As students and parents have navigated their way through 2020 with unexpectedly full households, many families are struggling to succeed in this new environment. It’s been an eye-opener for some parents being so involved in their child’s education. For the first time, many students are enjoying the opportunity to work at their own pace and learn in entirely new ways. With extra time to spend on family and embrace hobbies, some students are wondering if returning to the “old normal” is appealing.
As more workplaces introduce long term work from home plans, many people are questioning if a homeschool option for high school is the best approach for their children. Avoiding lengthy commutes and having the family all together for mealtime is something that seemed out of reach even a year ago. Today though, it’s an option worth exploring, especially if you or your children prefer the flexibility of online learning. Does this sound like you? You’re not alone.
Homeschooling has seen steady growth in recent years, with approximately 2.5 million students or 4% of the school-age population learning from home in 2019. There are no statistics for 2020 as of yet, but we can safely assume the implications from COVID19 led to increased numbers of children attending school online. With students across the country being forced to attend school online, we are seeing a new wave of learners that have thrived with online learning and will never look back to traditional school.
With the increase in demand comes an increase in supply. Schools and courses of questionable origins with fancy marketing campaigns are popping up online. Online schools are not all created equal, and it’s essential to identify what to look for when evaluating online schools. One of the most important things to look for is accreditation.
Accreditation: What is it?
What is accreditation? In a nutshell, accreditation is the formal recognition that an organization is competent to perform specific processes, activities, or tasks. When it comes to education, accreditation is the formal recognition that a school is competent to deliver quality education to students. Northgate’s accreditation is recognized by the State Department of Education, which ensures that credits and diplomas are recognized by other schools, colleges, employers, and the military.
It is an impartial, objective assessment of the school’s capabilities carried out by a qualified accreditation body. This body assesses the school’s documentation, policies, leadership structure, learning outcomes, student achievements, and other important metrics like the ability to provide support to students. It is effectively a rubber stamp that tells students and parents that the school meets certain criteria set by the accreditation body.
Are all Schools Accredited?
Not all schools are accredited. It is not mandatory for a school to be accredited. In fact, a quick search online will turn up hundreds of unaccredited schools offering a poor education for a quick buck. Avoid these at all costs. To receive accreditation, a school must open their doors to a rigorous assessment, which includes testing, inspections, interviews, and observations. They must also work to improve on areas that are identified during their accreditation assessment.
Why is Accreditation Important?
With COVID-19 sending the world into lockdown, homeschooling and online learning have become the “new normal.” It’s also meant that more schools and online learning programs have popped up, making it challenging to know which ones are legitimate. Choosing an accredited school will give you the confidence that you’re paying for a good education.
Quality Seal of Approval
An accredited school has been objectively assessed on their digital learning programs across the following 3 areas:
- Leadership – This measures organizational effectiveness, governance structure, continuous improvement, and stakeholder involvement.
- Learning – This measures the impact of their teaching, student outcomes, curriculum, and quality of testing.
- Resources – This measures how resources are used, if they meet student needs, and if they are well developed, funded, and organized.
If you are looking at online Christian school as an interim measure until the world goes back to normal, then an accredited program leaves the door open to return to your previous school.
A Bridge to College & Employment
Choosing an accredited program gives you confidence that the certificate you receive will be recognized by universities, colleges, trade schools, employers, and the US military.
Getting your high school diploma from home takes a lot of hard work, and students deserve to have that achievement recognized. Accreditation ensures this.
So, there you have it. A whistle-stop tour of accreditation and its importance with respect to homeschooling. But, before you go, a word of warning. There are a few buzz words that are thrown around in the education sector, such as ‘recognized,’ ‘legitimate,’ and ‘approved’. Watch out for organizations using these words in place of accreditation to try and fool unsuspecting consumers.
Here’s an example:
Question: Are you accredited? Answer: We are an approved online learning program with a recognized certificate.
Sounds good, but if they answer like that, they are likely not accredited by reputable organizations. Like we said earlier, accreditation is not mandatory. But, it’s certainly the only way to make sure you’re getting something for your money. Without accreditation, the diploma or certificate you receive won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.