The parents of more than 1200 Louisiana students have learned that one of the responsibilities of a free, virtual charter education for their child is being right there with the child’s day-to-day school activities.
“At Louisiana Connections Academy, our parents are actively involved in a student’s achievement and accountability,” said Principal Caroline Wood. “Our parents serve as learning coaches with their children.”
This is actually a role most parents look forward to playing. After all, some parents enrolled their child in a virtual, public charter school like Louisiana Connections Academy because of the flexibility it allows for planning the family schedule.
“Being a learning coach to my three kids has been gratifying to help them achieve academically while also giving our family a chance to have time to handle our personal schedules,” said parent and learning coach Caprice Abed.
As Louisiana Connections Academy’s Parent Outreach Coordinator, Shelly Centanni is quick to point out, a Learning Coach is not a substitute teacher. Rather, the parent or guardian at home is a facilitator ensuring that their student is completing assignments and attending on-line lessons.
“In early grades, the parent ensures the child is practicing necessary skills taught by the teacher and through the curriculum in order to master grade level concepts. But these parent responsibilities decrease as a child progresses to middle and high school and becomes a more independent learner,” said Ms. Centanni.
One of the most important duties of a parent as Learning Coach is to establish a “classroom” in the home, so that the child has an optimal learning environment, just as they would at a brick-and-mortar school.
A home “classroom” prepares the student, as well as keeps the school’s materials from taking over the entire home, said Mrs. Abed.
Ms. Centanni conducts two “live lesson” sessions each week for parents covering the basics on how to navigate Connexus, the school’s learning management system. Connexus is like a teacher lesson planner that keeps the educators, parent learning coach and student on track.
“I’m here to address any questions or concerns parents have so that they feel confident and are effective in their role as Learning Coach,” said Ms. Centanni. The school also offers a blog where parents can interact with each other and offer tips. Throughout the school year, there are orientations, tutorials, support networks of parents, and on-going interaction from teachers and counselors to keep parents on track with their child’s progress.
“It’s important to understand what a child needs to succeed in a virtual charter, just as it is important for me to set by boundaries,” said Mrs. Abed. “My success is as important to my kids succeeding in this school as their commitment.”
Tips include knowing when to shut off the “learning coach” role, building in effective play-time, and letting the parent who works outside the home serve as the night-time coach. One parent let her husband serve as the “home principal” to resolve differences between her and her child regarding a classroom issue.
As recent surveys of LACA parents show, they are proud of their accomplishments as well as their children. High marks for the school’s teachers, curriculum, individualized learning and scheduling flexibility result in high marks for the school. Nine out of 10 parents would recommend the school to others.
Now in its third academic year, LACA, which serves all grades K-12, said they are strongest with students from grades 4-11; competitive with state averages on ACT and other tests; and will retain at least 75 percent of enrolled students from one year to the next.
“The biggest challenge for our school is not keeping the student engaged; it is keeping the Learning Coach comfortable with their responsibilities. It’s a great expectation and a great gift to work so hard with your child,” said Principal Wood.