While one-size-fits-all may work for clothing, this approach does not prove successful in the classroom.
Chance Cash, a Florida Virtual School (FLVS) Flex student, learned this in seventh grade when he realized traditional school was not a good fit for him.
Because of his shyness, Cash did not feel comfortable in the traditional school setting, and his grades began to suffer.
“I had always been a decent student, but because of my struggles in middle school … it was making my grades slip, and I was starting to feel more and more stressed out,” Cash said.
DeAnne Watson, a family friend and one of seven district relations managers for FLVS, suggested Cash try Florida Virtual School for a more personalized education. She thought that while a brick-and-mortar school may not meet his needs, FLVS had the flexibility to help him succeed.
FLVS is a fully-accredited online public school that serves public, private, charter and homeschooled Florida students in Kindergaten-12th grade. FLVS understands that students take their courses for a variety of reasons, from academic to social, and offers personalized experiences to meet their needs. With 150 available courses and counting, there were plenty of options for Cash.
On Watson’s suggestion, Cash enrolled in the FLVS Flex program, in which students can take one or multiple courses and go at their own pace. Flex courses usually run 16-18 weeks, but the student sets the pace.
“What makes it interesting is that you can allocate your time to where you need it the most,” Cash said. “When you’re in traditional school, you are sort of ruled by how your schedule is set … but FLVS is the complete opposite.
Watson said the FLVS Flex option can “look very different for many different kids based on what (their) needs are … It’s kind of more customizable than the Full Time option.”
FLVS Full Time is a virtual school program based on the 180-day school calendar. Students are required to take the standard public school course load of six courses per semester, and it is the only diploma-granting option for FLVS.
Coming up on its 20th anniversary, FLVS has increased its enrollments from 77 students in 1997 to more than 471,500 in 2016. While its numbers increased, so have the scores. In comparing the 15 AP courses offered by FLVS, virtual school students score 7.8 percent above the state average. Students also outperformed state averages on the spring 2016 end-of-course assessments in multiple categories, such as biology and civics.
While the numbers are a testament to its effectiveness, the true achievement is the student-teacher relationships that develop with FLVS.
“I found that all my teachers really depend on communicating, because they know that your success depends on how much you’re willing to talk to them and how much work you’re willing to put in,” Cash said.
To encourage communication, students call their teachers at the end of each module for a discussion-based assessment (DBA).
“I know the kids have a hard time with that at first, but then they end up really liking it,” Watson said about the phone calls.
After about 22 DBAs, Cash formed a friendship with his French teacher. “I had my French teacher for two years, and she was on the verge of tears on our last DBA,” Cash said.
Teachers are available Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Along with forming relationships, FLVS instills a sense of motivation in its students, as the students have to be self-driven.
“It really teaches you … on a different level than you would ever get in traditional school,” Cash said. “It’s a challenge, and you have to persevere to do well. I think every bit of it is worth it.”
FLVS is built on the belief that every student is unique and deserves a one-on-one personalized journey. One-size-fits-all is not even in the vocabulary of FLVS.
Photography by John Sloan