Parents have myriad choices when it comes to online high schools for their kids and need to explore their options carefully.
Recent advancements in technology have paved the way for alternative learning options. Online high schools are growing in popularity among families who, for varied reasons, desire other methods of education aside from the traditional classroom-style setting for their children. With the help of various Internet tools such as email, chat and conference software, students gain access to curriculum and instruction at their own pace, even from remote locations.
Not all online high schools are created equal, and some have better programs than others. Parents should consider a variety of factors when choosing the best online high school for their child.
Important Features of Online High Schools
In order to ensure that your child earns a valid high school diploma, you must thoroughly check if the online high schools you are considering are accredited at the national, regional and/or state level. This means that they are operating in compliance with federal regulations.
- National Accreditation – The Distance Education Accrediting Commission is the most recognized among the several known national accrediting bodies for virtual high schools.
- Regional Accreditation – This is the most common accreditation when it comes to online high schools, with the Western Accreditation of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI), as some of the most trusted.
- State Accreditation – Just like their traditional counterparts, some online high schools are public schools and are accredited by the state in which they are located.
Depending on what your child needs, look for virtual high schools that offer:
- Honors/AP Classes – For gifted students who wish to earn college credit prior to starting college.
- Technical Training Classes – For students who want access to training on specific areas of interest.
- No Curriculum – For students who wish to obtain a diploma based on real life and work experiences.
Different Ways to Earn Credit
- Credit for Experience – This feature is most attractive and helpful for older students as it allows them to earn credit for life and work experience.
- College Credit – Some online high schools allow students to earn college credit for their high school courses. The credit they earn can be used, not just towards earning a high school diploma, but a college degree as well.
- Transfer Credit – Some online high schools recognize and allow credit earned by the students from other accredited high schools to be transferred.
The support that students receive from others in their circle contributes to their success in an online high school setting.
- Academic Counselors – These counselors work with families to design a plan that will meet the needs of the students and help them achieve their goals.
- Peer Support – Another important component in the students’ development is social interaction with other learners and this is achieved through chat rooms, forums and social media, as well as face-to-face community events, such as field trips, sporting events, and more.
- Teacher Support – In many cases, students can get more one-on-one support from teachers in online high schools than in the traditional classroom setting.
The terms of payment can be one of the biggest considerations for families, and online high schools offer different types of payment options.
- Free Tuition – Families can save money by looking for online public high schools which do not charge tuition fees.
- Flexible Course Purchase – If your child only needs supplemental course work, look for online high schools that accept payment for individual courses.
- Financing – There are virtual high schools that offer financing to students.
- Scholarships – Some online high schools offer scholarships to students who need assistance with tuition and equipment expenses.
Top 5 Online High Schools for 2017
- K12 Inc. – Known as the largest online school company, K12 school offers one-on-one, individually-tailored lessons to students from kindergarten through high school.
- Laurel Springs High School – Accredited by several agencies, Laurel Springs High School was established in 1991, offering a complete selection of academic and elective courses required for graduation and admission to the students’ college of choice.
- The Keystone School – Offering more than 170 courses from credit recovery to world languages and AP, The Keystone School provides flexible education programs to students, whether they need full-time education or individual classes.
- James Madison High School – An average of 2,500 traditional age-students, adult learners and homeschoolers graduate from James Madison High School. It is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
- Connections Academy – A tuition-free, fully accredited, K12 online public school, Connections Academy believes in personalized attention and connection, with the students, families and staff working together to give students all the tools they need to reach their goals.