Thursday, April 12, 2012

South Carolina’s K-12 Online Programs Provide Viable Education Alternatives for the Future

By Estelle Shumann

For parents looking for alternatives to America’s public schooling system, the future has finally arrived in the form of public magnet and charter schools as well as innovations in online education. Online schooling, K-12 education in particular, holds out real possibilities for educational choices that are responsive to individual needs and schedules, can offer high quality education, flexible study plans, and student success. South Carolina students and parents have numerous programs to choose from, all of which are tuition free to residents through the State’s Charter School Program.

Many parents have long recognized that the one-size-fits-all approach of the typical classroom isn’t quite right for their own children. Some children find additional enrichment in sports, cultural activities, mission work, or performing arts, which all makes regular school attendance difficult. Other students seek a more personalized education experience. While many parents have turned to ‘home schooling’ to provide their students with an education, there are challenges involved in researching the curriculum and dealing with ‘parent as teacher’ obstacles.

The newest online education programs approved by the South Carolina Public School Charter District, combine the best teaching practices and quality curriculum; with the flexibility of a virtual study program. Parents don’t need to become experts in every subject or ‘go it alone.’ The programs provide certified teachers and daily interaction in real time. What this means is that a student in a certified virtual K-12 school in South Carolina has real teachers and daily classroom interaction. On the Internet students have the opportunity to engage in classroom discussions, complete assignments and tests, as well as participate in collaborative age appropriate research and learning projects.

Schools like the South Carolina Connections Academy (SCCA) even offer many opportunities for student social interaction, through a plethora of interesting fun clubs, such as: art, books, brain teasers, chess, debate, environment, math, pen pals, robotics, science fair, student leadership, and student newspaper, among others. They also hold regular age group field trips, to study natural and cultural history, geology, or just for the fun of getting together with friends. This makes for a richer school experience all around, and allows students the opportunity to socialize with classmates in person.

Another option is the South Carolina Virtual Charter School (SCVCS), which uses an award winning k-12 curriculum. As required by South Carolina law, classes are taught online by certified teachers, and students have not only self-guided study work, but 25% of the curriculum is fully interactive in real time. Like the SCCA, SCVCS offers plenty of clubs, activities and trips for students to get together, have fun and learn at the same time.

But the question uppermost in parents’ minds is, “Will my child learn?” Studies have shown that students in these programs exceed statewide average reading scores at every grade level. Online virtual students have been accepted into prestigious colleges, and they graduate with real diplomas certified by South Carolina, the equivalent of students at ‘brick and mortar’ schools. Online students at these schools can also take AP or accelerated courses, and participate in special academic projects, like robotics and science fairs, right alongside their peers in regular schools. The only limitation to their potential academic success is talent and drive. Both of which seem to be in abundance as virtual school students land prestigious scholarships and national awards.

Online virtual schools like these, clearly offer parents an educational choice that is worth considering.

Estelle Shumann is a writer interested in a wide range of educational methods. Having played several instruments and been exposed to many art forms in her childhood, she finds that solving the education puzzle today requires more than a large budget. She currently writes and researches about online education.


kkollwitz said...

One of my kids attended a SC charter with positive results.

Jennifer said...

Great info