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At the end of the 2015-2016 school year, 3.3 million seniors are expected to graduate high school in the United States. A majority will graduate from a public school or private school. The rest, a small percentage, will earn their diploma online.
Online high schools are becoming more prominent in America as technology becomes more common in everyday life. In Colorado, there are over 20 online high schools, and most of them are public. Districts like Denver Public Schools, Jefferson County, and Douglas County all have their own online schools. As of 2015, there are 1.3 million K-12 students that participate in online schooling nationwide, and as many as 30 states fund online school programs.
For many students, online school is a chance at redemption after dropping out of regular school. Former online teacher Karina Doyle said, “ We get the kids who were suspended, expelled, and in juvenile detention. We get 9th graders who are 18.” When discussing the graduation rates at online high schools, Doyle said, “Graduation rates for [online] high school students are remarkably low. If a student was doing well in school to begin with, they wouldn’t have come to us.”
Online schools are also for students who are busier with activities other than school. Doyle called it “ school on your own schedule” and added, “all of these things would cause absence in an 8:00am to 3:00pm school, but our kids can [do work] on evenings and weekends.” It gives the students and teachers more time to themselves, because the length of the day depends on how long it takes a student to complete the work.
Students who choose to go to online schools are often isolated all day long. Mrs. Doyle says that may not be that great: “Parents know that if we see a student in school with bruises, we are required by law to report that to social services. If a student tells us they are being abused, we must report it…Abusers would have a much easier time hiding the abuse if the child attended online school.” said Doyle.
Doyle also stated that for how online schooling can be a social place too, “we had great opportunities to meet kids at the Colorado Capital, Denver Mint, NCAR, NOAA, Air Force Academy, and many others.” Since the students don’t usually meet their teachers face-to-face, they have the opportunity to at these outings.
Online schools are only given 30% the funding of regular schools, and all of the funding is spent on the students. Doyle said that her school provides each student with a laptop and basic internet connection to be able to do their work.
The main thing online students get in trouble for is plagiarism. The technology allows easy access and, the exclusion of being at home is tempting for some students. However, Doyle explained that the punishments are much like Creek’s. The first assignment that has been plagiarized results in a zero, and eventually can escalate to a suspension or expulsion depending on the severity and amount.
Most online schools are for-profit. For example, one of Colorado’s largest online K12 schools is the Colorado Virtual Academy which is run, owned, and operated by K12 Incorporated. K12 Incorporated is a for profit company that is based in Virginia. All of their schools provide the same courses and offer as many as 150 online classes.