Category Archives for "Best Practices"

Free E-Book: Guide to Help Catholic Schools Find Their Footing in a World of Charters and Financial Burdens

The Catholic Church worldwide is in the midst of a Catholic education boom, experiencing a 20% - 28% growth in enrollment amongst primary and secondary schools. But while there is significant growth worldwide, most are aware of the many challenges eclipsing the vitality of Catholic schools in the U.S.

catholic schools guide

This e-book presents some new perspectives to assist Catholic education stakeholders in identifying and implementing strategies to help overcome major challenges and recover the sustainability of Catholic schools.

Although Catholic schools fall under a larger umbrella, they tend to operate as smaller entities, leaving much room for self-governing. Dioceses can begin to swing the shift of disconnect by implementing programs that provide centralized autonomy to schools.

When these smaller entities are offered centralized services, they become more accountable, efficient, and effective.

Click here to get the free e-book "Guide to Help Catholic Schools Find Their Footing in a World of Charters and Financial Burdens."

School Budget – Free E-Book on Managing Tight Budgets

Are you struggling to manage school budget cuts?  Simply fill out this form, put free e-book in the comments section and we will email you the free e-book “How K-12 Schools Can Improve Efficiency on a Tight Budget.??? 

Schools spend a lot of money on registration, yet this cost is “under the radar??? of administrators. Most schools and districts have a difficult time answering such fundamental questions as: How much paper do we use for registration packets? What is our total cost per student for each packet? How much time does staff spend on registration procedures and data entry?
Despite this lack of clarity, traditional registration processes happen annually while schools are consistently going through cutbacks and looking for ways to save money.
Find out the secrets to Unlocking the Power of Online Registration, how to make a system work for you, what to look for in a system, and tips on improving efficiency while decreasing costs.

Visit our website to receive a free e-book: How K-12 Schools can Improve Efficiency on a Tight School Budget.

5 Ways Online Registration Supports CA School Funding

In 2013, California adopted a new formula for deciding how much money each school district gets, called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Under this new school funding system, schools will receive a base grant for students in grades K-12. In addition to the base grant, a supplemental grant of 20% of the base grant will be offered for disadvantaged students: those who are classified as English Learners (EL), Low Incidence (LI) disability, Foster Youth (FY), or eligible to receive a Free or Reduced-Price Meal (FRPM).  Additionally, districts with more than 55% of their students identified as disadvantaged will be granted school funding at rats of 50% the base grant.

Each dollar granted to school funding will help improve programs and services in the areas where they are needed most. However, many schools have difficulty capturing the data required to ensure that they receive the greatest amount of funding for each student.  Whether it’s due to parent insecurities, student embarrassment, or lack of proper reporting, districts are “losing out??? on thousands of available state LCFF dollars due to students being misclassified.

So how can schools make certain that they capture accurate data for maximum school funding? Well, using an online system like K-12 Online helps:

  1. Optimize data while at the same time safeguards privacy.
  2. Parents can identify residency information, language, or disabilities in a way that maintains their dignity, is safe and non-threatening.
  3. Parents feel a sense of anonymity because all registration and enrollment information is completed online, and hard copies are not circulated through volunteers, etc.
  4. Only administrators who are required to know classification information have access to it, adhering to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) laws.
  5. Using an online system increases reporting accuracy and allows for data to be easily sorted, saved, and sent to the district.

Online registration helps maintain the parents and students’ dignity and privacy while ensuring that the maximum amount of funding is allocated to a school or district.

Connect, Collaborate, Conduce: October is Connected Educator Month

One of the most important factors in student learning is the educator.  That being said, how can you, as an educator, maximize the impact that you make on your students? The answer is to get connected! Thanks to the Internet and constant improvements in technology this is becoming easier and easier for educators to do.


In an effort to increase the amount of educators that participate in online social learning and collaboration the Department of Education is supporting its second annual Connected Educator Month (CEM). This can be utilized on an individual level, as well as on school, district, and state levels.


One of the best ways to learn is by collaborating with other professionals who share the same passion as you. CEM offers educators an easy way to connect with other educators from around the nation through holding hundreds of events and creating online discussions.  Last year’s CEM hosted over 450 activities, presented more than 2,200 speakers, and delivered over 90,000 hours of professional development to those who participated.  And this year they plan to gain even more momentum.  So get connected and learn more than you ever would on your own!


Some of this year’s themes include:


  • Integrating Social Learning into Formal PD
  • Connected Leadership
  • Personalized Learning
  • Innovating STEM and Literacy
  • From Connection to Collaboration
  • 21st Century Classroom Management


Learn more about CEM:


Get involved:



Is Your School Conscious of Its Conscience?

Does your school have a conscience? Is it aware of its own conduct, intentions and character? Everyday decisions can have tremendous and often unseen potential to do good or harm to students, colleagues, the community, society and the planet. Often, the most important decisions and actions seem routine at the time they’re made. But have you ever stepped back to look at the impact of those decisions?

Think about the values, social responsibility and sustainability lessons being taught. A school’s responsibility is to prepare future leaders with tools to successfully confront social and environmental issues, as well as ethical and economic challenges.

Schools that do this well, do so because the lessons provided that lead to one’s conscience are discovered, not taught. These schools deliver an ongoing values development and self-discovery experience that is internalized by students and colleagues alike.

Through a constant process of action learning and unconventional classroom techniques, self-discovered values become more resilient than those that come from a book. Once these values are discovered, it leads to inheritance, and ultimately creates opportunities for an individual to do good.

Take, for example, a simple lesson such as recycling and reducing your carbon footprint. Activities such as online registration, which helps to reduce paper consumption, composting programs, and service to the community, can help a school transform itself into a place that develops socially responsible young adults.

In 2007, Ethical Culture Fieldston (ECF), an independent school located in New York, joined the Green Schools Alliance, a global network whose mission is to empower K-12 schools to lead the movement toward environmental sustainability, and pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by at least 30 percent in five years and achieve carbon neutrality (i.e., a net-zero carbon footprint) by 2020. In April 2013, ECF learned that it had fulfilled the pledge and had reduced its carbon emissions by 31 percent by reducing its paper consumption, electricity, fuel, and solid waste. Other factors that helped lower the school’s carbon emissions included the expansion of composting efforts and retrofitting all cafeteria kitchens with more energy-efficient appliances. According to Sightlines, a facilities management firm, ECF has the lowest carbon emission rate per student and per gross square foot among peer institutions.

Stepping out of routine and starting with a simple act like online registration can help change the culture of a school. Schools that wish to build socially responsible attitudes and skills in students must commit to this task by rethinking school culture, designing programs, and integrating technologies that enable parent involvement and action learning for students. A comprehensive emphasis on developing social responsibility will enable students to make a difference in their schools, families, and communities—and will churn out young people with the skills and empathy that this disrupted world needs.

What are your plans for the next school year? How do you foresee the year in terms of values, social responsibility and sustainability? Each summer is an opportune time to look ahead and develop an implementation plan for developing your school’s conscience.

Handing student residency verfication with K-12 Online

Residency verification seems to be a growing concern for school districts and rightly so.  Schools spend countless resources and hours babysitting this process. On the other hand, parents dread this manual process of filling out proof of identity and proof of residency forms, not to mention faxing or returning the forms back to the school.  K-12 Online to the rescue!

Besides some built-in features that alerts school staff of a change of physical residency when parents update their students’ information, K-12 Online has also incorporated new technologies that may assist schools in this area.

1. School Districts just wants to make sure that students attending really do belong to the district.
2. Some parents don’t have scanners to upload documents to K-12 Online.
3. Schools want to make this process as painless as possible for parents.


1. Include the Proof of Residency in the K-12 Online registration forms.
2. Instruct parents that Proof of Residency will be verified at Check-in.
3. List the Residency form on the Completed Registration PDF
4. Proof of Residency form should have verbiage such as ‘I am uploading proof of residency documents “Yes” / “No”‘ (radio buttons). Don’t make uploading documents mandatory.
5. During check-in, if ‘I am uploading proof of residency documents  shows “Yes”‘, the person checking the student in, goes to the student’s individual Residency form in K-12 Online’s Individual form manager, looks at whether the documents are acceptable and if so, checks them in; otherwise don’t.
6. If ‘I am uploading proof of residency documents shows “No”‘, the person checking the student in, receives their photocopied documents and then attaches it to the PDF.  If they don’t bring in the documents, they cannot get “checked-in”.

So once students are checked in, this means that their residency has been verified. Thousands of hours saved by the school and a painless process for  parents.  Hope this helps!


Trends and Issues in Educational Technology

Let’s face it: the rest of the world’s organizations and institutions are taking advantage of new technology and leveraging it to maximize operational efficiency. So why should educational technology for schools be any different?

While much progress in education technology has been made, there is so much more to be done. The rapid and constant pace of change in technology is creating both opportunities and challenges for schools.

The use of technology allows schools to have greater access to online courses, blended learning, educational resources, hands-on multimedia content, the use of social networking, and other rich content for personalized learning and professional development. At the same time, the rapid change in technology creates significant challenges for schools. Many schools are unable to keep up with digital innovations because they don’t have the proper infrastructure. Some spend their time playing catch-up, while others just don’t have the funds to update their systems, creating a digital divide among schools and districts.

Private schools, independent schools, charter schools, and even entire school districts can all benefit from taking an online approach to managing school operations. But the rapid evolution of educational technology makes it increasingly challenging to determine what works best.

Below is a look at some of the hottest issues and trends in educational technology, as published by Education Week (September 2011), and how they are creating opportunities and challenges for K-12 schools.


Technology Infrastructure

Schools and districts battle to keep up with the ever-increasing demands to upgrade their technological infrastructure. But the demands themselves have changed during the past decade, from a focus on simply gaining connectivity to finding enough bandwidth to running more complex applications in classrooms, such as streaming audio and video.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 97 percent of schools across the country had Internet connectivity as of 2010.  Far fewer, however, were able to successfully meet the need for higher speed access, the FCC said, citing that demand as one reason it unveiled its National Broadband Plan in March 2010. In October of the same year, it also revised E-Rate, the federal program that subsidizes school purchases for Internet connectivity and allows schools to use E-Rate dollars to gain connectivity.

Because technology infrastructure needs vary widely between districts, and indeed between schools within the same districts, the federal government’s perceived desire to focus its efforts as a facilitator of infrastructure access has become somewhat controversial among education technology advocates. And while chief technology officers generally say that school infrastructure is improving, many openly doubt that capability will catch up with demand, since new digital tools used in education are requiring ever-increasing amounts of bandwidth.

In building an infrastructure, many schools are also trying to streamline their processes. Schools and districts are turning to outside vendors and undergoing widespread adoption of online solutions that offer programs from Common Core preparation and online courses to online registration, SIS systems, managing student data, reporting, and more.


E-Learning/Blended Learning

Online learning is on the rise in schools all across the country. Students now have a long list of choices when it comes to e-learning. The menu of options often includes full-time, for-profit virtual schools; state-sponsored virtual schools; supplemental online learning courses offered by brick-and-mortar schools; and charter schools presenting a hybrid option of digital material coupled with face-to-face instruction.

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, estimates that more than 1.5 million K-12 students were engaged in some form of online or blended learning in the 2009-10 school year. At the end of 2010, supplemental or full-time online learning opportunities were available in at least 48 of 50 states (iNACOL, 2010).

Options for full-time virtual schools are growing. Students from kindergarten through high school can seek out online schooling opportunities, which usually include virtual teachers and a combination of synchronous and asynchronous online learning (Education Week, June 15, 2011). These schools are starting to focus more on the issue of socialization for their students, and some are incorporating more face-to-face instruction into their array of services to allow for student interaction both online and in person. They are forming clubs, holding proms, and creating school newspapers.

But full-time virtual schools also face the reality that for many students with two parents working outside the home, such a scenario is not an option. Such students often cannot attend full-time online schools for that reason, and virtual school providers acknowledge that their version of education works best, particularly in the lower grades, when an adult is present to assist.

In addition to courses that offer an online instructor, some researchers suggest that students have the most success with hybrid or blended education. A growing number of brick-and-mortar schools are now tapping into e-learning for a variety of reasons. Some schools say it saves money and allows them to offer a wider variety of courses, including Advanced Placement classes. Others say it can help with scheduling conflicts when a face-to-face class is only provided at a time when a student already has another obligation. In addition, online courses can provide highly qualified teachers for classes otherwise not offered by a school.

So where are traditional schools getting these online courses? Some are developing their own, others are purchasing them from for-profit vendors, and a growing number are able to utilize state virtual schools or state-led online learning initiatives. Some schools find it easier to use courses developed by a state-run virtual school, since it is already aligned with their state standards.


Mobile Computing

Increasing access, growing acceptance, and decreasing cost are all helping to make the use of mobile devices a popular and increasing trend within the world of educational technology. While the digital divide between the affluent and disadvantaged still exists, mobile devices have the potential to close it, at least in terms of access.

According to the “Horizon” report, game-based learning will be widely adopted by mainstream classrooms within two to three years (New Media Consortium, 2011). Instead of educational software, e.g. Math Blaster or Reader Rabbit, students and teachers are much more likely to incorporate Web-based educational games into classrooms, which are often available for free.

Some educators hope that games and simulations will provide a way for students to picture themselves in career paths they may otherwise would not have chosen, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, and some argue that games and simulations offer students a way to connect what they are learning in class with (simulated) real-world situations in a safe and low-cost environment (Education Week, March 17, 2011).

Researchers have also found that games and simulations may help students learn by helping them visualize processes they otherwise could not see, such as the flow of an electron or the construction of a city. Games can also promote higher-order thinking skills, such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and teamwork (MIT, 2009; National Academies Press 2011).

However, creating a healthy marriage of an engaging and entertaining game with educational objectives and goals is a challenging process that has yet to be perfected. And finding the time and resources to train teachers who may not be familiar with game-based learning is a challenge for most schools.  Despite these challenges, many educators and researchers are committed to developing educational games and incorporating game-based learning into classrooms across the United States.


Social Networking

Many schools are no longer debating whether social networking should play a role in education. Instead, that debate has shifted to which social networking tools work best and how to deploy them (Digital Directions, June 16, 2010). Some schools are using mainstream social networking tools like Facebook for everything from promoting school events to organizing school clubs as well as for more academic purposes related to assignments and class projects.

But educators wary about security, advertising, information-sharing, and social interaction in such an environment often seek out social networks designed specifically for learning instead. These sites, like ePals and eChalk, are more restrictive, allowing teachers and school officials to limit not only who can join, but who students can talk to and interact with. Some educators also say students seem to take these sites more seriously and treat them with a more academic focus and tone than they would a site they routinely use for socialization with their peers. These sites also often provide safety features that can detect foul language or bullying phrases and alert a teacher (Education Week, June 15, 2011).

Many educators say the academic benefits of social networking are real. They allow students to work cooperatively on projects in an online environment that feels familiar to students. Teachers often report that a student who does not speak up in class will be more engaged on a social networking site and that these sites allow instructors to extend the school day.

Technology tools are also making it quicker and easier than ever to create digital portfolios of student work—a method of showcasing student progress that experts say increases student engagement; promotes a continuing conversation about learning between teachers, parents, and students; and extends academic lessons beyond school walls (Education Week, March 17, 2011). New social networking tools to aid this are being developed and updated regularly.

All in all, effective technology integration is achieved when its use supports curricular goals. It must support four key components of learning: active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts. For more information on the issues and trends in educational technology, visit Education Week.


Let us know what types of technology your school or district uses to enhance curricular goals.

Teaching a Healthy Lifestyle

World Health Day is April 7th! What better way to remind students of the importance of good health than on World Health Day? Practicing a healthy lifestyle from an early age can help lead to a long and productive life.

There are many online tools and lesson plans that raise awareness of the need for good personal hygiene.


You can start with something as simple as proper hand washing.

Hand Washing Lesson Plan
Hand Washing with Soapy
Covering Coughs and Sneezes


A healthy diet focuses on the importance of eating the right foods.
Good for Kids
Nourish Interactive


Exercise encourages students to keep moving.
Fitness Lesson Plans
Teacher Lesson Plan

Brain Pop


For high school age students, you may even incorporate the effects that smoking and drinking have on the body.

Smoking Prevention Resources
Smoking Danger Demonstration
Myths and Facts about Tobacco


It is an ideal opportunity to remind students of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and of the damage that can be caused by harmful activities.

Top 5 Education Trends in 2013

One thing we know about education is that it is subject to trends. This may be positive or negative, but it’s all in an effort to figure out what works best in achieving student engagement and success. Here are some recent trends in the K-12 education system.


1. Social media used as a teaching tool

Social media has gained increasing popularity over the past year or two. All students these days know how to use a computer and the internet, and most of them are using social media networks to share their thoughts and ideas. From student-created YouTube videos to professors creating classroom focused blogs and Facebook pages, both teachers and students will continue to benefit from social media inside the classroom.


2. Game-based learning gaining popularity

Who doesn’t love a good game? Game-based learning (GBL) and simulations exist as a learning tool by helping students visualize processes they otherwise could not see, such as the flow of an electron or the construction of a city. GBL is becoming increasingly popular inside the classroom as they can promote higher-order thinking skills, such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving, and teamwork.


3. The marriage of BYOD and the flipped classroom

With more districts interested in saving money and more teachers interested in saving time, the concepts of flipping your classroom and BYOD (bring your own device) seem to pair up nicely. Because a key requirement to flipping a classroom is access to technology outside of the school, the marriage of the two maximizes the potential of both concepts.


4. Increase in homeschooling

Like charter schools, home schools have enrolled more than 2 million students. The decision by so many parents to remove their children from local schools and teach them at home raises many issues. Scholars say parents are more likely to switch to home-schooling if they see the academic quality of local schools decline or low-income students in those schools increase. Through home-schooling, parents are able to have more control over what their child learns. Although there is little data on home-schooling, it seems to be growing at the same surprising speed and volume as charter schools.


5. Integration of Education companies

More and more, teachers and administrators are trying to streamline processes. From software companies that offer solutions to Common Core preparation and online courses to online registration, SIS systems, managing student data, reporting, etc. schools and districts are experiencing widespread adoption to these types of solutions.

A Disparity in Schools, But Not in GREAT Teachers

In a recent Facebook contest, hosted by K-12 Online, two teachers emerged GREAT as voted on by their students, peers, family and friends. The unlikely paradox is that the winning teachers are from schools of despairing backgrounds.  One of our GREAT teachers is from a high school in Irvine, CA, which is most notably known for being featured as one of the Best Places to Live year-after year and where the median family income is over $107,000 per year[i].  Our other GREAT teacher hails from a Dallas, TX inner-city elementary school where nearly 40% of their population are limited English proficient students and 98% of its student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch, much the contrary from our CA school where only 7% of its students are eligible. [ii]

Although on opposite ends of the spectrum demographically, the missions of these two schools are not as varying.  Both schools strive to provide the highest quality educational experience in an environment that is conducive to learning so that students graduate with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to become productive and responsible members of society.

And as aligned as the missions are, so are the GREAT teachers representing these schools. Here is what others had to say about these GREAT teachers:


LaShocka Thompson, Roger Q. Mills Elementary, Dallas, TX

“LaShocka is truly a phenomenal, dynamic, and wonderful educator…She’s dedicated and devoted to her job and she motivates her students to do their best and lets them know that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE and there is no limit to education…EDUCATION IS FREEDOM!!! She teaches her students various learning strategies to help them understand their assignments, keeps the parents updated on any event or the student’s progress, and makes sure that the students have fun while learning. Additionally, she has been awarded with numerous school awards because of her DEDICATION & HARD WORK in helping the students succeed in their education and goals in life. LaShocka is what I call ‘A TRUE AND DEVOTED TEACHER’ who is on the road to MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN OUR YOUNG STUDENTS’ LIVES.”

“LaShocka is extremely dedicated and adamant in reaching her pupils. She always gives 110 percent and never lets any obstacles stop her in reaching her goals.”

“Hard work and dedication are what schools are lacking and what LaShocka exemplifies day in and day out. Anything that can improve the learning process for her children she is doing it and more. To see how she loves and cares for her children is to know she loves them as if they are her own… She’s beyond a great teacher, she’s a phenomenal teacher…”

“LaShocka Thompson is dedicated to her students and goes above and beyond to give her students the tools that they will need to be successful in school and in their lives!”

“LaShocka Thompson is one of the few teachers that I can say loves what she does. When you find a teacher who’s caring, understanding, thoughtful and builds relationships with families, then you’ve found yourself a special teacher. Ms. Thompson is a winner in our book.”

“LaShocka Thompson is a phenomenal educator and exemplifies the qualities of an exceptional teacher. Her dedication to her students is unparalleled and is evident in her dedication to ensuring that all of her students are successful learners!”


Valerie Thompson, University High School, Irvine, CA

“Being a senior in high school, I have met a lot of teachers. I can honestly say none can compare to Valerie Thompson. She is a teacher of chemistry, which can be a very confusing subject to most. She makes every student eager to learn, and I can’ t think of a day I was ever bored in her class. She strives to be her best each day no matter what kind of day she is having. She is an amazing teacher that every kid feels blessed to have. She is more than a teacher though she is a mentor to her students and makes each one feel special in their own way. She gives kids hope for their futures. This teacher has immeasurable compassion, and a complete heart of gold. Valerie Thompson is the best of the best and I have never met a kinder person.”

“When it comes to being a great teacher, Ms. Thompson goes above and beyond this word… No matter what kind of day she is having, she gives it her all… Every office hours, Ms. Thompson’s room is packed as it always is because kids enjoy being in her atmosphere. Also, she helps kids the whole time and even during snack and lunch… Also, when it comes to kids stressing out about high school and getting straight A’s, I truly believe she is the best person to talk to. She teaches kids that getting good grades is a good thing, but it is not the only thing in life… one grade in a high school course does not define who we are as people and what our worth is. I have never met such a compassionate, loving person in my life. She made learning fun for me and many others… she taught me that everyone is special and important, including myself. If any student was having a problem at school or home, she was always there for them when they needed her… She has a complete heart of gold and puts her students before herself. I don’t think greatness as a teacher can truly be measured, but I know that Ms. Thompson has touched the hearts of all her students and I think that is greatness that not many acquire. When I think of Ms. Thompson, this quote describes her to me and others: Most of us have at least one person in our life that inspires us to achieve more than we thought possible. This person encourages us, gives us tools or just plain loves us unconditionally. This person becomes the ‘wind beneath our wings’ in a sense. Everyone needs others to bolster them, especially young people just learning who they are. These people, heroes to many, usually have no idea the hope they inspire in our hearts. They inspire because of who they are, not because they seek the title. -Anonymous.”

“Mrs. Thompson is the reason I go to school every day. Rarely does a teacher care as genuinely for her students as she. I know that without Mrs. Thompson’s love and support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. She resonates strength and beauty, and she has this wonderful way of making everyone feel special. As a teacher, she makes chemistry fun and accessible to all students, many of whom go on to AP Chemistry or college chemistry classes with ease thanks to her class. I’ve learned a lot from Mrs. Thompson both academically and emotionally. She’s an incredibly smart, loving, and beautiful person, and she’s the best teacher I’ve ever had.”

[i] CNN Money September 2011 Issue

[ii] 2008-09