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Video: A guide to private schools
Video: How to find a middle school
By Christina Tynan-Wood
If your student hopes to go back to school after dipping into virtual schooling for a year — because of travel, an injury, or school-related trauma — make sure he takes classes from a virtual school from which his regular school will accept transfer credit. Check with your school district to see if there is a public option before paying tuition at a virtual private school.
Also keep in mind that some virtual schools require students to take online classes from a school building. If that’s the case, make sure this will be an improvement over simply attending school. Finally, take a look at your student. Virtual schools aren't for everyone. It requires a certain degree of self-discipline. Students tempted to go to the mall, instead of logging on for school, may fall behind so quickly that it will be a struggle to catch up.
A note on K12 schools, the nation's largest online education co mpany: The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder recently released “Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools” that reported fewer than 28 percent of K12-operated virtual schools were meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in 2010-2011, compared to 52 percent of all schools nationwide.
Across all grade levels, a lower percentage of students in K12-operated schools was meeting or exceeding state standards in reading and math than at public schools. Differences ranged from minimal in ninth and tenth grade reading to fairly significant in eleventh grade math, with a nearly 35 percent gap between K12 operations and the state average. K12 responded that AYP is structured to reward schools with small, stable student populations. A K12 report notes that student attrition is an issue with more than half of parents expecting to keep their students enrolled for two years or less.)
Do your research. Your school district might offer a free, public virtual school. But you have other choices as well. K12 offers both public and private virtual schools all over the country. The Keystone School (part of a K12 company) is a private online school for middle and high school. The George Washington University Online High School is a virtual college preparatory school for high-achieving high school students.
Whatever the case, be a choosy customer and look for a school that provides what your child needs and ask lots of questions — just as you would a traditional school — before you make a decision. Many programs will allow you to sign up for summer classes, for instance. Just as you would visit a local school, make sure you visit any prospective online school by sampling the curriculum and, if possible, the program.
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