HomeAcademics & ActivitiesAcademic Skills

Alternate Routes to High School Success

Page 2 of 5

By GreatSchools Staff

Online Options

Online High Schools

A variety of options exist online for high school students seeking advancement or courses not offered at their school. Students can participate individually, or, in the case of Virtual High School(VHS), a regular high school may participate and provide multiple course options for its students.

Virtual High School was created in 1996 through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Its goal was to form a consortium of high schools working together to offer online courses. Today VHS is a nonprofit organization that offers 271 courses to 4,700 students each semester. Schools pay an annual membership fee and at least one teacher from their school signs on to be an online instructor. That teacher participates in professional development online through VHS before teaching a course and teaches a group of no more than 25 students who may sign on from any VHS-affiliated school anywhere in the world.

Students can select from the course catalog and might take such courses as pre-veterinary medicine, Advanced Placement statistics or calculus, or screenwriting fundamentals. The regular high school the student attends covers the cost of class materials and online instruction. Students typically participate in their online course - listening to lectures, conversing in online discussions and doing group projects - at their regular high school during a class period in the school day.

Students who participate learn to manage their time and take control of the learning process. "High school can be incredibly cliquish," says VHS CEO Liz Pape. "Here no one has any preconceived notions of who you are. Here it's OK for a football player to take contemporary poetry." The online classes are also effective in reaching kids who might sleep in the back of a regular classroom, or English language learners who have the opportunity to work at their own pace. In the online classroom, every student participates and the instructor can easily see what the level of participation is.

Students can also take classes at VHS on their own, without being affiliated with a regular high school during the school year or during the summer by paying a fee.

The Education Program for Gifted Youth Online High School at Stanford University (EPGY-OHS) was launched in 2006 as an outgrowth of the Education Program for the Gifted at Stanford. It is a three-year, diploma-granting program, a complete online high school, that provides an opportunity for gifted students to be challenged in an online environment. "We are looking for a certain kind of student," says Jan Keating, the school's headmaster. "We want students who show academic excellence in testing or school performance." Students must apply for admission and pay tuition. Some students are enrolled full time while others take some courses at their local high school and some classes through EPGY-OHS. Students work on Centra - a Web-based tool that allows for class discussions, a white board for the instructor and lectures that the students can watch on their schedule. There are even clubs, a student government and a parent association, all online.

Maya Lewis, a sophomore at EPGY-OHS, enrolled because she wanted a challenge and the opportunity to take a risk. An avid musician and a gifted student, she typically spends the first part of her day at home in Ft. Worth, Texas, practicing the piano. Then she might listen to the lecture for one of her core classes, "Democracy, Freedom and the Rule of Law," do the assigned reading and participate in an online discussion. She's a member of the student government and is working on organizing a buddy program for next year, so new students will have experienced students to lean on for advice. Maya says she definitely misses the social aspects of regular high school, but she and her online classmates organized an on-the-ground get-together in Chicago during spring break, and some students plan to take courses at Stanford University this summer. On the plus side, she says "Learning how to learn on my own has been valuable; most regular high schools don't help you do that and it's preparing me well to make the transition to college."

Online Courses

Online courses work best for self-disciplined, independent learners. Some have an interactive component where others involve just the student and the printed study materials. There are multiple online options available. Here's a sampling.

Duke University e-Studies Program (grades 8-12) includes online, interactive courses as distance learning programs. Students connect with instructors, course material and 10 to 15 classmates from around the world in virtual "classrooms." Courses run in the fall and spring (16-week sessions), as well as in the summer (8-week session). Students are admitted based on SAT or ACT test scores. Courses cost $750, which includes all text materials. There is an additional $20 application fee. Financial aid is available.

The University of Missouri-Columbia High School (MU High School), part of The University of Missouri Center for Distance and Independent Study, is a self-directed program where high school students can sign up at anytime for the course, and receive print materials (a study guide and text) and take up to nine months to complete the course. Each course for high school students costs $135, plus varying fees for the print materials, depending on the course selected. Students write papers, do projects and take two proctored exams. (Generally they find someone in their community or school to act as an authorized proctor.)

Comments from readers

"My son is Very ADHD. I recently moved to New Jersey and his new guidance counselor seems to know more then anyone I spoke to in his middle schools in Florida. He is in 9th grade this year and finally, someone WANTS to know if he's classified and has he had an IEP or a 504. The two schools he went to in Florida did NOT want to deal with it. I never let a Dr. put him on meds until his 7th grade year. To me, they seemed to make him worse, not better. When he was small, he was so out of control that when I brought him to a doctor appointment, the staff would take us in to see the doctor in front of 5 patients, who were ahead of us to see the doctor. LOLOLOL At this point, I have been to see the guidance counselor twice and he only started school two weeks ago. He is 15 yrs old, 6'3" and refusing to go to school. I went in to sign a release for the school to get his file from the counselors and doctors he was seeing in Florida. Does anyone know of any kind of alternative schools ! in New Jersey, that take kids BEFORE they are 16?? I also had this problem in FL. I guess they want to wait until the child CAN actually quit school before they give us any resources. As it is, I am wondering when they are going to come here with handcuffs and take ME away. "
"is anyone know for independent tutors for 11th grader math & chemistry please? for el cerrito el sobrante,CA. Thanks "
"My oldest daughter age 16 is struggling in Highschool. She seems to have poor time management and lack of focus. She goes to a school were it seems like the staff members are training inmates. I don't know what to do before it is too late for her to get back on track. Im considering alternative school, but I dont want her to think she is being punished. What should I do not to loose my daughter all together."
"our alternative to public high school is a charter school.there are many in all states,my teenager was spinninning her wheels and wasnt learning much.teachers didnt seem to care,and they were loading her down with projects instead of teaching.grades were getting worse no time to breath just project after project.then we removed our child from diamond ranch hs,then enrolled her in a charter school.san gabriel vly school district has many locations in so cal area.we have one close to home,req attendance 2 hrs a week earning more credits than dia rnch will grad much sooner year round one on one instuction.straight a-s now. public schools and our state and some teachers are failing,they only care about the revinue.people wake up!"
"iam looking for a good shool for my son he has adhd and lead paint posing he is in the 10 gradebut he is 19 years old the school that he is in is ok but it is in a bad part town and iam trying to pull him away from his friends that go there because some of the kids is not trying to do nothing and they are holding the other kids back like my son so this s why iam looking for a good school iam not going to give up on himand he is not going to give up."
"How can you help your child when they are behind or they don't seem have a good understand in some courses, especially math."
"what about kids forced to be in foundations cause its easier for the school to meet their requirements! I just figured it out. Not special ed - just LD - only getting IEP reading services not math - and in foundations and bored - took a gifted summer program with approved from Professor Lamella at Middlesex to encourage girls math/scinece/engineering - my daughter excelled - got confidence and learned her strenghts and weaknesses - zoned during the physics lessson but can apply what she learned came up with the winning desgn and they built it from scratch - came in 2nd place in juding - presented it for the group in front of at least 300 people! no one knew she was a SPED. Oh LD Oh a nice kid! I asked the foundations math teacher to help Jen where she may struggle - like have her stay if she gets 6 wrong out of 12 - help a tutor in the school come up with a plan to get her ready for the HESPA - to discuss with Jen the 'zero' for a homework assignment she received - to find out why her weekly reports say Jen is doing fine and the website you go to says she has a 'C' - to find out what on-line program they use so I can check it out. This was the response I got: 'Mrs. Cochrane, I have spoken with the my supervisor, the head of the Mathematics Department, about your request for supplies to use to prepare for the HSPA during the sophomore year. She has given me 2 copies of a resource for 'Early Preparation' which could be done in the 10th grade. Please do not write in the books, instead, use them as guides for the material to cover. One copy is for Jen and the other copy is for whoever tutors her. I've also included a copy of the answer key. Please return all 3 soft cover books to me in June 2009. I will have the 3 books in the front office with your name on them for pick up. A plan to prepare for the HSPA.....turn to page i through page iv. These are the topics to focus on. If a weakness shows up, spend additional time in that area. I've found that a little bit of help when you need it goes a long way. I was happy to see that the comments I forwarded to Mrs. Bitondo were included in the weekly updates you receive from her. Since you've included Jen's grades from Home Plus, I know that you have the tools you need to log on and keep abreast of Jen's progress. She's doing well. Glad I could help you. I'll send Mary Bitondo this week's update on Friday which she will forward on to you. Sue Whitt' does this fall under the 10th Amendment ? Why can't she speak to me - call - me - help my daughter? "
"This is valuable information and it did give more options for my high school student. Thanks for your help."
"As a college consultant, I assist students with college selection and the college admission process, but NOLS is a great program that I recommend to some students who may not be quite ready for college or others who may want to do something different first. It is especially good for those interested in the outdoors. They can get college credit for some outstanding outdoor leadership courses. Some of the courses are during the summer or school year and others are a semester long."