Online High School Programs|Importance of Quality
If you ask average high school students if they think the quality of their education is important, most of the students will say that education is very important but won’t fully understand why. Similar to how newly-weds have no experiential knowledge about the challenges of caring for a newborn child until they have one, most students do not realize the precise impact that the quality of their education can have on their future. This is just as true of online high school programs.
Adults have a better understanding of the importance of a quality high school education because some can see a direct link between the courses they took in high school, their college performance, and their earning potential.
The group of adults with the deepest understanding of the importance of high school education—whether in public, private, or online high school programs—may be the ones who had an unfortunate experience. Low SAT scores, denied applications, failed courses resulting in their dropping out of college, low-paying jobs, and finally unfulfilled dreams are overwhelming reminders of how their lives could have been different or easier if they had only received an adequate high school education. Unfortunately, I identify with this group of people. Public high school education failed me in many ways, even though I graduated with honors. I believe that stories like mine can be instructive in helping parents know what to look for in order to find the best online high school programs.
My experience began when I moved to the United States at the age of a typical 8th grader. I was put in 7th grade ESL courses because that was the standard practice. I was not given any testing even though I spoke nearly fluent English and had a strong grammar base. After a few months of the 7th grade, I asked my ESL teacher (who was also my counselor) if I could skip a grade and begin 9th grade in the fall because the material taught in all my classes was not challenging enough. Thankfully, she agreed, yet she still did not give me any appropriate testing and kept me in the 9th grade remedial math, which was equivalent to 7th-grade math. I tried telling her that in Ukraine we took Algebra I in the 7th grade and that I wanted a chance to take it in the U.S. as well. She said that things are different in the states and that she was afraid of my failing the course; she would rather make me feel successful at the lower level. After all, aren’t only advanced students capable of mastering Algebra I in the 7th grade? I dropped the case because, at least, I was officially allowed to skip a grade.
What you can learn from my experience is that you can judge the quality of online high school programs by the effort the school is willing to put in to make sure your student ends up in classes that are tailored to his or her needs.
Approaches to Teaching Literature and Writing
The second part of the 10th grade was especially exciting for me because I finally graduated from the ESL courses, which I never needed in the first place. I was thrilled to be in regular English courses and learn along with all the American kids! Sadly, I was gravely disappointed. Every six weeks, we read a different book, which was not even a classic, and then presented its content in front of the class in the form of a poster or a report. The teacher never provided instructions on how to write a proper report, stressed any mechanics or grammar, or explained how to cite sources. I realized that all those concepts were taught initially at the elementary level, so my teacher was confident that everyone in the class had already mastered those skills by the 10th grade. As she was allowed to create her curriculum, she did not want to bother with the technicalities of specific instruction. I believe she thought that focusing on inspirational literature, such as The Green Mile, was better use of time and less boring for us students than focusing on rules and the soul-crippling mechanics of grammar.
The following year, I thought if I were to take an English course that has the word "writing" in its title, then I will surely be taught how to write well and be prepared for college. Unfortunately, I was disappointed once again. While my creative writing received a boost from unguided daily journaling, I was not asked to write a single research paper and the concept of plagiarism was never explained to me. After all, what self-respecting teacher would jeopardize a full classroom of students engrossed in writing by trying to explain the unclear concept of paraphrasing? And what teacher wants to deal with the chaos of follow-up questions and the grading of assignments? I wish I had the option for an online program where I could be left alone and allowed to direct my own learning.
Based on this experience, you should conclude that the best online high school programs will teach and consistently reinforce the fundamental rules of grammar, writing, research, and plagiarism year after year. These skills will have a direct impact on both college and career success.
Recognizing and Responding to Boredom
What about my math and science courses? I am happy to tell you that those teachers attempted to follow a textbook and gave students adequate explanation and practice. My problem still was that I was in the math courses two levels lower than I should have been and had yet to learn new material. To kill time in class, I slept on my desk, read books, or helped other kids in the class. Sometimes, when I could not find the strength to deal with the boredom, I left campus without permission.
A key benefit of online high school programs is that it drastically reduces the potential for boredom. Because students are often able to move at their own pace through curriculum, they can spend more of their academic time where they need it most. The best online high school programs will also be responsive to boredom, altering courses and levels of teacher support to suit your student’s needs.
Sense of Urgency for Students’ Knowledge
In addition to obvious curriculum gaps and the lack of proper placement, my memories of the high school years have an overarching theme of boredom and mediocrity. Even though some of my teachers did try, I still did not feel that they had a sense of urgency to convey the material or to make sure that not one minute of the class time was lost. I also cannot recall many assignments that would stretch me and develop my academic stamina. Nor can I recall any advanced vocabulary instruction, which would have come in handy for the SAT. Instead, gnawing group work and vague projects dominate my memories.
It’s important that teachers in online high school programs truly care about helping prepare students for the future. This means that they will have a sense of urgency for students’ learning, encouraging them on an individual level and responding to questions in a timely manner.
The Impact on College Performance
The realization of how badly I was cheated by the public school system overwhelmed me during my freshman year of college when I met kids who knew how to diagram sentences, how to cite sources, and how to paraphrase. Some kids were spending weekends at the Florida beaches before the major papers were due while I was agonizing for hours at the library. Apparently, they had been taught research writing since grade nine in their private schools. There were kids in my finance courses who did not have to take (or pay for) their math prerequisites because their high school counselors had cared more about their knowledge than their self-confidence. And there I was, still at the library, trying to understand how I could have graduated with a 3.7 GPA and still be lacking the basic educational foundation that everyone else seemed to have.
Before you feel sorry for me, I wanted to tell you that my story has a happy ending. Because of God’s grace and my academic background before moving to the U.S., I never failed any college courses, and I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. I continued my academic journey and earned a master’s degree in educational administration while I taught English and math at a private school. Most importantly, my struggles birthed a tenacious passion for quality education, which I am privileged to embody daily as I work with Enlightium Academy’s faculty and staff. I am thrilled to have the ability to make sure that Enlightium Academy students are given proper testing, that teachers only add and not take away from the curriculum at their whim, and that every student is held to a high standard of writing. Because of these things, we are confident that Enlightium offers one of the highest quality accredited online high school programs available. Not one of Enlightium's students has to repeat my experience.