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Recently a series of reports were released which sought to provide information and recommendations for online charter schools.

As an online teacher, there are points in this study that I can agree with, for example students come to our schools from all walks of life and for all different types of reasons. However, there are some statements made that I disagree with.

Perhaps my biggest point of contention with this study is that it suggests a possible screening policy to see if an online school is the “right fit” for a student. This really got me thinking, since when is education a one-size fits all?  How can you screen students to see if this is the right fit for them?  What exactly would that entail?  If a student were scoring below average at their old school does that make them a good fit for our school or not?  We have many students who were struggling if not all out failing at their traditional brick and mortar schools who come to us and excel! If we turn students away based on past performance in a totally different environment, and have a selection process, does this even make us a public school anymore?  Are we just going to cherry pick students while turning away others? Is it ethical to select students likely to succeed while turning away at risk pupils?

People always ask me what types of students choose the online schooling option.

The answer is every type.

At Insight School of Kansas (ISKS), we have gifted students who want to pick up unique classes that were not offered in their local districts. We have students who help out on the family farm and cannot make it to the traditional 8-3 school day. We have students who suffer from medical conditions that require them to remain in a non-evasive environment to protect their immune systems. We have students that were bullied to the point of debilitating depression and anxiety who are desperate for a safe learning environment. We educate students who are athletes who train for hours during the day. We also have teen parents who want more than anything to earn a high school diploma so that they can make a better life for their new child.

All of these students are what K12 is made up of and much more. Every student is unique and therefore they deserve choice in their education and what works best for them.

One thing that I have always been proud of as a teacher at ISKS is that we accept and educate the students who may not have any other option.

How can we expect a student who struggles with a medical issue to attend a brick-and-mortar school for seven hours each day if they need access to medicine, therapy, or doctors throughout the day? Our school can offer the most conducive learning environment for them.  We can offer a safe learning environment for the students who are bullied.  And a young teen mom who is struggling to support her baby, with this suggested policy of screening, would she be turned away never receiving a high school diploma?  At our school we give these students a chance. Sometimes it is their last and only option and I would be beyond devastated if we started turning these students away to meet some graduation rate quota.

With a proposed screening policy we would potentially be turning away students who can succeed. Just because they are not the picture perfect cookie cutter image of an online high school learner, should they be denied an education?

A perfect example of this is Mallory*. Mallory came to our school as a late start student and was behind on credits. Right there, I am assuming, would be two strikes against her. But Mallory worked very hard to get caught up on what she missed because of enrolling late. After a few conversations with her I found out that she was expecting her first child. So now we have a teen parent, behind on credits and enrolling late. That suggested screening policy could probably have labeled her as a student that would not succeed in the online environment.

But guess what?

She is succeeding and she will continue to. She finished her first semester with a B in my course. With the odds stacked against her, she overcame these obstacles and passed her classes.

Why would we ever consider turning away a student like Mallory? Or any student for that matter? Every child has the right to an education and sometimes that education may look a little different than the “norm”, but a lot of successful people in this world are different from the so-called norm.  I am thankful to work at a school that is passionate about offering choice in education and focused on student academic achievement because we know that all students can succeed if given the opportunity.

*Name changed to protect the student’s identity.

About The Author

Lauren Weber

Lauren Weber is a high school world history teacher and the social studies department chair at Insight School of Kansas (ISKS). She has been with ISKS since 2009. Lauren graduated from the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2006. In 2008 she received her graduate teacher certification in secondary education-social studies, and she is currently working on her master's in administration-building leadership. Lauren enjoys spending time with her family, playing sports with her kids, and baking.

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