Stocking up on supplies. Buying new clothes. Gearing up for the return of a weekday routine. Back-to-school season has started, and for many Texas families, that means facing one of the most important decisions they will make: selecting the right school—and setting—for their child.
Here in the Lone Star State, a 2022 Stride survey indicated 57% of Texas parents say they have concerns about the quality of education their children receive in public school. The survey further found that Texas parents rank their top three priorities when selecting a school as: quality of teachers (71%), safety (65%), and learning support (62%).
Coupled with the recent surge in Covid-19 infections across Texas, it’s no wonder more parents and families are increasingly reliant on virtual tools to connect, work, transact and more. With the educational landscape ever evolving, virtual learning has emerged as a unique and versatile way to meet the needs of learners and their parents.
A Flexible Option
The brick-and-mortar school model serves many students well. But it isn’t the perfect solution for every learner. Each student has an individual learning style, and each family has different commitments.
Online schools allow enrolled students to learn at their own pace and on their own terms. Most follow a mix of virtual lessons and offline activities that can be tailored to each learner. Students can study at home or wherever there’s an internet connection. This eliminates the need for long commutes, leaving more time for learning. And students can engage with materials when they are most receptive, choosing how much time is necessary to focus on each lesson.
For some students, this represents a chance to learn in the setting that is most productive and supportive for them. For students with physical and mental health challenges, or intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs), it opens up opportunities that simply would not be possible within a traditional classroom.
A Tailored Academic Journey
One of the pervasive myths about online schools is that they lack the rigor of a public education. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Stride K12-powered charter schools in Texas offer a public education program that operates outside the traditional classroom.
As such, students must meet all the same requirements as they would in a brick-and-mortar. That includes spending a certain amount of time engaged in schoolwork each day and logging the state-required number of instructional days per year. Perhaps most importantly, students need to take the same standardized tests mandated by the State as those in a traditional classroom setting.
At Texas Online Preparatory School (TOPS), Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville (TVAH), Lone Star Online Academy at Roscoe (LSOA), Digital Academy of Texas (DATX) and FaithPrep Texas, students follow a challenging, interactive curriculum that blends hands-on exercises with live virtual sessions led by state-certified teachers. As students get older, they also have access to a growing pool of electives, along with field-specific career preparation.
The data shows that this model works. In a recent survey, 74% of K12-educated graduates indicated that they felt optimistic about their career direction. In comparison, only 56% of students who attended a brick-and-mortar school said the same.
Socialization and Safety
Whether families are selecting their child’s first school or weighing a change in format, a school is more than just a place to learn, it’s a community. For many parents of virtual learners, online schooling represents a way to augment opportunities for both education and fun.
Virtual schools let students tap into a network of peers across the state, allowing them to forge connections and explore new perspectives. Students in Texas’ Stride K12 schools learn core social and collaboration skills through group projects, clubs and team-based exercises. In addition, they can participate in academic and social activities, such as educational trips to museums, parks and zoos.
Online schooling also provides time and space to foster crucial familial ties. When parents or guardians take a more active role in a child’s education, it can enable stronger partnerships between students, educators and families. This expands a student’s support system, allowing everyone to work together toward success.
The familiar setting can be highly empowering, too. Home is — for many students — the place where they feel the greatest degree of comfort, safety and acceptance. Avoiding stressful and distracting environments can give learners the best chance at achieving their objectives.
Embracing the Digital Age
The beginning of a new semester is a time to start afresh, set goals and plan for the future. For parents and families looking for an option that goes beyond the traditional classroom, virtual schooling can offer advantages found nowhere else. Students have the flexibility to learn at their pace, and access to a curriculum that will push them to go above and beyond. Meanwhile, parents can participate more fully in their child’s academic journey.
Because virtual schools are, by definition, technology-enabled, they can also better equip students to thrive in the digital age. The tools and platforms students utilize in online schools often provide them with a digital fluency that surpasses that of their peers—something that will serve them well in higher education and work.
As thousands of families across Texas embark on a new school year, the online classroom represents a dynamic and innovative alternative for today’s learners.
Discover virtual schooling options tailored to your child’s needs. Learn more about K12-powered Texas schools on their website.