Public schools have jumped on the bandwagon of providing distance education for students all over the country. Slowly cropping up on a state-by-state basis are virtual schools. Many families are unfamiliar with exactly what a virtual school is. In essence, virtual schools are distance education schools run by the public school system within a state. They offer instruction through web-based applications that students complete at home. They are responsible for any state testing requirements and the virtual school keeps regular records of academic achievement.
States with virtual schools offer curriculum for students in grades kindergarten through twelfth. Depending upon the state, some virtual schools currently offer virtual education for middle and high school students. A few states claim to offer virtual schools for the complete K-12 scope. Many schools offer a complete curriculum, while others that are still in the developmental phase offer a few classes in many different subjects. Double check with the virtual school you are interested in on whether or not they offer a diploma. Some schools will offer a full curriculum, but do not include the diploma.
Some states with virtual schools include: Florida, Michigan, Louisiana, and Missouri. Virtual schools may or may not charge tuition. If the school is funded by the state, then classes will be funded for students. Some states charge tuition just like a private school would. Most of the virtual schools available allow students from other states to enroll. This allows students in states without virtual schools to take advantage of distance education. Tuition will be higher for students who enroll in an out of state virtual school.
Virtual schools are held to the same high standard as regular public schools. Instructors are certified teachers who work only for the virtual school, or work for the virtual school as part of their contract with the school district. Virtual schools work hard to provide high school students with similar school life experiences. Some schools offer high school clubs students can join once they are enrolled in the virtual school. Some of those clubs include the international club, foreign language club, science club and even virtual school newspapers for future journalists. The school may even offer an online science fair students participate in and win. In addition, since virtual schools are technically public online schools, students may be eligible to play sports. Each district will vary on their acceptance of virtual school students for sports, so call the district and ask about their policy before you enroll a sports loving student.
There is some confusion among parents on whether or not virtual schools are homeschools. In essence, virtual schools are not homeschools. Virtual schools consider students to be public school students and get state money for their enrollment. The school keeps all records and requires that students meet state testing requirements.
Many states do not require testing or records for homeschooled students, so virtual school students are still under control of the public school system. If you are looking to leave government controlled education, then virtual schools would not be the answer. If you are looking for a way to keep your child safe at home while still getting an excellent education, then virtual schools may just be the answer for you.