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Virtual School Leaders' Experiences and Perspectives of the Benefits of and Barriers to Kindergarten Through Grade 12 Virtual Schools in Florida

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Virtual School Leaders’ Experiences and Perspectives of The Benefits of and Barriers to Kindergarten Through Grade 12 Virtual Schools in Florida. Erika Weiss, 2018: Applied Dissertation, Nova Southeastern University, Abraham S. Fischler College of
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   Virtual School LeadersÕ Experiences and Perspectives of the Benefits of and Barriers to Kindergarten Through Grade 12 Virtual Schools in Florida  by Erika Weiss An Applied Dissertation Submitted to the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education  Nova Southeastern University 2018   ii Approval Page This applied dissertation was submitted by Erika Weiss under the direction of the persons listed below. It was submitted to the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and approved in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education at Nova Southeastern University. Michael Simonson, PhD Committee Chair Shirley Walrod, PhD Committee Member Kimberly Durham, PsyD Interim Dean   iii Statement of Original Work I declare the following: I have read the Code of Student Conduct and Academic Responsibility as described in the Student Handbook of Nova Southeastern University. This applied dissertation represents my srcinal work, except where I have acknowledged the ideas, words, or material of other authors. Where another authorÕs ideas have been presented in this applied dissertation, I have acknowledged the authorÕs ideas by citing them in the required style. Where another authorÕs words have been presented in this applied dissertation, I have acknowledged the authorÕs words by using appropriate quotation devices and citations in the required style. I have obtained permission from the author or publisherÑin accordance with the required guidelinesÑto include any copyrighted material (e.g., tables, figures, survey instruments, large portions of text) in this applied dissertation manuscript. Erika Weiss  Name   March 28, 2018 Date     iv Acknowledgments I have thought about this moment for almost 6 years and can hardly believe it has arrived. I am overcome with emotion and have tremendous gratitude for family, close friends, and faculty members at the Fisher College of Education. Indeed, this dissertation is an accomplishment, but it is not mine alone. I share it with my husband and our five  beautiful children. I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Dr. Michael Simonson, my dissertation chair and steadfast mentor. His philosophy of I donÕt know about you, but IÕm going to have fun today; his witty challenges that have kept me on my toes; and his constant encouragement, guidance, and unwavering support will remain with me always. I am eternally grateful. Little things said, like, ÒErika, you are overthinking this, and if it exists, it can be measured,Ó made me smile and still do. I appreciate our long talks. It is a great privilege to say I was one Dr. SimonsonÕs students. He has humbled me his grace and wisdomÑlessons learned will remain forever with me. To my mom and dad, I am grateful for your unconditional love and constant encouragement. You are my heroes. How much do I love you? Let me count the waves (Mom) and to infinity and beyond (Dad)! To my husband, Paul, and our children, Sean, Raquel, Kristen, Charles, and Alexis, you are my champions. You gave me the strength to climb this very tall mountain, and you believed in me when I doubted myself. You put up with me reading out loud. You put up with my absence. You gave me the space I needed and adjusted to my needs instead of your own. I am so very lucky. I love you. With great honor and privilege, I dedicate this dissertation to you. I am elated to say I am finally done!   v Abstract Virtual School LeadersÕ Experiences and Perspectives of The Benefits of and Barriers to Kindergarten Through Grade 12 Virtual Schools in Florida. Erika Weiss, 2018: Applied Dissertation, Nova Southeastern University, Abraham S. Fischler College of Education. Keywords: diffusion of innovations theory, digital divide, K-12 virtual schools, qualitative instrumental case study, innovativeness/needs paradox This applied dissertation responded to two public problems: digital divides and unequal access to educational opportunities via the growth of virtual schooling in kindergarten through Grade 12 (K-12) in the United States. A qualitative instrumental case study approach was used to explore the relative advantages and disadvantages of public K-12 virtual schools in Florida through the experiences and perspectives of 5 virtual school leaders. This research also evaluated the virtual school leadersÕ level of innovativeness in relation to the innovativeness/needs paradox (INP) in RogersÕs theory of diffusion of innovations (DOI). The INP suggests that innovativeness plays a role in social stratification issues between the higher and lower socioeconomic individuals in a system. A demographic survey and interviews were used to gather descriptive details for the case analysis. The Innovativeness Scale collected empirical evidence on virtual school leadersÕ level of innovativeness. Results participants were in the early majority category of DOI. Demographics suggested upward social mobility, high educational attainment, and tendencies toward innovativeness. Six themes emerged from the interviews: educational optimism, proinnovation bias, strategies of least resistance, fidelity to old-school norms, virtual schools are a public but private schooling niche, and the counterintuitive gauntlet of innovativeness: the legitimacy of virtual schools and stakeholder divides. Findings suggested innovativeness in relation to the INP does have the potential to fuel underlying divides between advantaged and disadvantaged students in public K-12 virtual schools in Florida. The interviews suggested additional factors may play a role in divides in association with innovativeness, specifically, individualistic and systemic epistemologies and cultural relativism.
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