“The checklist really goes into specifics, asking questions about scheduling options and flexibility, handbooks, and how issues will be resolved between the program and the student/parent, what the testing policy is, and how grading will be conducted—aspects that really delve deep into finding a good-fit program,” said Fernandez.
The guide also notes that not all accrediting agencies are equal.
The authors say there is no simple formula for determining whether a school’s accreditation is valid, and many of the more than 200 private accrediting organizations in the U.S. have low standards—making the value of their accreditation “questionable.”
Regional accrediting agencies that are the most widely accepted are the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Northwest Association of Accredited Schools, Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and Advancing Excellence in Education (AdvancED), the guide says.
The guide offers checklists to help parents determine whether the credits from an online learning program are transferable, how effective such programs are, how appropriate the curriculum might be for their children, and what kinds of opportunities for socialization are available.
“Another important aspect that the guide asks parents to consider is the availability of future planning,” said Amy La Grasta, school counselor for the Florida Virtual School. “For example, are there advisement opportunities? Are there any kinds of college or career planning resources? Are there any scholarships or financial aide? Do students learn study skills and time management?”
Though the many options might seem overwhelming, “asking questions, comparing programs, and making sure you understand what is expected of your child and your family will help you make the best decision possible,” said Carrie Jean Ross, manager of parent support and outreach for Connections Academy and a parent of two online learners. “Questions get the conversation started, and sometimes that’s the hardest part.”
“A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Right Online Program” (PDF)
Promising Practices in Online Learning
National Coalition for Public School Options
Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families
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