School Choice & Charters

K-12 Inc., Research University Launch Virtual School

By Katie Ash — January 28, 2011 3 min read
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In its latest foray into higher education, K12 Inc. has teamed up with George Washington University to launch a fully online private prep school for high schoolers.

The partnership between a major research university and the virtual education company aims to bring higher quality curriculum and online classes to students around the world as well as to allow George Washington University and the Herndon, Va.-based K12 Inc., to conduct research on curriculum development and instruction in online learning environments, said Bruce Davis, the executive vice president of worldwide business development for K12 Inc., which operates online public schools in 25 states.

“We think our curriculum will be applied in a very unique and useful way,” said Mr. Davis. “[This partnership] will allow us to work on improving our methods of instruction with a high-performing cohort.”

Working with the university’s school of education will open the door to better perspectives on online instructional methods, said Mr. Davis. And the partnership will also provide GWU the opportunity to incorporate online teaching and learning skills into its teacher education programs, he added, something many colleges of education do not currently offer.

Such offerings from schools of education are becoming more relevant given that an estimated 1.5 million K-12 students during the 2009-10 school year enrolled in one or more online classes, according to the Vienna, Va.-based International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

“There has been very slow development of teacher preservice and training programs around online and blended learning,” said John Watson, the founder of the Evergreen, Colo.-based Evergreen Education Group, which conducts research on K-12 online learning.

Conducting research on online instruction methods and incorporating that information into GWU’s school of education would make the partnership “really valuable in ways that go beyond just the students that attend the [virtual high] school,” he said.

College Connections

The partnership with GWU is the latest in a string of alliances between K12 Inc., and higher education institutions.

Last May, the company launched Middlebury Interactive Languages with Vermont-based Middlebury College to create online language courses for K-12 students. (“Vt. College, K12 Inc. Forge Language-Learning Partnership,” May 19, 2010).

Those courses are now being piloted in several schools and the beta versions of both French 1 and Spanish 1 are now available for purchase. And last October, K12 Inc. announced a partnership with learning-management system provider, based in Washington, to provide remedial math and English courses to community colleges nationwide, said Mr. Davis.

Students at the George Washington University Online High School, or GWUOHS, will be using K12 Inc.’s honors, Advanced Placement, and elective courses as well as the Middlebury Interactive Languages courses.

The school is targeting high-achieving, college-bound students through a selective admissions process. Similar programs exist at other colleges and universities, such as Stanford University, Northwestern University, the University of Miami, and Johns Hopkins University.

Annual tuition for GWUOHS is $9,995 per student, or $4,995 per semester. Although they are not currently offered, the school hopes to offer scholarships in the future, representatives said.

“The application process will be very similar to what you would find in the independent school world or at a college or university,” said Barbara Brueggmann, the head of school. For example, students will be expected to write essays and send in recommendations, she said.

“We are taking a holistic view,” Ms. Brueggemann explained. “The key is finding a good fit so that students are successful and happy and fulfilled.”

GWUOHS launched classes for its 18 students on Jan. 18. Keeping the first class small was intentional, said Ms. Brueggemann.

The school is starting with 9th and 10th graders and will branch out to 11th and 12th graders over the next year.

Students at GWUOHS will be able to take advantage of the GWU partnership by engaging in senior-year internships and summer programs at the university and attending guest lectures given by GWU professors.

Mr. Watson, from the Evergreen Education Group, points to the launching of private online schools as an indication of the growing acceptance of online learning in K-12.

“When parents are choosing a private school, they’re making a significant investment in the education of their children,” he said. “So to choose an online high school shows that level of acceptance of online learning.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 02, 2011 edition of Education Week as K12 Inc., Research University Launch E-School

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