Our public education system should be designed to meet the needs of all students. For the last few years, online schools have provided an important public school option for many of Wisconsin’s families, proving to be a perfect fit for a wide range of students requiring the freedom and flexibility to set their own pace and learn on their own time.
Unfortunately, the recent state Court of Appeals decision regarding the Wisconsin Virtual Academy has created some ambiguity. This has directly affected WiVA, and some have suggested it has broader implications for all virtual education. However, we don’t believe the ruling affects iQ Academy Wisconsin, an online high school that is part of the Waukesha School District, and other schools that operate like us.
Unlike WiVA, iQ Academy relies solely on state-certified public school teachers to provide formal instruction. Our teachers are employed by and largely located inside the Waukesha School District. We are confident that iQ Academy complies with all relevant state laws.
Nevertheless, as a strong advocate of online education options, I urge our government officials to clarify any ambiguity and set virtual education on a firm footing.
If there is a positive from this ruling, it is the additional attention focused on online education. Many who may not have been aware of the high quality of education being provided online are taking a closer look. We welcome that.
Our students score above average on standardized tests, pass Advanced Placement tests at leading rates, and enjoy the quality education and unique courses a virtual education provides. For example, on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination standardized test last year, our students scored about 10 percent higher overall than peers in traditional public schools. Students of the iQ Academy also earned ACT scores 3 percent higher than those of other Wisconsin public school students.
While students work from home on a school-supplied laptop, they must meet the same curricular standards and take the same standardized tests as students in traditional schools.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, student contact with teachers may actually be greater than in a traditional school. Many students who would be uncomfortable raising their hand to ask a question in a traditional classroom find themselves more engaged through online discussions, e-mail and real-time tutoring sessions. The help of a certified teacher is never more than a click away.
In the same way brick-and-mortar schools encourage parental involvement with their students, iQ Academy also encourages the active role of parents in helping to keep their kids on track, meet deadlines and strive for excellence. Parents are not, however, expected to teach any courses.
Providing a first-class curriculum with individualized attention from experienced teachers, iQ Academy offers one of the widest ranges of honors and Advanced Placement courses, including extensive science and foreign language options. The school also offers a wide range of extracurricular activities, including student government, National Honor Society and newspaper/yearbook, as well as social events such as dances and prom and group outings.
The open enrollment period for charter schools in Wisconsin, which includes virtual schools, is Feb. 4-22. Additional details on these educational opportunities are available through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction at www.dpi.wi.gov. To learn more about iQ Academy Wisconsin, go to www.iqacademywisconsin.com or call 866-468-4672.
Lisa McClure is director of iQ Academy Wisconsin, an online public charter school in its fourth year of operation. A program of the Waukesha School District, iQ Academy has 1,100 students in grades 9-12.