The latest data show that during the academic year 2017-2018, about 21% of public schools and 13% of private schools offered courses remotely or online. This number is continuing to rise, especially at this time, when more than ever, parents are exploring virtual schools as an alternative to traditional schools.
Virtual schools or online schools provide digital learning to students. It offers the same courses as those offered by the local school districts. Starting in the mid-1990s, it was more common at the middle and high school levels and slowly expanded into kindergarten and higher education levels.
As a parent, what should you consider when deciding to enroll a child in an online school?
In 2019, 56.6 million students attended elementary and high school in the United States. Suppose you are a parent of a soon to be or current high school student. In that case, understanding online education processes are important when deciding on enrolling your child in an online high school program. Transitioning from the traditional in-person instruction towards a virtual school is not an easy task. As a parent, you will need to consult with a local or state education official before moving.
Consultation with the education officers may be done after you have fully considered the following:
Deciding on a virtual school
There are three types of virtual schools: (1) All-online schools, (2) hybrid schools, (3) supplemental schools.
- All online school (full-time virtual schools) are virtual schools allowed to operate across districts in 32 states. These are usually charter schools that serve an entire state. Sometimes they are run by school districts. Compared to the in-person instruction, its class schedule is less rigid, but the classes are offered during the same academic year. This model is helpful to high-level athletes, entertainers, performers, former home school students, or students who might have mental or physical health needs.
- Hybrid Schools is one that offers both in-person instruction and virtual learning. The school has a designated location where the learners learn on-site. However, there is no requirement that the student must attend classes regularly. Students can opt to take all of their classes online. This type of virtual school is not common and is often attended by students who have a job, internship, college credit, or who need to catch up academically.
- Supplemental schools mostly serve middle and high school students and some for k-12 courses. These schools provide online course-work that is supplementary to the traditional classes that the students already take.
An online school’s cost will depend on the type of learning option and whether the chosen virtual school is public or private.
A virtual public school should be tuition-free. Consequently, parents should check with their local school district, regional education association, or state education office to learn about the approved virtual school options for public schools. If you opt to send your child to a private school or a charter school, the education cost will significantly vary.
Each school has different enrollment policies and depending on the school district. Additional requirements may be compulsory. Most have their website, and the enrollment process is usually found there. The most common requirements are as follow:
- the enrollee must be at least 14 years old;
- submission of documents like birth certificate;
- proof of residence;
- proof that the child is up to date on their vaccinations; and
- transcript from a previous school.
There is also a standardized test that demonstrates whether the student has completed eight grades. Some schools may also require an interview before admission.
Qualities of the Online School
Parents need to evaluate the needs of their students when deciding on an online school. A review of the following points before enrolling your high schooler in a non-traditional high school is a must:
Checking the accreditation of the virtual school is important. Like traditional schools, virtual schools are accredited the same way. They are accredited by the same independent organizations that award traditional schools. At the moment, there is no single nationwide set of accreditation standards in place, so the standards depend on your state or region.
Why is accreditation important?
Accreditation is important for college acceptance and admission. Most colleges only accept students who earned their high school education from accredited institutions. It is important to make sure your high schooler is enrolled in an accredited online high school. Moreover, accreditation is important in ensuring that the school meets the national and regional accrediting agency’s educational standards and guidelines.
When you choose a school, asking the school accreditation standing, the accrediting body, and how often accreditation is reviewed and renewed is important.
Credit transfer is important, especially when your child has been transferring in and out of virtual schools. Before moving to an online high school, the transfer process needs to be discussed with the school they wish to transfer. This is to ensure that the student’s credits are recognized.
Support services are important, especially for online students. It is one of the most important things to consider in achieving online education success. You must review the services offered by the school of your choice. Parents should be concerned about the availability of tutoring services, learning coaches, access to school counselors, and the existence of a parent network or community. Does the school have dedicated personnel for student and parent support services?
For grades 9-12, socialization opportunities are important in their preparation for college. Creative alternatives to socialization are done in online instruction since students study independently. In considering this, you should check the avenues for socialization opportunities. The type of activities offered, whether it be a field trip or through clubs, online collaborations, or how online instruction complement socialization.
To ensure that your child gets the best education, you should review the instructors’ basic qualifications. If you want to inquire further, you can check on the teachers’ professional backgrounds, degrees, professional experience, and whether they underwent training or orientation to teach online.
Some colleges consider the quality of the student’s high school during admissions. This type of information is out there because some states evaluate the performance of both online and traditional brick-and-mortar high schools within their jurisdiction. To get a general understanding of the online school’s academic quality and performance, parents may look into graduation rates and compare them to traditional schools’ retention rates.
A high school program’s ultimate goal is to prepare students to be accepted by a post-secondary institution and succeed in that institution. Thus parents need to ask about the college planning services available and the percentage of students who graduate and are accepted into college programs. So look into the availability of college preparatory classes, college counseling, and standardized testing preparation.