The demand for well educated students, especially in the STEM fields is growing with no signs of slowing down. Still, according to the National Math & Science Initiative, 54 percent of high school graduates are not ready for college math, while an astounding 70 percent are unprepared for college-level science.
One main issue that stops students from achieving this is not having access to the courses, the content and the right teachers they need to succeed on their own terms. FLVS Global School provides online learning opportunities to students who might not be able to find them in their current local school options. FLVS is currently educates around 1800 students, that come from every state in the US and from over 46 countries and continues to grow in order to accommodate as many students in as many locations as possible.
I had the chance to talk to FLVS Global School principal, Matt Vangalis, this week. Matt has worked with FLVS for 14 years- with the first bulk of them as a math teacher and then moving on to act as District Relations Manager. This is his first year as principal at FLVS Global School. In our conversation, we discovered that not only are we both passionate about the benefits of online learning but we are both parents of our own high school aged children and are experiencing first hand how the digital age is undoubtedly changing the education experience for our kids.
Because technology is constantly evolving, it is hard to keep up on the options that are out there for students. Many people do not realize that when students are stuck in a tough situation- like if they get sick, move or live in a rural area that makes it hard to get to school everyday, FLVS Global school has the ability to get those students set up with an online learning plan in the matter of hours. Also, if a student can’t find the course offering they are looking for at their brick and mortar school, they can take the additional course with FLVS – which includes the state core curriculum as well as many elective and Advanced Placement options.
FLVS students are not “prisoners of time” which was one of the first concepts that inspired Matt Vangalis to want to be an online educator. Students can move at their own pace- according to their own needs. For example, a student who is highly motivated and wants to master Algebra as fast as possible in order to tackle the next level of math does not have to wait for those students who might need a year to take extra time in mastering concepts because they are dealing with family or personal issues outside of school and just need that extra space to stay feeling in control and successful.
With flexibility of time comes more opportunity for student choice- at FLVS Global School, students have the choice for how they would like to “show what they know.” They aren’t due dates where every student in the class has to hand in their final research paper at the same time. These students can choose and take advantage of todays digital media making tools to create projects beyond writing a paper- they can create videos, audio recordings, websites, etc. – whatever medium best fits their style of learning.
Matt’s own daughter is required by the state of Florida to take at least one course online before graduating from high school. By taking an online history course she is quickly proving to her family what they already knew to be true. Online courses many times require more work from the student than the what they are used to from the traditional classroom – dispelling the myth that students who are struggling should opt out for an “easier” route with online courses. More work may be required but when the work is engaging and meeting the student where they are at, it comes more naturally to them, is more meaningful and more likely to stick with them.
In the role of principal, Matt spends a huge amount of time working to ensure highly qualified, certified teachers are working with each student. Because state requirements, student needs and technology are always changing, FLVS is continually assessing the best courses to offer students, including many that are NCAA- approved. These courses can enhance student pathways to becoming fluent in STEM subjects and beyond. Still, what is most surprising is how many parents don’t know that these options exist and available for students everywhere. As a parent of 3 children with very different learning styles, strengths and interests, I am definitely glad to know of the FLVS Global School and the options it offers.
FLVS is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.