Parents are increasingly looking beyond the traditional public school system for options for their children, with many settling on flexible and digital learning options such as online charter schools. Such is the case in Georgia, where almost 4,000 students recently enrolled at Georgia Connections Academy, the tuition-free, public virtual charter school for K-12 students in every county, for the 2016-17 school year.
The new school is year is set to begin just days after the release of the school's Parent Satisfaction Survey, which found that 91% of parents would recommend the Academy to other parents looking for a program for their children.
"Georgia Connections Academy gives my children more classroom and curriculum choices, while giving me the opportunity to be more involved in their schooling," said parent Angela Ray.
The curriculum and teachers also received high marks from parents, as 94% of parents stated the curriculum is high-quality and 95% of parents said the teachers were helpful to the needs of their children. A separate independent Student Satisfaction Survey found 91% of students in grades K-12 to be happy with the online program. In addition, 92% of respondents said the technology tools offered by the school has helped to further their child's education.
Parents noted a number of reasons for enrolling their children in a virtual public charter school. These reasons include needing greater flexibility, needing a change from their local school, and the desire for a safe learning environment.
"Sometimes students need a break from the traditional brick-and-mortar setting and find that a virtual public charter school can help them catch up or take a break from the day-to-day peer pressures of school," said Georgia Connections Academy Executive Director Heather J. Robinson. "We provide a change of mindset."
On a national level, a recent public opinion poll supported by Connections Education found 76% of Americans support online learning options and 67% of participants said online schools were poised to provide better personalized education to each student based on their individual needs.
Meanwhile, a recent investigation performed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and several additional studies all suggest that students who attend computer-based virtual schools do not perform as highly as their peers who are enrolled in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Georgia Cyber Academy, the largest online program in the state enrolling 14,200 of the 20,000 full-time students in the state, received a D on the state's report card.
However, the online industry has rejected these studies, arguing that research has not yet been able to give an accurate comparison of the outcomes and grades of virtual students in comparison to those who applied to the schools but did not get in. They say that such a comparison would be able to demonstrate if the poor performance is due to the students or the schools.
Over one quarter of a million K-12 students in the United States attend school completely online. In Georgia, that number has grown to almost 20,000 students in the three virtual public schools.
Authorized by the State Charter School Commission of Georgia, Georgia Connections Academy Charter School offers fully accredited public education to students in grades K-12 from anywhere in the state.