Education pathways: K-12 students find success in virtual school


teen riding four wheeler

BALTIMORE, MD (September 12, 2014) — With more school choices than ever and the evolution of technology, students are redefining their own pathway to a successful K-12 education. More families are building complete, harmonious educational experiences for their children by choosing schools that meet their needs at a point in time – whether the school is traditional brick and mortar, private or charter. Over the past decade, families have added fully online and blended schools to their list of options – making online learning one of the fastest growing forms of education in the U.S. today.

According to the national report, “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online & Blended Learning,” in the 2012-13 school year, roughly 310,000 American students in kindergarten through 12th grades attended fully online public schools. Blending elements of brick and mortar schools, distance learning and homeschooling, online public schools deliver public education directly to students in their home via the Internet. Students work with certified teachers online while a parent oversees progress in the home – they even go on field trips and take part in after-school clubs and activities. Curriculum is aligned to state standards and students take required assessment tests. And as a public school, it’s free.

One of the main reasons families and students choose online school, as revealed in a recent survey by e-learning provider Connections Academy, is they simply want a different school environment – and one that offers greater flexibility in terms of scheduling and pace of lessons.

“Virtual school meets the needs of all types of students and families – some students find a perfect fit online and attend for the majority of their educations; others attend for a few years and then go back to the traditional school,” says Tisha Rinker, director of counseling at Connections Academy. “Students aren’t bound to one method of education or another – they can mix it up and develop a more personalized school experience.” Rinker says that most students who come to online school for a shorter period of time (one to three years) attend because they are looking for a solution to a typical school challenge – they are advanced and want to move more quickly through their lessons, they need to catch up, or are dealing with social issues like bullying. “Students transition between online and traditional school all the time,” she says. “In fact, for many kids, the time they spent in online school is exactly what they needed to succeed later on.”

Those skeptical of learning outside a traditional setting feel that students need an in-person classroom experience to gain social skills. But parents with students enrolled in online school say that their kids socialize just like other kids: with friends from school (through online clubs and activities or in-person field trips, proms) and after school, playing community sports, taking dance and music lessons, through youth groups and more.

The Keffer family of Marietta, Ohio, needed more schedule flexibility than was possible in their local neighborhood school. Their son Sean is a talented quad-runner racer who competes all over the East Coast, and it had been a struggle to attend traditional school, practice, train and travel to races, without missing school and/or getting behind in schoolwork. The family enrolled Sean in a virtual school, where he thrived academically while still actively participating in quad-runner racing. This year, with less of a need for flexibility, Sean opted to switch back to his neighborhood high school.

The Leake family of Southern California had different children in different schools. The family’s oldest son just graduated from their local public school, where he had a successful experience. Their younger son, Austin, is a gifted student who just wasn’t getting the academic challenge he needed in the traditional bricks and mortar classroom. This 14 year-old member of the high IQ society, MENSA, thrived with the personalized curriculum and set-your-own pace learning environment at Connections Academy. Austin graduated early from Connections last year and is currently attending Arizona State University/Lake Havasu.

“Families are embracing the fact that they have options for building a school experience that meets the needs of their child,” Rinker says. “When it comes to their child’s education, one size doesn’t fit all – and what ‘fits’ might even change from year to year and from child to child.”

About Connections Academy
Connections Academy is a leading provider of high-quality, highly accountable virtual schooling for students in grades K through 12. Through tuition-free public schools, and full-time and part-time private school programs, Connections Academy delivers superior, personalized education for students, with the freedom and flexibility to experience our online learning community from anywhere. The combination of certified teachers, a proven curriculum, technology tools, and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. Among the schools supported by Connections in the 2014–15 school year are 35 Connections Academy virtual (online) public schools and Nexus Academy blended schools that operate in 25 states and expect to serve more than 45,000 students from across the U.S. It serves students worldwide through the online private school, International Connections Academy. Connections Academy offers grades K through 12, though some public school programs do not offer all grades. For more information, call 800–382–6010 or visit www.ConnectionsAcademy.com. Connections Academy and its parent company, Connections Education, are part of the global learning company Pearson (NYSE:PSO).