I hope this letter finds you well in these unique and trying times.
2019-2020 has been a year of triumphs and trials for ADLC. I am writing to you today to share some of these stories, as well as outline some key items for you to be aware of in the coming year and beyond.
Just this past September 2019, we embarked on a completely distinct operational model with changes supported by Alberta Education, and many of the changes were drastically different than past practice (transitioned during 2018-19). Recall that ADLC centralized in Barrhead, moved to a One-Teacher Instructional Model, adopted a 10-month school calendar, stopped accepting independent registrations including adults, and strongly focused on supporting school authorities and their students within Alberta.
We expected that through concentrated services for schools and students, we would realize higher student success and course completion. We are well on that road and expect to see course completions improve this year. Our teachers, students and school partnerships expressed increased satisfaction in the quality of course experiences.
We were pleased to partner in a provincial initiative that reviewed Distance Education and course resources. Over 100 participants from across Alberta joined us in December to look at the Role of the Teacher in distance education and essential items to be included in quality resources. It was clear at the time that these stakeholders held high regard for the resources they use in supporting their students.
At the start of 2020, based on feedback, we prepared ourselves to refine and improve ADLC and our resources, and continue to grow our relationship practices with schools, teachers, and their students taking courses with ADLC. However, on February 27, our Superintendent received public news that Alberta Education would be terminating the ADLC Service Agreement in two years. Additionally, a new funding model was presented for online schools.
This news was unexpected and set in motion several things.
Firstly, we sought more information regarding the reasoning for Alberta Education’s decision to terminate the ADLC Service Agreement. As well, we gathered responses to the decision from our affiliation or partner schools. The information from Alberta Education called into question ADLC’s success rates with students, and there seemed to be a lack of appreciation of the relationship between registering schools and ADLC’s service to them, as they directly compared this rate to that of other Alberta online schools. In other words, despite our best efforts to communicate that ADLC worked with schools to provide programming for their students, it appeared that Alberta Education held us singularly responsible for unsuccessful student experiences. Additionally, with the growing number of online schools in Alberta, there would be more online schools able to support the distance and online educational needs of schools and students.
In early March, we reached out to affiliation schools and asked for feedback concerning ADLC services and reaction to Alberta Education’s recent decision about the ADLC Service Agreement. Within 10 days, we received over 700 responses from across Alberta where 94% of respondents indicated that they used ADLC services, and 77% indicated that ADLC services either completed or were critical to their school programming. We shared this information, along with other evidence, indicating support for ADLC with Alberta Education.
Because of conflicting information regarding the use of and support for ADLC, Alberta Education requested school authority superintendents to gather specific information from within their school authority regarding ADLC. In early May, this information was made available to the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) Board of Directors. Subsequently, the CASS Board of Directors passed a motion indicating support for Alberta Education’s February decision concerning ADLC’s Service Agreement and funding for 2020-21 and 2021-22. The motion cited the fact that 60 of 67 superintendents responded in support of the government’s decision.
We are therefore resigned to the fact that Alberta Education’s decision to reduce funding for the 2020-2021 school year, and then reduce it further by 50% in 2021-2022, means that ADLC’s services must be adjusted.
Please note the following changes for the 2020-21 school year:
- Elimination of SuccessMaker enrichment program;
- Elimination of ADLC resource development;
- Delisting certain Teacher Support (TS) and Student Instruction (SI) courses;
- Capping course enrollments for ADLC Student Instruction;
- Transition to closure of ADLC at the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Despite these changes, ADLC will be at its best in September for the 2020-21 school year. We will continue to provide the best educational experiences for your students, and service-oriented support for your teachers. Among other practices, we expect to implement in the coming year:
- new registration practices (stringent onboarding/new student expectations);
- enhanced communication strategies and tools (mobile or personal devices);
- increased student support with strong relationships, increased individualization and communication, and follow through on pacing or timelines;
- increased synchronous opportunities for students;
- continue special course offerings (Second Languages, Workplace Safety, other 30-level no prerequisites, etc.).
The imminent closure of ADLC is a difficult reality but does not mean the end of online education for your students. As you may be aware, ADLC’s managing school authority is Pembina Hills School Division (PHSD). PHSD also operates the largest online school in the province: Vista Virtual School (VVS). While ADLC currently operates completely distinct from VVS, VVS has been designed to provide the same high-quality online learning experience as has been available through ADLC. With that in mind, I am reminding you that your online programming needs can be met or supplemented by VVS.
Because of the compatible infrastructures, transitioning your distance education needs to online schools like Vista Virtual School can be relatively seamless.
We feel privileged and honored to have worked with you to support the variety of unique needs posed by your students. We look forward to working with you in the coming school year.
In terms of decisions that may affect your programming, we are committed to communicating all that we can as soon as possible. I recognize that this is especially important in these ever-changing times.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.