Parent and Student Testimony

Parent and Student Testimony Before the New Jersey Joint Committee on Public Schools on Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stacy Raheem

Good afternoon Joint Committee Members. My name is Stacy Raheem and I am speaking in support of Newark Prep and its Blended Learning Model. I am also speaking favor of parents having public school options in New Jersey that are best suited for their children.

We all know that not all children learn in the same way. Some children are able to learn in a traditional classroom setting while others may learn in a classroom not restricted by walls. I believe it is important to gather all the information available to provide my children with the best school option. School choice is vital and a right that all parents share, this is why I am joining with NJ Public School Options to help give all parents the choice to decide what educational setting is best for their children.

As a mother of children who have taken advantage of all the public school options that are available in NJ and through my 15 years of experience, I have increased awareness concerning the educational avenues that are best for my family and my children.

I have had a child who graduated from a traditional public magnet high school in Newark, a child who was in the first graduating class in the first charter high school in Newark, a child who graduated from one of the best charter elementary schools in NJ last year, and a child currently in the 3rd grade at Robert Treat Academy.

For my son Siraj, Newark Prep and its blended learning model is the best school option. My son is not a traditional learner and in his prior school he did not do as well as we had hoped; nevertheless he passed the standardized test with proficiencies in language arts, science and advanced proficient in math since the 1st grade.

Through various assessments it has been determined that my son is a visual and auditory learner. The online curriculum combined with the small group instruction has been very successful for my child. Heavy book bags and missing/forgotten homework are things of the past. With online schooling, books are available with just the click of the mouse and homework is immediately “DROPBOX” as soon as it is completed. In his previous school, not being prepared with his classroom materials and misplaced homework were some of his obstacles blocking his success. Online schooling has virtually eliminated that barrier.

The online parent portal is structured in a way that provides parents with a great deal of transparency. I am able to access communications between teachers and my child, able to see immediately how my son is doing in a particular class and even view test scores in real time. In his previous school, I would not receive that information until there was a problem and/or midway in the cycle-sometime too late to make any significant change to his already failing grade.

Newark Prep has made home life less stressful for me and my child by providing a system of accountability. Though accountability, my son has become more productive in his schoolwork, sometimes completing assignments beforehand (another plus –students are able to go at their own pace). School choice for parents’ means that your child will have the greatest opportunity to succeed within a learning environment that is decided upon, by the parent, what is best for your child. I would appreciate your support and careful consideration to this issue.

Thank you for your valuable time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Stacy Raheem

Micah Tolbert

My name is Micah Tolbert and I would like to tell you why I like learning with virtual academies. It’s simple! Virtual academy is fun! Every day, I actually look forward to learning and what new and exciting activity I get to experience! Sometimes in history and even math I can’t wait until the next day for the new lesson, so I go ahead and do extra!

There are great learning games that help me remember math operations and entertaining cartoon animations that show me how math works.

I have read several books this year already. Like Robinson Crusoe, My Side of the Mountain, Tuck Everlasting, and The Time Traveler, just to name a few. Reading helps me a lot with my spelling, grammar and vocabulary skills.

I mean, I literally feel like I have travelled all over the world because of all the different places I have seen and studied! I have learned so much with virtual academy since I started, that contributes to my everyday life. I can’t tell you, how many times that I have heard or seen things that are familiar to me and that I can understand because I’ve already studied it! It makes me feel like I am closer to the world!

I think learning should be fun for everyone!

To quote a famous line from a song in the story of Mary Poppins: “Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down in the most delightful way!”

To me, virtual academy is like eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream. It’s sweet and creamy and delicious!

I would greatly appreciate your support in approving virtual academy so that everyone who wishes can enjoy the freedom of choice in their education and have an awesome time learning, just like me!

Just to let you know, my goal is, to be president of the United States, in 2036!

Thank you.

Micah Tolbert

Esthere Tolbert

Good Afternoon.

My name is Esthere Tolbert and I’m here today to speak in favor of virtual schools for the State of New Jersey and to support the development of NJPublicSchools.org.

Before I begin my story as to why I have chosen to educate my child through a virtual school curriculum, I have a couple of questions for you all. Have you ever tried on a suit or dress that you think is the absolute bomb, only to find out that when you put it on it didn’t quite fit? You pull! You tug! You tuck! But, no matter what you do, it still doesn’t fit! You know that you shouldn’t probably buy it, but you do anyway thinking “I’ll have it altered” or “that sooner or later, I’ll fit into it?” I know I have! After a few months of collecting dust in the closet, you finally resolve to have it fitted and altered. It turns out acceptable, but not quite right. Then, you suddenly realize! Wait a minute! I can do this myself! I’m more familiar with all the ins and out of my figure than anyone else!

Well, this is exactly how I feel about the responsibility of the education of my child. I know my children better than anyone else and no matter how well-intended an educator may be, I know best their ins and outs, nuances and learning styles. The only difference here is that I can’t allow my children to sit in a closet and collect dust while I attempt to find the right educational fit.

With virtual academic programs, I don’t have to make all those unnecessary and timely adjustments. Virtual education allows me to be the in the driver’s seat with my children’s education as they progress at their own learning pace through the curriculum.

My first experience with virtual education came as a result of my older child’s educational struggles. After several years of pulling, tugging, skirting around issues, glossing over educational roadblocks, and a slew of private tutors, I was desperate to find a suitable educational system congruent to her learning style. My daughter, who is extremely bright, dealt with a daily barrage of bullying and teasing for several years at both public and private schools that significantly hindered her learning process. This is when we decided to try a more personalized educational system for her through virtual academies. She rapidly advanced in her grade level and beyond and I am happy to report that she is now in college and well on her way to a budding degree!

When I moved with my family from Washington State to New Jersey, I must admit, I was very surprised to learn that New Jersey was not as forward-thinking as I had expected. My son, who had just finished the third grade at the Washington Academy of Virtual Studies (WAVA), was expecting to continue virtual schooling here. He had already far surpassed his grade level taking in immense amounts of knowledge on all subjects. We were exceedingly disappointed when we informed that virtual academies were not to be state supported as every other public school is. Regardless, we were determined to follow through with virtual academies.

Whenever I speak about virtual education, I am always asked about the social aspect. I am amazed as to how many parents pose this question first, rather than inquire as to the quality of the education being received. In my opinion, I believe that social skills are also the parent’s responsibility to develop and flourish. In my personal experience, I had one child that was an introvert and the other the exact opposite. No amount of public or private education will encourage a shy child to become less so, as was the case with my daughter and myself. It has to be a learnt skill that is practiced on a regular routine.

Virtual academies provide an unrestrained, stress free, no worry, non-violent, non-bullying, no snow days, transportation free, at your own pace, home-made lunches, seize every moment education opportunity environment that becomes immeasurable when at the end of the day you know that your child has gained the knowledge and confidence necessary for their successful future. And it was all because of my concerted effort.

I am here to respectfully request you to allow us the freedom of choice of our children’s educational needs and to ask your support for approval next fall.

Thank you,

Esthere Tolbert