’t wait until the last minute to complete assignments. Avoiding this, can help alleviate stress and anxiety. If a project seems overwhelming, break it up into smaller parts. When you don’t understand something, make sure to let your instructor know as soon as possible.
Remember to take a moment to breathe, reflect, and move forward. You got this!
Important Note: VLA Grades and Attendance
Viewing VLA Individual Assignment Grades
It is for a variety of reasons that VLA does NOT use the daily gradebook in Skyward. This means you will NOT see your child’s individual assignment grades posted in Skyward. VLA teachers will manually add a grade to Skyward at each report card period. However, you can still see your child’s individual grades for a VLA course by becoming an observer in Canvas. VLA uses Canvas as the official gradebook and teacher do record grades for individual assignments in Canvas. Once you are an observer of your child in Canvas, you will be able to see all of their Canvas courses including their VLA courses. Becoming an observer is as simple as setting up a parent Canvas account and linking your account to a code that is generated from your child’s account. You can do this in minutes by following the instructions at this link.
VLA and Attendance
Because all VLA courses have been individually authorized by TEA through the Texas Virtual School Network and all VLA teachers have completed a 30-hour course in teaching effectively in virtual environments, student attendance for a VLA course comes from successful completion of the course. This is different than the temporary online program allowed this year under COVID waivers. All virtual courses currently using Edgenuity have a daily engagement requirement. Again, this is not the case for a VLA class giving your students greater freedom in how and when they work on their VLA assignments. All VLA classes have a pacing guide with due dates so they are NOT self-paced. However, students have a lot of latitude as to when they work on VLA courses. You will NOT be successful if you only work on a VLA class once a week. The amount of work you need to complete is comparable to that which would be completed if you were on campus. However, many students find they can complete some of the work faster as they are not waiting around for others to complete their work. Attendance in a VLA course is linked to student success in the course which means if you pass the course with a 70 or higher, you are marked 100% present. However, if you finish the course with a grade below 70, it is as if you never attended class. To do well in a VLA class, you need to do the work at a level where you are successful. This does require regular presence and considerable work. The advantage is that you get to decide each week what days you want to get that work done.
Bottom line, look at your weekly schedule and the assignments that are due that week then make a plan for how and when you will get the work done.
VLA and Program Growth
VLA has experienced tremendous growth over the past 3 to 4 years. With our classes being available to students as part of their regular daily schedule as well as outside the day for the purposes of acceleration or credit recovery, students are finding a home in VLA and making VLA part of their learning experience in LISD and across Texas.
The following chart and table illustrate the growth in .5 credit enrollments by term from 2016 to 2020 with current enrollments for 2021. Enrollments for Fall 2021 are still going up as counselors are looking for working schedules for Fall 2. Spring enrollments are usually greater than fall so we expect to see continued growth for spring 2021 which could easily be 2 times current spring enrollments. All numbers for 2021 are projected to increase over the course of this year.