(BPT) - K-12 education has evolved. What used to be a linear path to academic success has expanded to a variety of nontraditional options for students looking to chart their own course in and after school.
Nationwide, more than 275,000 K-12 students in the U.S. attended online school full-time during the 2014-15 school year, according to the 2015 Keeping Pace with K-12 Digital Learning report.
Connections Academy online schools are expected to graduate more than 4,000 students this year across 24 states - and many of those students will have completed their entire high school educations online. Graduates were accepted to more than 690 four-year colleges and universities, and others have plans to continue their education at vocational schools, start careers or enter the military.
Texas twins Kelley and Courtlyn Ranly chose to attend online public school Texas Connections Academy to pursue their passion for rodeo. During their time in high school the sisters have been active National Honor Society members, and recently served as co-valedictorians for the Class of 2016. Outside of school, the flexibility to schedule their classes around their extracurricular activities allowed these Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassadors to volunteer at a local veterinary clinic and raise and show livestock.
Courtlyn and Kelley will travel to Argentina and Uruguay this summer to learn about the agricultural industry on a global scale. Come fall, the sisters will pursue their passions at Texas A&M University as animal science majors, with the shared goal of one day opening a veterinary clinic together.
When traditional schools did not fit the needs of Jeffrey Crouch, who has a unique learning need as a visually impaired student, he joined Great Lakes Cyber Academy. Transitioning to online school made it possible for Jeffrey to pursue an individualized education. As the president of the Michigan Association of Blind Students and president of the Genesee County Chapter at the National Federation of the Blind in Michigan, Jeffrey is actively involved in advocating for equal treatment of people with disabilities, a role that's taken him to Capitol Hill. Jeffrey graduated from high school this year and intends to pursue criminal investigation as a career path.
Across the globe, students such as Aayah Nuriddin turned to International Connections Academy after several years at an international school following her family's move from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia. Online school gave Aayah the flexibility to become a global citizen and graduate from a U.S.-based school. Locally, Aayah works with younger students through the English Honors Society of Shangri-La. She plans to study architectural engineering at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Educators agree that online school isn't for every student and families interested should take the time to learn about their options. Information sessions are held in many states for families interested in learning more about Connections Academy-supported online public schools, and a full-time online private school is available for families who live in states where a tuition-free public online option is not available.