Accountability in Online Learning: Ann Arbor Public Schools

Assorted Electronics on table
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

This blog post is the second in a series examining district-level accountability and teacher effectiveness related to virtual learning in Michigan. Each post in the series is accompanied by a podcast with our participants, which you can find at the end of the posts. The first post in the series is also currently available online.

Cindy Leaman is the principal of A2 Virtual+ Academy, the supplemental online learning program offered by Ann Arbor Public Schools in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The program has been in existence since 2000 and has seen a fair amount of evolution and growth since its inception. Cindy notes an identified program mission of allowing students more flexibility, choice, and personalization in their learning. Most students enroll in no more than two online courses per academic term and do so primarily because of the options they provide with regard to scheduling. This past school year, there were nearly 1,700 students taking online courses during the school year and close to 400 enrolled in the summer.

To address student accountability, A2 Virtual+ requires students to have a minimum of two proctored exams and a face-to-face orientation with their instructor for each course in which they are enrolled. There are also procedures in place to ensure that students are completing work on schedule, including timestamped assignments and regularly scheduled audits in courses to track progress. A2 Virtual+ also employs staff called building liaisons, placing one in each building where an online student attends face-to-face, to help facilitate communication and progress checking between the parent, student, counselors, and administrators within the building.

Regarding instructor and mentor accountability, many of the measures are similar. Cindy notes that keeping a constant pulse on the status of the program and its students is key. Staff attend weekly PLC meetings to address emerging issues and think about ways to be proactive to help students succeed. A2 Virtual+ online instructors are also evaluated using the same framework used for face-to-face teachers, the Danielson Framework for Teaching. Cindy served on the district committee overseeing teacher evaluation processes and is intimately familiar with how the framework is employed across the district. She does see the need for modification, especially when it comes to the teacher observation tool when applying it to the online environment. The systems used in the online environment, though, can be advantageous when checking for evidence within some of the domains of the framework, including course planning and preparation and professional responsibilities in communication and record keeping. As Cindy notes, there is a wealth of information in the course environment that provides a detailed picture of how an instructor is performing.

Lastly, Cindy mentions that they often think about how to keep the entire program accountable, specifically to the district as a whole. She and her team usually give an annual board presentation, and one of the issues they’ve grappled with is trying to ensure that A2 Virtual+ serves students from all across the board from a demographic and achievement perspective. They also use data from quality review processes, standards alignment, and course completion data to try to ensure that students enrolled in the program are receiving high-quality learning experiences.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

The Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) is a non-biased organization that exists to expand Michigan’s ability to support new learning models, engage in active research to inform new policies in online and blended learning, and strengthen the state’s infrastructures for sharing best practices. MVLRI works with all online learning environments to develop the best practices for the industry as a whole.

Keep up with the latest Michigan Virtual has to offer

The Digital Backpack

Get our latest articles sent straight to your inbox every Thursday!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Limited Course Capacity

We’re sorry to inform you that we have reached capacity for several of our Semester 1 and Trimester 1 courses. You’ll notice when attempting to enroll students in our Student Learning Portal that some courses are unavailable. While we are no longer accepting new enrollments for these courses at this time, many courses continue to remain open for enrollment.

With many students across the state 100% remote, demand for our online courses is greater than ever before. Because every course we offer is taught by a Michigan-certified teacher, this high volume of enrollments has created capacity issues for our teachers who provide each and every student with individual feedback.

While the Michigan Virtual team anticipated and planned for significant increases in student enrollments this Fall, the increased demand we’ve experienced has been unprecedented. As a result, we are taking steps to hire even more part-and full-time teachers to support larger numbers of student enrollments for Semester 2 as well as for Trimester 2 and 3. 

For schools that still need online learning options this year, please fill out the form at the bottom of our virtual pathways page to meet with someone to discuss other solutions. While some of our teacher-led courses are full, we may still have the capacity to help you in upcoming terms or can discuss timing to implement a whole-school or collaborative program in which local teachers from your school/district use our online course content to teach students. We also have free course content and resources available for you to use.

We know this is an incredibly stressful time for all, and we’re sorry if the courses you’re looking for are unavailable. We never want to turn away a student who wants to learn from us. Our top concern, however, is student success, and we have a policy to not take on additional enrollments if we cannot guarantee that all students will have a quality online learning experience. 

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate the unusually high volume of enrollments we are receiving.