What is ACT Academy Charter School? What does a “cyber charter” school offer?
ACT Academy is a free, public school open to students across the state of Pennsylvania. Because it is a public school, ACT Academy’s curriculum is aligned to PA state standards. As required for every cyber school in the state, all ACT Academy students are provided a personal computer and printer so they can easily access lessons and submit their assignments. Students work online with live instructors as well as complete independent assignments. However, unlike a traditional school, students can work at their own pace and on their own schedule and have access to a greater variety of courses. While every PA cyber school has some characteristics in common, each also has distinctive features that are described more fully in individual websites and promotional materials. ACT Academy offers a number of unique program dimensions, especially our Social Change Seminar, in which all students participate.
What does ACT stand for?
Achieving Community Transformation (ACT) is a full time virtual public high school. ACT has a strong focus on academic skills, individualized learning, leadership development, and community engagement.
Our mission is to prepare students both morally and intellectually for their future, creating leaders with both intelligence and character—what Martin Luther King Jr. described as a “true education.”
What grades are served?
ACT Academy enrolls students in grades 9-12.
How much does The ACT program cost?
Full time enrollment is tuition free.
Why should I choose ACT?
The highly individualized and flexible approach we are offering will allow students to grow and learn at their own pace. However, the ACT Academy Charter School recognizes that online learning can be isolating for some. Seeking to increase student interaction and create a sense of responsibility to one another, the school year will begin with a two-day Leadership Retreat. Students will come together at a YMCA camp location and participate in various teambuilding activities. The majority of time will be spent creating relationships with their Social Change Seminar and Advisory Cohorts. This weekend will set the foundation for the goals of the Social Change Seminar and the Advisory Cohorts.
During the school year, students will use the Ning Platform to engage with one another, post assignments, and provide feedback. Ning is a closed social media platform that allows groups to interact via blogs, discussion boards, media postings, live chats, and video streaming. Teachers will teach lessons using live video streaming and live chat as well as by posting assignments on the Ning Platform. Students will be able to interact during live chats as well and post their assignments for group feedback. Change Cohorts will meet in person to complete assignments and will have their own Ning Platform to organize and manage their work. Advisory Cohorts will also use the Ning Platform to engage each other around leadership, personal empowerment, and college preparedness. To adequately prepare students to work in a variety of technological mediums, assignments will be completed in a variety of ways, including but not limited to blogs, videos, photographs, PowerPoint Presentations, Excel projects, and Google mapping.
At the completion of each academic year, students will come together at the annual Social Change Summit, sponsored by Martin Luther King Jr.’s think tank, the Drum Major Institute, and planned in collaboration with local universities. Change Cohorts will present the outcome of their year-long projects. Joined by a group of experts, students will continue the dialogue regarding social change and the lessons they have learned. This will also be a time to celebrate the academic success of students and the progress made in Advisory Cohorts, especially college acceptance.
When does enrollment begin?
Enrollment is open. Parents should go to https://www.connexus.com/registration.aspx?idLocation=227195&partner=ACTAcademy to start the enrollment process.
Who selects courses for ACT students?
An ACT Academy counselor will work with families to place students in the appropriate courses.
What are the courses being offered?
ACT Academy offers a wide range of courses for high school students. Please review the website for the full list of courses.
Will parents have access to student courses?
Yes, parents will have access to the Education Management System and their student’s progress during the school year.
Will parents and students receive training?
Yes, once students are enrolled, both students and parents will have access to an orientation.
When will students receive books for courses?
Students will have access to all of the books and educational resources they need for their courses. Most of the materials are online but if a book is not available online it will be shipped to the student’s home.
What type of student(s) does cyber work best for and why?
ACT Academy is flexible enough to meet the requirements of a range of students, including those who are gifted and talented and those who have special needs.
- For students who seek to be challenged, ACT Academy offers accelerated learning as well as a breadth of advanced classes.
- For students who are behind in school, ACT Academy offers the support and pacing that will allow them to learn and catch up at their own pace.
- For students who are involved in multiple activities and need to work at night or on the weekends, ACT Academy provides enormous flexibility in scheduling.
Will my child receive a diploma?
Yes, ACT Academy will award high school diplomas to all students who meet the PA state graduation requirements. This is not an alternative or GED program. Students who have dropped out of school can enroll, however they must be in the position to be able to earn enough credits to graduate by the age of 21, as stipulated by the State of Pennsylvania.
With ACT, how involved do I need to be in my child’s education? How will I be supported to help my child?
A parent or other family member will act as an Instructional Guide for each student, making sure they are completing their daily class requirements and are on track to succeed. Student grades as well as any correspondence between the teacher and student can be accessed by authorized parents/ guardians at all times. In addition, teachers will communicate with parents daily or weekly, as needed, via WebMail message or phone. The amount of time required of a parent or “Instructional Guide” will vary according to the needs and maturity of each individual student.
All Instructional Guides sign an agreement with ACT Academy Charter School; although this is not legally binding, it does ensure that roles and responsibilities are clear. For students who do not have a parent who can fulfill the responsibilities of Instructional Guide, ACT Academy will work with the student to identify an appropriate adult who would be willing and able to serve in this capacity. ACT Academy will also work with partners from local universities and community organizations to identify mentors who may be able to fill the role.
How experienced are my child’s teachers within the cyber arena?
All ACT Academy teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree and are appropriately certified. They are skilled at teaching a standards-based curriculum and incorporating innovative technology into their teaching. In addition, all teachers receive intensive pre-service training on the use of the Connexus®, Education Management System, through which lessons are transmitted and communications tracked.
What type of framework is in place for daily learning?
ACT Academy charter allows students and their Instructional Guide to structure the school day flexibly to best meet individual students’ learning needs. The school’s curriculum, instructional tools, and education management system are available to students every day, around the clock, to facilitate learning anytime and anywhere. The program combines both live instructional sessions online and independent work time and teachers are available during extended school hours (generally 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), during which they provide direct assistance via WebMail message, telephone, and live instructional sessions online. Teams of virtual tutors are also available after school hours, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, to provide one-on-one and small group tutoring sessions to support students in reaching mastery.
ACT Academy students are required to complete the equivalent of at least 990 hours or 180 days of instruction within each academic year, as required of all Pennsylvania students. While ACT Academy will offer extraordinary flexibility in scheduling, there is one area that is non-negotiable: Every student will be required to master the skills and knowledge covered within the school’s rigorous curriculum, which meets or exceeds the Pennsylvania Academic Standards. The when, where, and how of learning may be variable, but student achievement is not.
Is there a monthly calendar that shows a standard schedule and sample activities for the year?
The basic school calendar is similar to those of districts throughout the state, with the year beginning just after Labor Day in September, and standard holidays being observed. The school calendar is posted on the ACT Academy website (www.actacademy.org) for 2012-13.
While there will be a high level of flexibility for all ACT Academy students and staff, sample schedules are included here.
Teachers: Teachers will work the same number of minutes and hours per day as they would in a typical brick-and-mortar school. What happens during those minutes and hours, however, is very different. Rather than working with students in full-class groupings of 25 or more, ACT Academy teachers will interact with students and their Instructional Guides one-on-one and in small groups.
|SAMPLE ONLY: Teacher Task|
7:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.
|Prepare for daily lessons, review emails and message boards|
8:00 a.m.– 8:40 a.m.
|Advise Learning Community|
8:40 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
|Score assessments, update comments in student files, update ISSPs, individualize lessons, plan interventions|
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
|Teach live instructional lessons online facilitate small groups, meet with individual students
(30 min. lunch break)
3:00 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.
|Conduct phone conferences with individual students and their parents re: ISSPs; provide intervention and remediation, address individual issues, respond to individual student/parent queries, resolve issues via email and phone|
Students and Instructional Guides: Students and Instructional Guide will follow a daily schedule that best meets the individual student’s learning needs. An example follows, although specific times may be adjusted significantly:
|SAMPLE ONLY: Student Activity|
8:00 a.m.– 8:40 a.m.
|Learning Communities (meet synchronously online)|
8:40 a.m.– 11:40 a.m.
|Core academics: English, math, history, science (40 minutes per topic; combine live instructional lessons online® with independent course work)|
11:40 a.m. – 12:00 noon
|Contact teachers for instructional support|
12:00 noon – 1:30 p.m.
|Lunch and physical activity|
1:30 p.m.– 3:00 p.m.
|Additional core academics: foreign language plus review and study (combine live instructional lessons online with independent course work)|
3:00 p.m.– 4:00 p.m.
|Special projects; check email and prepare for tomorrow, contact virtual tutor for homework assistance as needed|
How can my child still be involved in sports and other extracurricular activity?
There are numerous opportunities within the ACT framework for students to engage in clubs and extracurricular activities such as student newspaper, yearbook, art clubs, and more. As public school students, ACT Academy enrollees are also entitled to participate in extra-curricular activities within their district of residence. In addition, ACT Academy has a process for awarding credit for structured activities outside of school such as participation in travel sports teams or lessons in music, dance, or drama.
Will my child still do academic group work with other students?
Yes. There will be opportunities for regular web-based interaction (live instructional sessions online) where classmates will log on together to learn and discuss material in various subject areas with a teacher and peers. All ACT Academy students will also participate in the Social Change Seminar each year, which will be launched with a retreat at a campsite in September after which students will work collaboratively on a project of their design, focused on a topic that has significance for their community. At the end of the year, each group of students will present their culminating project in the Social Change Summit, hosted at an area university in June. (More details below)
Will my child receive individual instruction?
Every ACT Academy student will have an individual student success plan (ISSP), developed in consultation with the student, parent(s), and ACT Academy advisor, to meet both the student’s needs and long-term interests and educational goals.
How will my child’s IEP work?
In accordance with Chapter 711, ACT Academy Charter School is committed to serving students with disabilities, whether such students are currently or newly identified as students with disabilities. Through a combination of appropriate certifications among our core teaching staff and contracts with local service providers, ACT Academy will be able to meet the needs of special learners. In addition, ACT Academy Charter School will consult with resources such as Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT) at Temple University in planning for and acquiring necessary technology to serve students with disabilities.
As a primarily virtual program, ACT Academy Charter School is focused on individualization, flexibility, and personalization and may often be a very good fit for students with special needs. Within the teaching staff, ACT Academy Charter School will have two Special Education teachers and a Special Education Coordinator. They will work to ensure that all IEP requirements and compliance issues are addressed and that students’ special needs are met.
Does ACT charge tuition? What kind of technology do I need to participate?
ACT Academy is a tuition-free public school, available at no cost to students who are residents of Pennsylvania.
Every ACT Academy student is provided with a computer, printer, ink, and internet subsidy so that they are able to participate in a cyber school at no additional cost to the family. Every computer is loaded with a software and capabilities that are needed to run the Connexus®, Education Management System.
Are there guidelines for parents for setting up dedicated school space in the home?
It is important for students to have a space that is conducive to working productively. The exact location and nature of that space may vary according to individual preferences. However, ACT Academy will offer guidance and technical support to students and their families in setting up an appropriate learning environment in which the technology is accessible and functional and the student can work in a concentrated and disciplined way.