Sara Baker's picture

Removing Barriers: How Online Education Provides Families Options and Students a Unique Experience

As unique and different as online public schools may seem, the only true differences lie in the logistical execution of the school programs. The heart and success of online schools depend upon the engagement level of students, parents, teachers and school leaders. And this, of course, is no different than what drives student success in brick and mortar schools.

Although we may not see each other at local football games, our online schools do create and nurture a virtual community where we are all working toward the shared goal of helping provide choices for our students for their futures. The ultimate goal of education, irrespective of the mode of delivery, is to provide students with a quality education that enables them to choose to pursue any future they would like. We know that reaching this goal requires more than just teachers assigning homework, more than students doing the homework, and more than parents making sure their students “attend” school. It requires that the school experience transcend the textbook and curriculum to engage teachers, students, families and leaders in a vivid learning community where students feel safe to be themselves and motivated to achieve even more than they had thought possible.

The foundational aspects of a school are a quality curriculum, a logical sequence of courses with an achievable scope of content, solid delivery mechanisms for curriculum content and consistent communication avenues for creating and maintaining the partnership that must exist between home and school.

But these are only the beginning of creating an exceptional school experience.

Ashley Collier's picture

Weekly Roundup -- March 6, 2015

Weekly Roundup showcases stories and information about the students and schools we serve, K12 educators, and important education issues. 

Tennessee Virtual Academy Educators Tout Academic Gains at Nashville Virtual Schools Conference
(Press Release)

Educators from Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA), a nonprofit online public school program ofUnion County Public Schools, joined together with other virtual school leaders at a two-day virtual learning conference sponsored by Metro Nashville Virtual School in a show of support for all the state's online public schools. 

Examining Costs and Funding of Online Schools
(thinkTANK)

Reports that the consensus from industry experts is that the average cost to operate a full-time, full-service online public school is approximately $6,400 per student (compared to over $10,000 for a traditional school).  And, in general, online public schools receive about 30-40% less in total funding (state, local, and federal funds) than traditional schools. 

Tennessee legislator wants to close online charter school
(Tennessee Watchdog)

Lily is a student at the Tennessee Virtual Academy, a charter school that her mother Christy says is far more accommodating to her needs than any traditional brick-and-mortar public school. Lily excels at math and extracurricular activities and is already ahead of many students her age.

Why Online Education?
(Learning Liftoff)

When your family decides to use online education as opposed to the traditional brick-and-mortar setting, it’s for a reason. Unfortunately, that reason may be unknown to the majority, and oftentimes a stigma is attached to those who choose online education as “weird” or “unsociable.” We want to help erase those stigmas, and rewrite the labels by publicizing the many different reasons families choose to use K12 and online education.

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

Examining Costs and Funding of Online Schools

We are in the middle of the legislative season, which every year means policymakers in a few states ask about the costs and funding of full-time online public schools.  This is an issue that has come up since multi-district online schools first emerged nearly 15 years ago. 

The consensus from industry experts is that the average cost to operate a full-time, full-service online public school is approximately $6,400 per student (compared to over $10,000 for a traditional school).  And, in general, online public schools receive about 30-40% less in total funding (state, local, and federal funds) than traditional schools. 

Every online school is different.  Just like with traditional schools, operating costs for online schools will vary based on many factors, including grades served, student population, number of students, academic program offerings, and other reasons.  With traditional brick and mortar schools, for example, the cost to operate a high school is much higher than an elementary school, and schools that offer more academic programs and services will generally cost more.  Therefore, when looking at cost comparisons, it’s important to match apples to apples.  

Below is compilation of reports and studies from industry experts that have examined the costs of online schools.

Ashley Collier's picture

Weekly Roundup -- February 27, 2015

Weekly Roundup showcases stories and information about the students and schools we serve, K12 educators, and important education issues. 

BERG: Pitts is wrong about Virtual Academy
(The Leaf Chronicle)

As the mother of a child who attends the Tennessee Virtual Academy, I take strong offense to Rep. Joe Pitts’ recent column (“Virtual Academy gets failing grades,” Page A5, Feb. 18). Pitts says TNVA is underperforming and needs to be closed. Yet, he fails to mention that TNVA is now one of the fastest-improving schools in the state. He also fails to mention there are more than 100 other schools in the state that are not improving as rapidly, with test scores very similar to TNVA – including Montgomery Central Middle School in his home county – that are not subject to closure.

Measuring Individual Student Progress Toward Graduation – Not a Four Year Cohort Rate
(thinkTANK)

In 2010 federal regulations went into effect that requires each state to implement a four-year cohort model as the means for calculating graduation rates. This regulation gives every student four years to graduate from the time a student enters ninth grade. Students may transfer from school to school during the four years, but the student must graduate in the fourth year. States are permitted to track a five-year graduation rate, but it can only be done alongside the four-year rate.

Fuel Education Releases Guide to Scaling Personalized Learning
(Press Release)

Personalized learning solutions provider, Fuel Education™, in association with education advocacy firm, Getting Smart®, today released a white paper exploring how schools and districts are not only implementing online and blended learning programs to address students’ individual needs, but also successfully scaling the personalized learning experience delivered through those programs.

Mary Gifford's picture

Measuring Individual Student Progress Toward Graduation - Not a Four Year Cohort Rate

The Impact of Under-Credited Students and Mobility in Fulltime Online Schools

In 2010 federal regulations went into effect that require each state to implement a four-year cohort model as the means for calculating graduation rates. This regulation gives every student four years to graduate from the time a student enters ninth grade. Students may transfer from school to school during the four years, but the student must graduate in the fourth year. States are permitted to track a five-year graduation rate, but it can only be done alongside the four-year rate.

This regulation had the goal of creating an expectation that every student can earn a high school diploma, and that graduation rates need to be tracked to show which schools are successfully graduating students in four years. The regulation assumed that students, generally, stay in the same school for four years and that states have systems to efficiently track students as they progress toward graduation.

While perhaps true in some economically advantaged communities, both of these assumptions are fundamentally flawed for far too many of our public schools. Instead, the regulation has created a “hot potato” effect that creates a perverse disincentive for enrolling under-credited students for fear of a negative impact on graduation rate.

States do have some flexibility. States may choose how to weigh graduation rates within their accountability structures.  States may elect to include additional calculations, such as six- or seven-year rates.  They may also reward methods of getting under-credited students back on track, or accelerating the pace at which a student moves toward graduation. These measurements may more accurately reflect what a school does with high school students more than a four-year cohort model. Data shows that many students who are mobile within high schools are often economically disadvantaged, under-credited, over-aged, and academically at-risk. A related report by the Evergreen Foundation (Accountability in the Digital Age, February 2015) looked at enrollment data for 24 fulltime online schools. In these schools, the report that found on average 35 percent of students who entered the schools in grade 10, 11 and 12 are not on track for graduation based on the four-year cohort rate.

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