NC Virtual Academy

Sonimar Villegas - Headshot.jpg

Sonimar Villegas

North Carolina Virtual Academy serves students of varying backgrounds through the state of NC. NC Virtual Academy has 100 staff individuals to around 2500 students K-12 which leaves every educator with an extensive number of around 130 students. They have 100% face-to-face state assessments and open doors for socialization with the instructor through sorted outings (field trips). NC Virtual Academy sits at a low socioeconomic standard and 63.2% of students receive free or reduced lunch.

We had the joy of talking with Sonmar Villegas about NC Virtual Academy's experience with Formative. Prior to Formative, NC Virtual Academy utilized Google Docs as well as other platforms for their assessments. These platforms displayed many issues for them. Different logins for the instructors, students, and guardians were inadequate. Past frameworks were not easy to use for instructors to review. They were having to sign into every individual account to review and leave feedback for each student. This can be repetitive when numerous students are making similar mistakes. It also presented a challenge in having students submit assignments where they write out their answers or show their work. This, of course, sets aside significantly more effort to review. NC Virtual Academy required an approach to review and leave feedback more proficiently.    

Many teachers stressed to Sonimar that they wanted to see their data differently. With previous systems, they could see overall results but had a hard time digging into the data to see WHY they were getting those results. The WHY is important to know in order to improve instruction. Additionally, many parents complained of having to work across too many platforms, and Formative has allowed them to consolidate those tools. During EOG (end of grade) assessments taken before Formative as introduced, Sonimar noticed that many students weren’t actually working through math problems. Instead, the students would choose a random multiple choice question without working out the problem. This needed to change.

Working across several platforms wasn’t efficient. NC Virtual Academy wanted one tool for everything. “We needed something that was functional for our teachers, effective, and allowed for consistency across the board.” - Sonimar Villegas. Math was their biggest concern. With each teacher having over 100 students, grading needed to be simplified. Multiple choice was an easy solution in the past, however, students need to be able to learn and know how to do mathematical calculations. This can be tough in a virtual setting, but with Formative’s “show your work” feature, students can work through math problems and teachers can give immediate feedback. Viewing student work in real time and being able to provide immediate feedback helps NC Virtual Academy keep students engaged, and take immediate action on their learning before they’ve moved on from the assignment.

Formative had all the tools NC Virtual Academy was searching for and many teachers were already using Formative. They needed something more streamlined to save time. During interim assessments, teachers wanted to see the standards and easily analyze the data so they can ask important questions like, “Why did so many students pick answer choice B? Was it the way the question was presented or the way the answer choices were worded? Or is there a gap in the learning that we need to address?  - Moving to Formative allows NC Virtual Academy to do this.” - Sonimar Villegas.

The audio feature has been extremely helpful for younger students. For students who can't read yet, NC Virtual Academy utilizes Formative's "audio feature" for instruction. Students will listen to a question that instructs them to "write the letter A". Sonimar says Formative supports tasks, like this, that typically happens in a brick and mortar school more efficiently. NC Virtual Academy even uses Formative for their visually impaired students. “We have two visually impaired students who use braille. Every other tool that we’ve used for assessment, benchmarks, have been very difficult for them to access. The awesome thing about Formative is that we’re able to design the formatives in a way that’s easily accessible to our braille readers. We send the parent the word version of all of the formatives. She brailles the formatives for the students to work through and then she'll go in and input the answers for them.” - Sonimar Villegas. Sonimar believes Formative helps with student success. “If a student doesn’t know an answer to a question, they will write in ‘I don’t know how to do this problem.’That is still data! We can look at the student’s answer, and the teacher knows ‘I need to help them’.”

Formative has ultimately helped NC Virtual Academy in many ways. When asked what her favorite tool is, Sonimar replied, “The tracker tool. Being able to easily see how the students perform (green to red) is a powerful tool. The show your work feature and the ability to track standards over the year are the biggest reason I recommend Formative.” - Sonimar Villegas.