What are the ideal qualities for an online highschool?

If you are considering enrolling your middle or high-school student in an online highschool, here are some things you should look for:

  • Accreditation.  Make sure the online school is accredited.  Otherwise after your student has done 4 or more years of hard work and has reached graduation day, they may be unpleasantly surprised to find out that no college or university will accept the transcript.  If the online high school is not accredited, even branches of the U.S. military may not accept their transcripts.
  • Accreditation, by an accepted authority.  You need to ask what organization has issued the accreditation, and make sure that the accrediting agency is accepted by colleges and universities.  This means one of the agencies listed on the US Department of Education website, which is usually one of the “six” regional accreditation agencies (NEAC, SACS, etc) or one of their designees (such as AdvancED).  If the school is accredited by a non-recognized agency, the accreditation has no meaning, and you are back at square 1.
  • Low teacher-student ratios.  Some online schools have 100 or 200 students in a class.  In these schools, your student is just a number, and will be lost in the crowd.  Pick a school where students get to know their teachers.
  • Personalized service.  Especially if your student is enrolling in an online school for the first time.  Not all students initially have the self-discipline and motivation necessary to function well in an online environment.  In many cases, this can be overcome, if it is detected, through additional coaching and mentoring of the student.  You want a school that will detect if your student is having problems, take the appropriate actions to help your student and notify you immediately.  You also want a school where you can talk to someone in a position of responsibility when you call.
  • Wide selection of core courses and electives.  A good online school offers the full range of core courses (English, math, science, history/social studies) at multiple levels (AP, Honors, College Prep, Career, Remedial) that is comprehensive (includes biology, chemistry, physics, pre-calc) and has a wide range of electives, including languages.
  • Flexible.  Choose a school that will be responsive to your needs and your students needs.  A good school will let you begin and end the school year when you want, and will allow your student to work at their own pace.  A good school will allow your student to move up or down in level of difficulty (from College Prep to Honors, or vice versa)as required by your student.  A good school will take your students individual needs, goals and environment into consideration, and will set up an educational program that is just right for them.
  • Complete service offering – A good online school will offer a complete program, including teaching, grading, record-keeping and issuance of diplomas without making you engage with another organization to make up for defects in their service offering.
  • Reasonable pricing – Look for an online school that is reasonably and competitively priced.