Reported by SCRN’s Joanne Lu
A statewide online public charter high school has completed its first year and is now going year-round. Provost Academy, a state-funded public charter high school that is run completely online, recently graduated 52 students from its senior class. With 1,500 students enrolled the first year–after expecting only 1,000–executive director, Dr. Darrell Johnson is delighted with the school’s success.
Johnson has served in South Carolina’s public schools for 11 years, including as the Associate Superintendant in Charleston and the Superintendent in Orangeburg Four.
Provost Academy is one of three online high schools in the state. Students are assigned to an academic advisor, who, together with the parents and student, develops an “individualized learning plan.” Students then take courses from both “synchronous instructors,” who have a regular scheduled online class time, and “asynchronous instructors,” who are available from 8 am to 8 pm in an online forum setting. Clubs and regional activities are also organized so that parents, students, teachers, and advisors can have face time with each other.
There are many benefits to the online format, according to Johnson, so much so that he believes “all good school districts should be offering online learning in their districts now.” Students study at their own pace and at whatever time best suits their needs. Johnson says South Carolina should especially look into expanding online learning because of the state’s high drop out rate. Students from rural areas will also have access to classes their local schools cannot afford to offer.
The new year-round format will allow even more flexibility in scheduling, as students must complete the required sessions, but not necessarily before the summer.
Johnson also says that because Provost is personalized, students are more dedicated to their studies.
Being a public charter school, the academy is state funded and regulated. However, according to Johnson, the funding only includes the base student cost and a small stipend–no tax dollars. This leaves Provost Academy’s budget very tight, especially when state-mandated testing and required face time activities need to be organized.
Some other challenges for the school include partnering with local public schools for extracurricular activities and quantifying the equivalent of the required 180 days of school, especially with the new year-round format.
However, self-discipline isn’t much of a concern for Johnson. Self-discipline, he says, comes with practice. “It’s not for everyone, but everyone can take advantage of it.” Most importantly, Johnson believes the quality of education lies with parents and students being able to choose their education.
SCRN’S Ashley Byrd interviewed Provost Academy’s executive director, Dr. Darrell Johnson.