Questions to Ask About Online Schools

By The Understood Team
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Wondering if an online school might be a good fit for your child? Some kids thrive in an online setting. But online schools tend to have much lower graduation rates than traditional schools. And researchers are concerned kids with IEPs and 504 plans might not be getting enough supports and services in online schools.

Here are some questions you can ask an online school to help get a sense of how well it can meet your child’s needs. It’s also important to think about your child’s temperament and how much time you can spend each day helping with online schooling.

Use this checklist to ask key questions about the online school, your child and yourself.

Questions to Ask the Online School

Structure

    • How many hours do you expect kids to spend on online coursework each day and each week?

    • What are some examples of typical assignments and deadlines?

    • In terms of time and work, are your overall expectations the same as or different from a traditional school?

    • How do I track my child’s progress?

  • Is there a webinar that can explain the program to me?

    • Does the school provide reminders and other kinds of support to help kids who have trouble getting or staying organized?

    • What happens if my child misses deadlines?

  • Does the curriculum focus mainly on academics? Or are there social and emotional learning activities to help develop skills like self-advocacy and working in groups?

  • How do the students interact with each other? Any in-person activities like field trips?

  • How does the school manage behavior issues? How are parents kept in the loop?

  • Is the school accredited in this state?

    • If so, where do your students take state assessments?

    • Can the testing accommodations in my child’s current IEP also be used on these state assessments?

Teachers

  • What is the main way they will interact—email, video chats, phone calls?

  • How do teachers provide feedback? How often do they do this?

  • How do teachers assist kids who ask for help? How often do they do things like hold extra help sessions or workshops?

  • Does your school have special education teachers? If so, are kids with IEPs only assigned to a special education teacher, or do they also have access to general education teachers?

    • Are certified to teach in public schools?

    • Are considered highly qualified?

    • Have received training on how to teach students who learn and think differently in an online setting?

IEPs and 504 Plans

  • What accommodations can the school offer my child?

  • Are there built-in supports for kids who struggle with organization? What about accommodations for struggling readers?

  • How does the school provide speech therapy and other kinds of special education services?

  • How much experience does the school have providing _________________ [a specific accommodation or teaching method that has helped or may help your child]?

Outcomes

  • If no, why don’t you break out data for kids with disabilities?

  • If yes, how do the outcomes for kids with disabilities at your school compare to the outcomes at other schools in this district and in this state?

  • What percentage of kids graduate and go on to college (if this is a high school)?

Questions to Ask Your School District

  • If yes, how do I request a letter from the district that confirms in writing that it accepts credits from this school?

  • If no, why not? How would this affect my child’s ability to do things like apply to college?

  • Is the online school at risk of losing its accreditation?

  • Has the online school changed accreditors within the last 10 years?

Questions to Ask Your Child

  • Are you ready to map out assignments and be responsible for completing them on time? Are you ready for this much independence?

  • Can you stick to a study schedule at home? Can you spend several hours a day doing schoolwork without getting too distracted by games, TV, etc.?

  • Can you handle waiting a few hours or maybe even a few days between asking the teacher a question and getting a response?

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Am I willing to be my child’s “learning coach” or co-teacher?

  • How much time can I spend each day helping my child with school?

  • Can I provide structure and motivation to help my child spend several hours a day on schoolwork?

  • Does our home have a quiet space that is free of clutter to help my child focus on daily schoolwork?

    • If yes, the school might be able to connect you.

    • You can also use the Understood Community to connect with other families about online schooling and more: u.org/community.

About the Author

About the Author

The Understood Team 

is made up of passionate writers, editors, and community moderators. Many of them learn and think differently, or have kids who do.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Ace Parsi, MPP 

is the personalized learning partnership manager at NCLD.

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