Online Program Improves School District

As online higher education gains popularity, online education programs are being designed for younger students and are helping to increase high school graduation rates and prepare students for college—even students who once considered dropping out of high school.

Teenage students are often unable to achieve their full potential and fall behind in school due to distraction from other classmates and social pressures, or family and job related reasons. Schools across the country are developing programs that allow their students to take a few online courses, or even earn their diploma solely online.

Northwest School district in Jackson, MI. has created two different online education programs that give high school students options. The district aims to deter its students from dropping out of school "by offering several different instruction delivery methods" to meet the needs of a greater number of students.

The graduation rate for Northwest High School was 76.4 percent last year, more than 2 percent lower than the county average. Carrie Bushinski, director of curriculum and instruction, said that the district has an obligation to perform above average and should do so because "technology has taken us [Northwest School District] to another level."

Northwest runs two online programs that aim to suit the needs of students and both programs present students with the same material that is taught in a traditional classroom. The Second Shift program is held in a school computer lab from 3 to 7 p.m. to complement online courses that students take. The organized computer lab time allows students enrolled in online courses to receive in-person instruction, though teachers say they act more as technology experts.

The second program, Seat Time Waiver, allows students to bypass laws set by the Michigan Department of Education stating that high school students may only take a maximum of two online courses. Students who complete their education entirely online are regularly contacted via email by mentors, and their coursework and exam scores are monitored by school district officials.

Principal Paul Scholz said that with the introduction of online education programs, Northwest's mission to educate students, help them graduate and prepare them for college has not changed, but rather, evolved.


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