VirtualSC Welcomes South Carolina Middle School Students with New Courses
This past spring, VirtualSC added core middle school courses to its course catalog for the first time. Some middle school students were already challenging themselves in our high school courses and learning about careers and world languages in exploratory courses; but for the first time, students in South Carolina could enroll in middle grades math, social studies, science and English online at the VirtualSC program.
The teachers were hired in the Fall of 2020 and began working as a team to reimagine VirtualSC instruction for middle grade students. At the top of their list was a space to welcome students in a middle-grades-only homeroom course. Before the semester even began, students could log in and get to know their teachers virtually, practice completing assignments, and meeting other students around the state in an asynchronous forum. Next, the team held an Open House for incoming students and their parents on Feb. 1 to review what to expect in the upcoming semester and answer questions. Over 40 families attended the non-required meeting.
On February 3, the courses opened and students began the challenge of completing the full range of content standards in four months. Our teachers recognized that middle grade students in our asynchronous online model would benefit from consistent communication among our four core teachers. Together, the instructional team sent weekly messages Monday morning outlining the pace of assignments due in each of the four core courses at the different grade levels. Students and parents shared that this team communication helped them prepare for success each week.
The team also received positive feedback on opportunities for individualized extra help and alternative pacing when requested. VirtualSC middle school teachers were driven by the program mission:
MISSION: To provide South Carolina students with flexible and rigorous online learning opportunities that will help them acquire the knowledge, skills and characteristics necessary for college and career readiness.
VirtualSC middle school instructors strove to ensure that all students would have access to the rigorous content in the core subjects while providing rich feedback for a more complete learning experience and/or reteaching concepts effectively to those who did not master them initially.
By June 3, each course’s pacing had come to an end with this unique group of initial VirtualSC middle school students. In all, VirtualSC completed 486 middle school course enrollments with an 81% passing rate in the spring semester of 2021.
The VirtualSC middle school instructional team is now busy planning ahead. The 2021-22 school year will build on the successes of the pilot semester and include a yearlong calendar for math, science, social studies and English. Exploratory courses will be offered each semester. We eagerly await our new community of middle grade online learners.