Miami-Dade Online Academy: A Model of Academic Excellence in Virtual Education

Jennifer Richardson

Recently I had the privilege of visiting Miami-Dade Online Academy for one of their annual face-to-face meetings. Director Dr. Ludy Lopez hosts annual grade level meetings in the school board auditorium in order to give her staff and families a time to connect, make informed choices about their education, and be guided, encouraged, and empowered.

During these meetings, I watched as Dr. Lopez encouraged elementary students to stand and introduce themselves loudly and clearly. She smiled and joked as she pushed the occasional reluctant speaker past their fears and quickly set them at ease. Dr. Lopez walked her students and families through the benefits of online learning, reminding them of the flexibility that Miami-Dade Online Academy affords their families. She encouraged her students to work with the highest levels of academic integrity and honesty, and she even took time to teach her students about the long lasting impact of the things they do and say on social media.

Ms. Patricia DiCarlo, Miami-Dade’s guidance counselor, at 38 weeks pregnant, bopped energetically around the auditorium, informing and assisting students and families with their course selections and worked with them one-on-one to be sure they made appropriate choices for the following school year.

This personal touch is not without effort. The MDO staff spends several days preparing, and these meetings take time and energy. However, Dr. Lopez shared how much she enjoys seeing the faces of her students, watching them grow, and getting to know them on a personal level.

This personal touch is also not without results. Miami-Dade Online Academy students consistently perform extremely well on state testing, and this school regularly outperforms many of its brick-and-mortar counterparts.

Because I have had the pleasure of teaching Miami-Dade students myself, and I knew exactly how much our K12 Inc./Fuel Education teachers and staff appreciate the support of the Miami-Dade Online Academy administration, I reached out to them for their thoughts and kind words prior to my visit. I can’t possibly contain it all here, but I wanted to share a few examples:

“Thank you for always helping us provide the best possible support for our struggling readers. The students know that we’re a team and are working together to help them achieve great things!” – Jessica Charlton, K12 Inc./Fuel Education Academic Coach

“MDO is a wonderful partner to work with! It is very evident that the staff and administration care deeply about their students and their success is their first priority. The program has grown and become an amazing option for the students of Miami-Dade due to the dedication, support, and commitment they give to their students each and every day. Working with such a caring team has been a blessing!” – Brenda MacDonald, K12 Inc./Fuel Education Client Achievement Coordinator

“What I enjoy about my MDO students is the support they receive, not only from K12 Inc., but their district as well. The district works closely with the families to provide support to ensure student success. I never have to worry about my MDO students because I know they are getting support from all sides: Teacher, Learning Coach, District, and Advising teacher.” – Ashley Ertle, K12 Inc./Fuel Education Teacher

“The MDO administration is a dream. They expect a great deal from their students and back up their teachers always. Students of MDO are more involved and diligent because of the support that they get from the MDO administration. The students of MDO know that they can contact their teachers, and they do.” – Barbara Kushner, K12 Inc./Fuel Education Teacher

I could go on and on, but you get the point. The partnership forged between the Miami-Dade Online Academy Administration and our team of K12 Inc./Fuel Education teachers and instructors is unmatched. In the face-to-face meetings, Dr. Lopez described our teachers as experts in their field and encouraged her students and parents to reach out to them as often as necessary. This bond and trust has been a vital part of their success.

Miami-Dade Online Academy students have been significant contributors to the K12 Florida District Virtual Instruction Programs collaborative annual grade of “B” on state testing for two years in a row, currently unmatched by any other virtual provider in the Florida K–5 market, while being tied for first place among virtual options for secondary students in the state. There is much to be learned from Miami-Dade Online Academy and the work of our Florida Instructional team!

James Presley, former virtual school principal and current K12/FuelEducation National Account Manager who has worked with Miami-Dade Online Academy for several years, has described this school as “a model of academic excellence in virtual education.” I couldn’t agree more!

Every virtual program operates in different ways and with different goals and priorities, but if your school or district is looking for a model of academic excellence in full-time virtual learning, look no further than Miami-Dade Online Academy.

Learn more about MDO here.

Read one of their success stories here.

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