North Texas Districts’ Online Summer School Clicks for Teens
By Katherine Leal Unmuth, The Dallas Morning News
Jul. 4–Squeezing summer school between a job as a lifeguard and a community college class means a busy schedule for 18-year-old Kody Jackson.
And like a growing number of area teens, he’s turning to online summer school to finish his high school graduation requirements.
“It doesn’t matter when you’re online, whether it’s at 7 a.m. or 12 at night, it’s just on your own schedule, which is really convenient,” said Mr. Jackson, who attends Newman Smith High School in Carrollton and is taking a health class online. “But generally, I try to do it in the middle of the day, when it’s too hot to do anything else.”
Some students have taken the flexibility to the max. Another Carrollton-Farmers Branch student is visiting family in Sweden this summer while taking her gym course online.
About 200 students have taken advantage of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district’s online high school. Other courses include physical education, communications and business computer information systems. The online school started about a year ago and recently expanded its options.
The district is among a handful of local school systems that have started online courses in recent years, including Irving, Lewisville and McKinney. The Plano school district’s eSchool is one of the largest and longest-running online schools in the state. ESchool offers courses to Plano ISD students as well as students who live elsewhere.
As with traditional summer courses, students pay tuition. Districts offer required courses for graduation, core courses and credit recovery classes for students who have failed classes.
The Texas Education Agency does not track how many districts offer online courses or how many students are enrolled. Summer is a popular time for students to jump online and grab the courses they need to graduate, said North American Council for Online Learning President Susan Patrick.
“The format lets the students move through the material faster,” she said.
Next spring, the state plans to start offering courses to high school students through the Texas Virtual School Network. State officials say they wanted to create a central location for classes that are deemed to meet certain quality standards.
Kate Loughrey, TEA’s director of distance learning, said new requirements that high school students take four years of math and science will probably mean more students will turn to online courses to free up their schedules.
“Students are finding themselves in the bind of, ‘How do I fit in all the courses I need, plus the electives I want?’ ” she said.
That was the situation for Mr. Jackson. He wanted to make room in his schedule for Advanced Placement chemistry, orchestra and tennis next year.
“I wanted to be able to pursue my interests instead of wasting a class period on an easy class,” he said.
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