Online schools have gained a lot of attention recently, everything from University of Phoenix issues to children learning or lack of learning in online public school systems. Learning experiences are specifically individual in nature, and while some people may struggle in some types of learning situations, others may find that they excel in those same learning styles. When deciding the best form of education for children, parents have a lot of choices, but the choices are not always easy to find. Recently, I decided to move one of my children to online school, to give him a better chance of preparing for his real-life experiences with computers. Most of our schools do not provide an extensive computer course for students, and these are becoming more and more important.
During my research, I learned a few things. First, there are states in the US that do not have online public schools at this time. Second, even the states that do have online school options, do not provide a successful link to the information. However, I have gathered a lot of different sources for parents looking at all their options for their children. The first note, anything that takes your children out of the classroom – public schools – puts the burden of education on the parent. This means, that even if your child is signed up with a non-traditional learning center, you will be the person making your student complete work, helping your child when the information is not clear, and providing the guidance for assignment completion. In many ways, this is no less than the requirements that schools place on parents; however, you do not get that 7 or 8 hour break before spending the four hours trying to understand their homework, if they had homework, and what classes they are supposed to be completing.
There are two primary, popular, public school systems: K12 (http://www.k12.com/) and Connections Academy (http://www.connectionsacademy.com/), operating in many states throughout the US (they provide support, curriculums, and other assistance to help state schools conduct classes successfully). You can research how they compare to your local school districts by checking them out at their website, where you will get a link to your state specific section, and then you can research them at Great Schools (http://www.greatschools.org/), School Digger (http://www.schooldigger.com/), or a few others listed in Google or Ask.com. There are other online public schools available in many states; however, if you cannot find a guide for your specific state, you should call your state Board of Education. This is important, because not all representatives on the phones will give you a straight answer to if their specific school is available as a public school in your area, and some schools will be listed in your area when they are not qualified.
In Ohio, as of last year’s data, OHVA – a K12 online public school, scored better than other online or alternative schools listed in Great Schools, and as compared to Campbell City Schools. While ECOT scored amongst the lowest in many areas evaluated by the state standardized testing. The list of schools available to Ohio students includes:
• Ohio Connections Academy – http://www.connectionsacademy.com/ohio-school/
• OHVA – K12 – http://www.k12.com/ohva/
• ECOT – Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow – http://www.ecotohio.org/
• Buckeye On-Line for Success – http://buckeye.schoolfusion.us/
• Life Skills – http://www.wediducan.com/
• TRECA – http://www.treca.org/treca/site/default.asp
• OHDELA – Ohio Distance & Electronic Learning Academy – http://www.ohdela.com/
• Summit Academy – http://www.summit-academy.com/
• PACE Alternative School – 330-788-8720
• Mahoning County Unlimited Classroom – http://www.unlimitedclassroom.k12.oh.us/
Parents can also get approved lists from their local school districts, specifically from the school, if available; however, most lists are not completely accurate, but may contain county specific school information. For example, Warren, Ohio has two additional schools that are not available to students in other districts. After you review your selection, compare it to schools in your district, you can call your school selection and discuss the steps needed for admitting your children into the school. Nearly all the schools provide computers for your child to use, and they often provide homes with assistance needs a discount for their internet connections.
Finally, a child learning from home is no different from other alternative learning environments, and should be carefully considered. There are students who excel at these, graduating with exceptional knowledge and continuing on to college with great grades; however, there are also online students who spend years in the same grades, do not graduate, and learn nothing from the online experience. Your child may be different, but as a parent, online school is not the stick-’em and forget-’em solutions that local public schools can be. Parent roles are essential to a student’s success in an alternative school.