Frequently Asked Questions

 
 

Common Questions

Texas Connections Academy is a free online public school for grades 3‒12. This is a unique program that combines the strong parental involvement of homeschooling, professional expertise and accountability, and a flexible learning environment. Texas Connections Academy provides the tools and support students need to learn in an online setting. Learn how to enroll.

The Texas Virtual School Network Online Schools Program (TxVSN OLS) provides full-time virtual instruction to eligible Texas public school students in grades 3–12 through approved public school districts and open-enrollment charter schools. These online public schools offer 100 percent virtual instructional programs to students who are not physically present on campus during instruction. Courses comprising the TxVSN OLS program are reviewed to ensure they meet the state curriculum standards, known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), and national standards for quality online courses. Teachers are required to be Texas-certified in the content area and the grade level they are teaching, and must be trained in best practices in delivering online instruction.

Texas Connections Academy @ Houston first opened as Houston Connections Academy in December 2008. In August of 2010, the school name was changed to Texas Connections Academy @ Houston, but it remained a Houston ISD school.

Families choose Texas Connections Academy because they trust us to give their children a unique, personalized school experience where students can learn and grow.

Texas Connections Academy provides a complete, full-time education for children—one that includes all the core courses, electives, and social opportunities 3‒12 students need. Caring teachers specialize in online learning and work with parents. Together, they set individual goals and ensure that students learn. Texas Connections Academy prepares children for a bright future—whether that includes college, technical training, or career readiness.

Texas Connections Academy is committed to providing a high-quality education that is personalized to meet a student’s individual needs. This level of personalization is not commonly available in traditional public bricks-and-mortar schools. Using our accessible technology, we connect parents, teachers, and students from home or anywhere there is Internet service. Additionally, families benefit from unique flexibility in creating their schedule, something that typically isn’t possible in a traditional setting. Parents are also able to control their student’s learning environment, ensuring a safe and stimulating atmosphere.

  • First-Class Curriculum: Our program features curriculum developed by leading educational publishers. Connections Academy families receive a combination of textbooks*, online textbooks, workbooks, comprehensive lesson plans, and exciting enrichment courses.
  • Exceptional Teaching: Texas Connections Academy’s professional teachers work one-on-one with students and their parents to instruct, review assignments, and customize the curriculum. Our teachers provide extra help for struggling or gifted students.
  • State-of-the-Art Technology: Families receive online communication, planning, and learning management tools; online lessons and library resources; and technology literacy courses. Families are responsible for providing their student a computer and subsidy for Internet access.

* Availability of print textbooks varies by state and course.

Although Texas Connections Academy and homeschooling have some similar attributes, Texas Connections Academy is not homeschooling. Texas Connections Academy provides a defined set of curriculum materials that have been specifically aligned to local standards and use certified teachers to evaluate student performance, including decisions concerning the child’s grade-level promotion. All students are required to take state standardized tests, and the school is accountable to regulatory authorities for the students’ performance.

Texas Connections Academy provides a state approved curriculum and state-certified online teachers. The students are required to complete a specific amount of work at a predetermined pace and grade level, and participate in state testing to ensure that they are keeping up with state standards for a high school diploma issued through the state of Texas.

Homebound services are provided to a child for a medically relevant eligibility at the student’s home, and the student may or may not receive a shortened school day or school week, or shortened assignments. A medical doctor’s recommendation helps determine eligibility for homebound services. Because Texas Connections Academy is not homebound services, a student must be dismissed from homebound services to be eligible to participate full time at their zoned campus to enroll in this online school. If a student requires homebound services, those services are provided through their locally zoned school.

Visit the enrollment page for more information.

Please see our School Calendar for school year start and end dates.

Yes, the diploma is issued through Texas Connections Academy by Houston ISD. Texas Connections Academy has a graduation ceremony hosted by Houston ISD in a Houston ISD provided facility the weekend immediately following the last day of school for the district. In order to be eligible for a diploma in the spring, all course work and graduation requirements prescribed by the state of Texas and the Houston ISD must be fulfilled a week prior to the last day of school in the spring semester.

Tuition & Costs

The online public school program is free, including all of the books and curriculum. The only costs are the optional field trips, which are organized by your school’s community coordinators and staff, and the replenishment of some school supplies, such as printer cartridges.

No. All required books and instructional materials for courses are provided to students. Some texts are provided online, and other texts are in print form.

Curriculum

Connections Academy provides comprehensive lesson plans online and in print, along with a number of exciting elective courses. The proven curriculum incorporates materials developed by leading educational institutions, as well as lessons and other resources developed by curriculum specialists. The curriculum for each public school is aligned to the state standards.

Connections Academy offers core courses in language arts/English, mathematics, science, and social studies. The curriculum also includes art, physical education, music, home life, world languages, technology literacy, and other enrichment courses. At many schools, gifted and talented, honors, and Advanced Placement®* courses are available for students who qualify. Course offerings vary by state and grade level.

* AP® and Advanced Placement® are registered trademarks of the College Board. Used with permission.

No, Texas Connections Academy offers only the courses that have been approved to meet 100% of the TEKS alignment, iNACOL standards, and accessibility standards. Due to the time that is required to make these alignments to the curriculum, not all Connections Academy courses are currently offered in Texas. However, Connections Academy plans to continue obtaining course approval on additional courses for the students of Texas.

Teachers and Learning Coaches work closely together to create a unique learning environment and to set goals for their students’ learning. Teachers use an individualized approach to learning throughout the year called Personalized Performance Learning® (PPL), which allows them to evaluate the needs of a student and customize accordingly.

Connections Academy students often lead busy lives, and this online flexibility allows for learning when it works best. Students will need to be available for teacher-led LiveLesson® sessions, but are able to choose how to arrange their free time in between. For some students, scheduling breaks in between lessons may be the answer to optimized learning. For others, leaving time for extracurricular activities is key. Check out the Connections Academy blog to see some examples of sample schedules.

Yes, the Texas Virtual School Network has evaluated and approved all of Texas Connections Academy @ Houston’s courses for grades 3–12. The College Board has also reviewed and approved all of the Advance Placement courses offered at Texas Connections Academy @ Houston. Texas Connections Academy @ Houston offers several courses that student athletes may use towards eligibility requirements set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Eligibility Center as well.

Region 10 Education Service Center has approved Texas Connections Academy professional development for teachers who are new to the school. Participating in professional development qualifies them to meet the requirements of Texas Statute Chapter 30A, which governs online teacher professional development requirements. In addition and in accordance with public school standards, Texas Connections Academy also receives an annual accountability rating from Texas Education Agency.

Texas Connections Academy is committed to provide students, regardless of disability, with an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the school’s education program, as required by federal law. We provide students with accessibility through resources tailored to each student’s individual abilities and needs, including assistive technologies and individualized support. If your student is in need of assistance in order to fully participate in Texas Connections Academy’s education program, please contact the school’s Special Population Department at 713-568-6864. You can also obtain 24-hour technical support by calling the Accessibility Hotline at 888-639-5960.

Texas Connections Academy provides a print-rich, rigorous curriculum to help your student work on lessons that are on grade level or above. Texas Connections Academy is a part of the Houston Independent School District, and the district has the continuum of services and supports, but this one school does not have all the supports and programs that are available at your zoned school. Texas Connections Academy does not have a slower-paced nor an alternative curriculum. If you have any questions, please contact the school’s Special Population Department at 713-568-6864.

The curriculum that is approved to be used in this online school is not an alternate nor slower-paced curriculum. The curriculum is a challenging, grade level or above, reading-intensive curriculum. While our school district has the continuum of services and supports, this one school does not.

The answer depends on the accommodations that are identified on the student's 504 Plan or ARD/IEP document. While the virtual environment is a great program for many students and some accommodations naturally occur with this learning method, some are not possible through a virtual school.

For special education students, an ARD/IEP committee meeting will be held within the first 30 school days of enrollment. The committee is responsible for determining the accommodations needed for the student to make educational progress, and if those accommodations can be provided in the virtual environment. If the ARD committee determines that Texas Connections Academy does not have the levels of support the student needs, the committee may recommend that the student will be withdrawn from Texas Connections Academy in favor of more appropriate schooling options.

For students that have a 504 Plan, a meeting will be scheduled to review what accommodations the student needs in the virtual environment. Texas Connections Academy staff will advise the parents on what can and cannot be accommodated from your student's current ARD/IEP or 504 Plan during a consultation prior to moving forward with enrollment. The consultation may include a recommendation pursue a more appropriate schooling option.

The Texas Connections Academy staff is available to talk with you, review your student's services, and consult with you on the services available at this school. We will make every effort to fully inform parents of the services and/or supports that are available for special service students in this 100% virtual environment. If you have any questions, please contact the school’s Special Population Department at 713-568-6864.

Texas Connections Academy is a text-rich environment where instruction and student management system are delivered in English. Students that scored Advanced or Advanced High on the TELPAS the previous school year generally are able to participate successfully in this online curriculum.

Yes, students are required to complete the full course by the end of the semester and/or year. Students who enroll late in the semester are assigned all lessons in the course. If the student attended school prior to enrolling in Texas Connections Academy, the teacher may skip lessons if they can verify mastery of the course-specific Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Yes. When you complete the agreement to enroll in Texas Connections Academy, part of the agreement states that all students are expected to participate in state testing at one of the Texas Connections Academy testing sites. The state testing site may be located within a 2 hour (or less) driving range from the student’s residence. It is parent’s responsibility to make travel arrangements to get the student to state testing for all testing days. An adult is required to walk the student into (and out of) the test site and show their ID each test day. Lack of transportation or being unable to take time off from work are not excused reasons for being absent from state testing, so advanced planning is encouraged. If the family would like to “opt out of state testing” a different schooling option should be considered.

Enrollment

Visit the enrollment page to get started!

Connections Academy’s Academic Placement Services team uses academic records to place students in courses that are the best fit for them.

Connections Academy is comfortable with a ratio of 4:1 (four children to one Learning Coach). An additional adult serving as Learning Coach is recommended for more than 4 students in a household. In the event that the additional adult is not a parent or legal guardian, a Designated Learning Coach Agreement must be completed by both the parent/legal guardian and Designated Learning Coach.

Check the enrollment page to find the following:

  • Grades offered.
  • The age that a child must be to start school in your state.
  • The acceptable proof of age documents in your state.
  • Any geographical restrictions for attending in your state.
  • The acceptable proof of residency documents in your state.
  • Restrictions for submitting immunization documentation.
  • Types of immunizations (shots) your student must have for enrollment.
  • Prior public schooling limitations.
  • Supporting documentation.
  • Types of documentation that may apply to your student that may need to be submitted.

 

Students who are 18 or over must meet age eligibility requirements in their state. Students must also submit academic documentation of all courses attempted since entering the 9th grade. Academic documentation will be reviewed by a school counselor to determine the student's eligibility to complete the program requirements before meeting the age cap for enrollment. Students who cannot complete the program requirements before meeting the age cap for enrollment are not eligible to enroll.

Both emancipated minors and students 18 years and older are required to complete the Parent/Legal Guardian (Caretaker) Acknowledgement (PLCA) form and to provide all required enrollment documentation before the student can enroll. Emancipated minors must also submit court documentation for their emancipation. Please contact the Enrollment Team at 800-382-6010 for more information.

The term "Learning Coach" is used to represent the role that the enrolling parent/guardian plays in the student’s educational experience. The enrolling parent/guardian chooses to serve as the "Learning Coach" which may include working closely with the teacher to ensure assignments are completed, schedules are met, and students are engaged and motivated. The parent/guardian may designate another trusted adult to act as a Learning Coach by completing the Designated Learning Coach online form.

You will have access to Connexus®, our education management system, at any time of the day including weekends and holiday breaks. This level of flexibility helps you to design a learning day that works best for your family.

Communication is the most important element in succeeding with online learning. If you or your student experience any problems along the way, contact us immediately. Many kinds of support are available for students and families, including enrollment help, computer/technical support, academic assistance, and school counselor support. We are ready and willing to assist you—give us a call or send us a WebMail message. Communication is key throughout your entire experience with Connections Academy.

Local schools serve one district. Connections Academy serves students from multiple districts statewide. Not all districts statewide accept the same documentation.

Connections Academy schools operate like any other public school. Therefore, our schools must comply with the same state regulations. Specific documents are required for all enrolling students.

During the enrollment process, submission of academic documentation such as a report card, unofficial transcript, schedule, or current progress report, helps to ensure that your student has an accurate and personalized course placement to start with Connections Academy.

As a parent/legal guardian you may request copies of the student's most recent report card or unofficial transcript, IEP documentation, birth certificate, and immunization record from their file. DO NOT withdraw from your current school or request a complete copy of the student's cumulative file prior to completing the enrollment process, as this information will be requested from the student’s previous school upon completion of the enrollment process.

That depends on you. The sooner you complete online enrollment forms and submit the required documents, the sooner your student will be enrolled. It typically takes two weeks or more to complete the entire enrollment process.

TIP: Log in to your caretaker homepage daily to review the student’s enrollment status and the verification of documents you submit.

Our process is streamlined to minimize any inconvenience to you while still meeting state regulations. Refer to the Enrollment Instructions document for some tips to help you keep the process moving.

After submitting your documents, you can navigate to the Submit Documents section located in the Enrollment Details. There you can see if your documents have been verified or are still waiting to be processed. The Enrollment Details will also show if your file was marked invalid and your document will be removed so that you can upload a new document. If you are unable to verify the status of your documents or have any questions, please call 800-382-6010 and contact the Enrollment Team using the document submission option in our phone system. We will check the system to see if the document was received. Please be prepared to provide us with the following information: student’s name, number of pages sent, the date sent, and if sent by fax, the fax number.

After you have confirmed your student's enrollment with Connections Academy, you should withdraw your child from your previous/local school immediately—preferably the same day. Delaying withdrawal could result in confusion, extra documentation, or cancellation of enrollment.

Do not withdraw your student before confirming your student’s enrollment, as this may result in additional documentation being required (e.g. report card). Delays in submitting these documents could result in delays starting school.

You can change your information by logging into Connexus. On your caretaker homepage, click on the "Change Contact Information" link. Or, you can notify the student’s teacher who can submit the change for you.

In order to update a parent or student name, Connections Academy will need a copy of the legal name change documentation such as an amended birth certificate, marriage certificate or court order. Please submit this documentation to the Enrollment Department. If students use a preferred name and/or gender that differs from the legal name and gender, you can reach out to your school counselor or principal to make that request once students become enrolled.

We recommend that you set scheduling goals during the first three weeks of your student’s transition to virtual school to help ensure success. Your student’s homeroom teacher will be available to assist you throughout this time. If Texas Connections Academy online school is not the right school for your child, you can withdraw from Texas Connections Academy and enroll in another schooling option.

First, your student must be “stage 4/enrolled” in Connexus® so that your learning materials can be shipped. Your student will remain in stage 4 until start up tasks are completed. Startup tasks must be completed within five days of starting school, and then your student will be officially enrolled in Houston ISD. To complete startup tasks, you and your student must: verify your courses, talk to a teacher, complete orientations, accept the honor code, and begin instruction. If the student does not complete startup tasks within the first five days, the student will be withdrawn from Connexus and will not be enrolled in Houston ISD.

All students who meet the eligibility requirements have the right to enroll. However, for special education students, an ARD/IEP committee meeting will be held within 30 school days after enrollment in the Houston Independent School District (HISD) to review placement and the program. They will either agree that the placement is appropriate, or may decide that the student cannot be appropriately served at Texas Connections Academy and should be withdrawn for a more appropriate placement. Students who are withdrawn as a result of an ARD/IEP committee decision will be given an option to enroll in an appropriate Houston ISD school or program.

Socialization

Every year, we ask Texas Connections Academy families to rate our program. This year, once again, parents who completed online school reviews gave us high marks for helping students succeed academically and personally. See the results of the latest Parent Satisfaction Survey.

Just like in a bricks-and-mortar school, the most successful students have parents who are involved in their education. We recommend that a parent or other trusted adult serve as a Learning Coach to support the student’s learning. Each family does this differently, and the role largely depends on the age of the student. For instance, students in high school are encouraged to work more independently, whereas elementary-age students will need more support while completing lessons. Some of the ways families may support learning include providing daily structure, communicating with teachers, and helping students stay on track.

Throughout a student’s education, Connections Academy teachers take the lead in ensuring student success. When first getting started, the Connections Academy Family Support Program provides ample resources to help families become acquainted with the online learning structure. Learn more about the responsibilities of a Learning Coach.

Yes. We understand the importance of students and parents interacting with others in the program and in the community. There are a number of opportunities for you to take part in activities, both online and in person. Community coordinators and school staff plan field trips, special projects, and group meetings with other families in your area. Online discussion groups and the private email system allow you to communicate with other students or parents from all Connections Academy schools.

Additionally, Connections Academy’s Club Connections brings together families across the country who are reaching out to their local communities to spread the word about Connections Academy.

We connect currently enrolled caretakers, parents, and families so they can:

  • Engage and interact with other caretakers through our Facebook group.
  • Promote their school virtually and within your community using digital resources and promotional items.
  • Advocate for school choice by supporting legislative efforts and referring new families.

Yes, Texas Connections Academy hosts a prom in the spring. We offer junior and senior students who meet certain academic criteria the opportunity to participate in prom.

Technology Requirements

The amount of time a student spends on the computer varies by grade. Younger students spend approximately 15–30%, middle school students spend about 50–75%, and high school students spend about 80–90% of their school day working on the computer.*

* Time on the computer may vary based on the use of print textbooks or online textbooks. The availability of print textbooks varies by state and course.

Students and Learning Coaches do not need advanced computer skills to attend Connections Academy. Through our Learning Coach Success series, parents are given the opportunity to attend a variety of sessions on subjects about anything from becoming acquainted with technology, to where to find resources in Connexus®, our education management system. We also provide a technology literacy program that aids students in developing additional skills.

There are some specific software requirements necessary to use Connexus, our online education management system. Please refer to the Computer Requirements page for complete details.

Safety

Connections Academy knows that for students to achieve at the highest levels, they need not only a great academic program, but also the freedom to learn in a safe and comfortable setting. Parents and Learning Coaches also play a key role in creating this environment to ensure their child’s well-being. Below are some of the most important resources Connections Academy provides to ensure that students are safe and focused on learning:

Throughout a student’s education, Connections Academy teachers take the lead in ensuring student success. When first getting started, the Connections Academy Family Support Program provides ample resources to help families become acquainted with the online learning structure. Learn more about the responsibilities of a Learning Coach.

  • All Connections Academy–provided computers are equipped with heightened Internet security settings and Internet filtering software that can be activated upon request by calling the Technical Support line at 800-382-6010. If you are using your own computer, Technical Support can help you configure Internet security settings and find additional Internet filtering software.
  • We provide an Internet safety course for students, parents, and Learning Coaches. The course contains valuable information about practicing safe behaviors online. This course is also required training for all Connections Academy school staff.
  • Staff trainings regarding student safety are a critical part of the Connections Academy professional development plan. The Connections Academy course Students in Distress: Recognizing and Responding is designed to help teachers and other school staff become familiar with the signs of distress, such as from bullying/cyberbullying, neglect and abuse, or depression, or other problems that would keep students from doing their best. The course also teaches them how to respond promptly and professionally.
  • Regular required contact between teachers and students helps teachers get to know each student individually. Educators who know their students are better able to note behaviors or attitudes that may indicate problems.
  • Connections Academy strictly prohibits any form of bullying/cyberbullying, harassment, hazing, or other destructive actions that may cause emotional and/or physical harm to students. School policies regarding these prohibited behaviors are documented in the School Handbook: General Portion and the state-specific School Handbook Supplement.
  • Each Connections Academy course contains a summary of web links so parents and Learning Coaches can quickly and easily note any links that they may not wish to have their student access.

Under Texas law, anyone who thinks a child, or person 65 years or older, or an adult with disabilities is being abused, neglected, or exploited must report it to Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). To make a report, call DFPS’s 24-hour hotline at 800-252-5400. When you report suspected abuse it enables families to get the help they need.

Bajo la ley de Texas, el que piense que un niño o una persona de 65 años o más, o un adulto con discapacidad es víctima de abuso, descuido o explotación debe reportarlo al Departamento de Familia y Servic http://www.houstonisd.org/Domain/21141 ios de Protección (DFPS). Para reportar la sospecha de abuso, negligencia o explotación, llame a la línea de 24 horas del DFPS al 800-252-5400. Cuando informe sobre la sospecha de abuso que permite a las familias a obtener la ayuda que necesitan.

The McKinney-Vento Act ensures educational rights and protections for children, youth and families experiencing homelessness. Under this act, various living situations may be considered homelessness and may qualify the child, youth or family for certain services. The Houston Independent School District's Homeless Education Office - Project S.A.F.E. (Student Assistance Family Empowerment) provides assistance to students and families that are living in a homeless situation or that are in transition. To learn more about available services, please visit the Houston Independent School District website.

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