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How to Choose the Best Online High School for Your Child

29 Jul

How to Choose the Best Online High School for Your Child

Are you considering an online approach to high school for your child? Even if you weren’t before, you might now as a result of the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many school districts are planning to start the school year with virtual learning for the fall of 2020 and it is unclear whether or not that will change over time. What that means for students is that attending a brick and mortar school building may not be possible as it might have been just a few months ago.

As public schools attempt to navigate these new and challenging waters, the quality of education students receive is not guaranteed. A school lacking experience in online instruction may not be equipped to provide a solid education through virtual means. An online academy, however, has made it their business to offer students a quality education at home.

Now, more than ever, learning online is becoming the norm. And that means you and your child have a choice. Choose a quality online high school or take your chances with whatever your local school offers you.

What is the Best Online High School?

If you’re comparing online high schools, you want the absolute best for your child. So what is the best online high school? The best option may not be the same for every student and family. Choosing an online high school is a big decision, and it requires some serious thought. It helps to determine what features are the most important to you and your child. As you look into the details of an online school, ask the following questions and get the answers, either through online research or through a direct inquiry to the school. This should help you narrow down your choices and settle on a school that will suit both you and your child.

What Accreditation Does the School Have?

To ensure that any school you are considering is legitimate, it is important that you check their accreditation. Regional accreditation is all that is required for a school’s credits and diplomas to be accepted by colleges and secondary schools. National accreditation, while it sounds impressive, is not actually as important as regional accreditation. Regional accreditation is a more rigorous process and should be considered first.

International accreditation shows a school’s commitment to worldwide education on a global scale, which is a unique and valuable quality in a school. An internationally accredited school can provide a broader, more well-rounded education that helps students gain an awareness and appreciation of the world beyond their region, state, and country.

What Type of School is This?

Online high schools can be public, private, charter, or university-sponsored.

  • Public. Public schools are funded by federal, state, and local governments. They are governed by the state board of education. Students attend for free if they live within the zone requirements of the school.
  • Private. Private schools are funded by tuition paid by students as well as donations from other private organizations and individuals. Private schools are independently governed. Students must pay tuition to attend or be granted a scholarship.
  • Charter. Charter schools are funded by state tax income, grants, awards, and donations. They are governed by a private board. Students attend for free but may be subject to a random lottery for acceptance into the school.
  • University-sponsored. A university-sponsored school is affiliated with a local college or university where it gets most of its funding. It is primarily governed by its sponsor.

The biggest advantage of attending a public school or charter school is that there is no tuition; students attend for free. However, a private school is often able to provide a higher quality education because of the tuition it receives from the students who attend.

How Long Has the School Been Open?

It is common for online schools to pop up suddenly and then disappear again, leaving you scrambling to transfer your child’s enrollment and credits to another school, if their accomplishments will even be accepted elsewhere. Be sure to choose a reputable school that has been in business long enough to have established some longevity.

What is the School’s Graduation Rate?

Besides accreditation and how long a school has been open, another good judge of the quality of a school is the graduation rate. How many students who enroll in high school through this online academy actually graduate? This number can tell you a lot about the success of the school and it’s curriculum and instruction.

How Many Graduates of the School Go on to College?

Are you hoping your child will continue on to college after graduation from high school? If this is important to you and your child, be sure to find out how many graduates of the school have gone on to be accepted and attend colleges. This is not only an indicator of the success of an online high school, but it also proves that the school’s credits and diplomas are recognized and respected by colleges and universities.

What are the Teacher’s Qualifications?

How qualified are the teachers who will be teaching your child through this online school? It’s important to inquire about the educational backgrounds and certifications of the teachers employed by the school. A high school teacher should have at least a bachelor’s degree in education or a field related to the classes they teach. Teachers should also hold a valid, up to date teaching license.

How Many Students Does Each Teacher Instruct?

Online class size is just as important as in-person class size. Is online instruction delivered to multiple students at once or in a one-on-one format? Make sure that the teachers have a manageable number of students so that they are able to give your child the attention he or she deserves. This information may not be readily available or as obvious as it would be in a brick and mortar school, so be sure to inquire and insist on an answer to this question.

How is Curriculum Chosen?

Find out what kind of curriculum the school uses and what it’s based on. Does the school focus on the state standards, federal standards, or something else entirely? Is it in line with what colleges are looking for? Is curriculum student-focused?

Look for a school that allows students to self-drive their own education. A school that lets them study their own interests will inspire their passion for learning. Students learn best in a self-paced environment where they can take their time to learn information and concepts. Some students may breeze right through some skills and need more time to master others. Student-centered learning is more effective than a one-size-fits-all approach.

What Instructional Style is Primarily Used?

Online schools may offer instruction in a variety of styles or just one. It’s important to find a school that is willing to adjust the instructional approach to accommodate the learning style of the student. Some students learn best independently by reading, researching, and submitting assignments online. Other students need live video instruction where they can interact directly with the teacher and other students. Be sure any school you consider will be able to adapt to your child’s unique learning style.

How Does the School Accommodate Students of Varying Learning Styles and Needs?

A quality online school should understand that not all students will require the same type of instruction and therefore offer a variety of approaches. Some students are tactile learners and others are auditory or visual learners. Some students can read about a concept and understand, while others need to experiment or see the concept in action to fully grasp it. The best online schools can still provide hands-on learning opportunities even though the instruction is primarily computer-based.

Does your child have individual learning needs that differ from the average student? Sometimes this is the reason some parents seek online schools rather than sending their child to a local school. If you’re searching for schools for a child with a learning disability or a physical disability, make sure any school you consider is prepared to accommodate your child’s individual needs.

How Much Does it Cost to Attend, Including Tuition and Other Fees?

If you’re considering a private online high school, tuition is just one part of the cost associated with your child’s education. Find out if there are other fees required throughout the program. Ask about the technology requirements, such as what type of computer you’ll need and how much bandwidth you will need for internet access. Will there be school supplies you’ll need to purchase in order to complete certain courses? If you are working with a limited budget, be sure to get a true picture of the total cost to attend any school you’re considering for your child.

What Extracurriculars are Offered?

One concern both parents and children have about attending school online is that they may miss out on opportunities for extracurricular activities. But many online schools still offer clubs, student council, school assemblies, guest speakers, and even regional gatherings where students can get together in person with other students enrolled in the school. Extracurricular activities are important for social development and help resumes and college applications look more impressive.

What Does the Calendar and Daily Schedule Look Like?

Consider whether or not it is necessary for students to be physically present and signed in to attend school during certain days of the year or certain hours of the day. If you need a more flexible schedule for travel or other reasons, choose a school that allows students to do schoolwork and receive instruction at times that suit them. Learning to self-manage their own time and complete schoolwork in a timely manner without rigid monitoring is an important life skill to acquire.

The Christa McAuliffe Academy School of Arts and Sciences

What is the best online high school for your child? A school that embodies the right answers to all of the above questions. The Christa McAuliffe Academy School of Arts and Sciences is a private online school serving grades K-12. The school meets the following criteria:

  • Regionally and internationally accredited by the International and Trans-regional Division of the Northwest Accreditation Commission.
  • Open since 2009.
  • Courses are approved and accepted by the NCAA Eligibility Center for Student Athletes wishing to be eligible for and participate in Collegiate Sports.
  • Education philosophy referred to as “Personalication” that is student-centered and student-driven to foster intrinsic motivation and passion for learning. 
  • Extracurriculars like clubs, student council, and National Honors Society are available for students to connect with each other.

For more information, visit the online high school program at CMASAS or call (503) 226-7374 today. We look forward to helping your child get started on their personalized learning journey.