High school students are returning to class this week. That includes a little more than 1,200 South Carolina teens that are enrolled in courses at the state’s online school.
Provost Academy is in its third year of existence in South Carolina and is run by EdisonLearning, a New York company that frequently partners with school districts for unconventional programs.
Provost is part of the South Carolina Public Charter School District, a state-run system of schools that have to follow state standards, but are given some flexibility in how they teach courses. Currently, they are only offered to high school students.
Kinsey Rawe, General Manager of EdisonLearning’s Virtual Education, says online students tend to be those who had trouble fitting into traditional schools, “Normally, if you’re an average performing student and you’ve got a great circle of friends, you’re comfortable there,” he said, “This isn’t really the type of school that necessarily draws that student.”
He said that includes those students who feel intimidated or bullied at traditional schools. However, he added it could also include athletes: for example, teens that swim competitively. These students may have few academic problems, but have trouble matching their schedule with a normal school day.
“Students can take classes from their home, from Starbucks, from just about anywhere they want,” Rawe said.
About 30 teachers work for Provost Academy in South Carolina.
Some state officials are reluctant to support online schools, saying it takes away the opportunity for students to socialize with others their age. Provost Academy has also had problems with students staying enrolled for an entire school year.
“Sometimes (students) come in and they realize this isn’t the right environment for them,” Rawe said, “We don’t try and sugarcoat it and say, ‘no you really should stay in.’ If it’s not right for a student, then they’re not going to be happy and they’re not going to be successful.”