Online education company Herndon summons students for first nationwide spelling contest


After months of virtual lessons made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic, a consensus has emerged in Fairfax County that in-person learning is the ideal approach for students, but for the thousands of students. who frequent Stride Inc.In K-12 schools, online courses are the norm rather than the exception.

Stride says he provided virtual learning to more than 2 million people since launching as K12 Inc. in 2000, but last Tuesday (May 18) marked a first for the Herndon-based company, as a dozen students and their families gathered at its the head office for the very first national K12 spelling system.

“Spelling is a rite of passage for students around the world, but it has never been done online on this scale,” Stride CEO James Rhyu said in a statement.

The competition featured 12 students from nine states, including Virginia, who qualified for the final after winning competitions in their schools and regions. There were four finalists each at the elementary, middle and high school levels, all from Stride’s online public school program.

Stride Schools regularly offer activities and events for students to interact with their classmates in person, including student clubs, field trips, and extracurricular activities, but the Spelling Championship gave students the opportunity to meet peers from across the country, director of corporate communications Emily Riordan said.

“We are always looking for new ways to offer students experiences that further enrich their academic pursuits, to give them a space to demonstrate what they know and to connect with each other,” she said. at Reston Now. “… The National Spelling Bee is a way for us to bring together students from different schools, but who share the experience of attending a public school online. “

Students attending the event were required to wear full face masks and they performed health checkups before arriving, according to one Press release of the stride.

However, some students still attended virtually instead of traveling to Herndon, including Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA) third-year third-year Ilyannie Gonzalez, who participated remotely from across the country.

Ilyannie eventually won the championship at the elementary school level, beating three other students who competed in person after 18 rounds.

“Competing in the Spelling Bee is a dream come true for me,” she said before the start of the competition. “I like the challenge and I am able to expand my vocabulary by learning words that are new to me. Most importantly, I would be the pride of my family and my WAVA community.

Like many others online education providers, Stride has reported increased demand for its services during the pandemic.

In one presentation of the results for the third quarter of fiscal 2021 on April 20, the company reported that its enrollment had grown from 122,100 students as of March 31, 2020 to 185,300 students a year later, including 155,800 general education students.

In addition to hiring more than 1,300 teachers for the 2020-2021 school year, Stride renamed in november to reflect its expansion efforts in adult education and acquired two companies with the aim of expanding its vocational training offerings in technology and health.

The past year has not been all positive for Stride. According to to NPR, the company was fired by Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida after technical issues led to a disastrous launch of the district’s virtual learning platform, and online charter schools in general sparked criticism for student performance and a for-profit business model funded by taxpayer dollars, rather than tuition.

Still, Stride believes last year showed that virtual schools may be a viable option for students seeking more flexibility than traditional public schools, and the National Spelling Bee suggests that social interactions shouldn’t be. sacrificed in the process.

“Unlike many of their brick-and-mortar peers last year, online learning is nothing new for these students, nor is the opportunity to connect with their classmates and show off what is going on. ‘They have taught their family and friends, “Rhyu said.” We are proud of each of the Spelling Bee finalists and we are delighted to celebrate with them here in Herndon. “

Photo courtesy of Emily Riordan / Stride Inc.

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