The Education Innovator #14
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The Education Innovator
 June 3, 2003 • Number 14
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What's inside...
Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School
What's New
American schools ranked according to AP and IB tests taken by students; Department seeks input for new national education technology plan; and new PBS educational television programs to be developed.
Innovations in the News
A new pilot teacher certification program, sponsored by Arizona State University West and the Peoria Unified School District, allows college graduates to become certified in 10 months, as well as information on charter schools, virtual schools, school choice, and technology and Advanced Placement.

Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School Offers Alternative to Learning in the Classroom
Children of the Keystone State are now offered an innovative alternative to a traditional public school education. The Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School, formed in 2001, is providing a personalized education for students all across Pennsylvania. In partnership with K12, Inc., the Virtual School has developed a world-class curriculum that connects students to the school's lessons, assessments, their teachers, and each other via the Internet.

The mission of the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School (PAVCS) is simple. The school seeks to provide students with an educational curriculum grounded in high academic standards that will help children achieve their full academic and social potential. The core philosophy of PAVCS is that students can achieve this potential if they are provided with rigorous instruction, high standards, informed guidance, and individual attention. Although the computer plays an important role, this program also uses other tools and relies on caring individuals, involved parents, and committed teachers to be successful.

In addition to working on a computer, students read books and stories; use phonics tiles; and draw, paint, and create art. Students also perform science experiments and use workbooks to master mathematics. The educational program is individualized and self-paced. Children who are struggling can spend more time on a certain lesson to ensure comprehension. Children can also explore material in greater depth or advance through the curriculum more quickly.

Due to the virtual nature of PAVCS, there is usually no brick-and-mortar school building where children go everyday. Most learning takes place in the home. Parents conduct daily lessons and assessments to ensure the child is learning, while qualified, knowledgeable teachers oversee the child's progress by providing assistance, answers to questions, and educational guidance.

There is also an administrative office in Norristown, Pennsylvania, that serves as the school headquarters. The school provides each student a computer system, including computer hardware, software, printer, and Internet connection, so that the student can progress through the school's learning program in the home or in a small group setting. These computer systems are school property and must be returned at the conclusion of the program.

Another aspect of PAVCS is an online tutoring program for disadvantaged children. While most of the PAVCS program is geared toward students learning at home, under the guidance of their parents, the online tutoring takes place in a community center building in Philadelphia with the assistance of volunteer tutors. The online lesson plans allow novice tutors to do a solid job of delivering instruction in core academic areas. This program was developed through a Fund for the Improvement of Education grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School is now offering grades K-5 and will add grades 6 and 7 in the 2003-2004 school year. For more information on this innovative learning environment, please go to:


What's New
Advanced Placement

The 100 best American high schools have been identified using a ratio of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students divided by the number of graduating seniors.


The U.S. Department of Education is calling for input from a wide array of education stakeholders in crafting a new National Education Technology Plan. For more information, go to

Under the Ready to Learn Television grant program, two new educational programs will be developed by PBS: Postcards from Buster and The Misadventures of Maya and Miguel. Both programs will focus on literacy and language skills while celebrating America's rich cultural diversity. For more information about Ready to Learn Television, see (May 29)

From OII

OII sponsored a panel discussion on "Exploring Virtual Schools" as part of the Innovations in Education Exchange series. To view an archived webcast of this presentation, go to (May 29)

Funding Opportunities

The Advanced Placement Incentives grant competition opened on May 15. The applications for this program are due July 3, 2003. Incentive program grants are awarded to State educational agencies, local educational agencies, including charter schools that are LEAs, or national nonprofit educational entities to expand access to rigorous coursework for low-income students in grades 6-12. Funding will be used to prepare these students for success in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs. For information on how to apply, go to

The Advanced Placement Test Fee grant competition opened on May 16. The deadline for applications is June 30, 2003. Grants are awarded to State educational agencies to cover part or all of the cost of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test fees for low-income students. For information on how to apply, go to

The Teaching American History grant competition remains open. The deadline is July 7, 2003. The competition is open to local education agencies (LEAs), including charter schools that are LEAs, in partnership with nonprofit history or humanities organizations. For information about how to apply, go to For a webcast with information about preparing the grant application package, go to


Save the date: The next Innovations in Education Exchange will be on July 10th at the White House. The topic for discussion will be Teaching American History.


Innovations in the News

Alternative Teacher Certification
A new pilot teacher certification program, sponsored by Arizona State University West and the Peoria Unified School District, allows college graduates to earn a teacher's certification in 10 months by taking college courses while working in West Valley, Arizona classrooms. [More-The Arizona Republic] (May 20)

In Augusta, Georgia, the first group of teachers to complete the Teacher Alternative Preparation Program, which helps people in other professions train for careers in teaching, have received their diplomas. [More-The Augusta Chronicle] (May 19)

About 200 people have indicated interest in becoming teachers through the new alternate-route program offered this summer by Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. [More-The Press] (May 17)

Charter Schools
The nation's largest for-profit education company, Edison Schools, Inc., plans to open its first school in St. Louis this fall. Edison Schools manages 150 public schools nationwide. [More-STL] (May 23)

New Hampshire could see up to 20 new charter schools over the next 10 years, according to a provision passed in the State House and Senate. [More-The Concord Monitor] (May 23)

Virtual Schools
Online schooling is expected to grow over the next several years as technology enables districts to set up e-learning programs tied to State academic standards. [More-The New York Times] (May 29) [free registration]

The first online charter school to be approved by Pennsylvania, under new regulations governing "cyber" charter schools, will plug into the Internet starting in the fall. Commonwealth Connections Academy plans to enroll about 400 students from across the state in kindergarten through eighth grade. [More-The Pittsburgh Gazette] (May 20)

Wisconsin Virtual Academy - set to open this fall in a small, rural district in northern Ozaukee County - has more than 300 confirmed students who are coming from more than 100 districts around the state. Like the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School, it will be run in partnership with K12, Inc. [More-The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel] (May 25) [free registration]

School Choice
Microsoft founder Bill Gates has donated $18.9 million in the form of a grant to give inner-city Latino teens a chance to attend Catholic preparatory schools in 12 cities. [More-The Washington Times] (May 22)

Technology/Advanced Placement
A new program for Wisconsin public high school students allows them to enroll in an Advanced Placement distance-learning program offered through the University of Wisconsin-Madison and funded by the U.S. Department of Education. [More-Wausau Daily Herald] (May 22)


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Last Modified: 04/26/2011