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Texas students join digital education

Riley Niksich starts his class like any school student in Texas: with a pledge to the American and state flags. But Riley’s patriotic flags are only digital, on the laptop computer resting on the dining room table in his home. Riley is one of about 3,500 Texas students attending online public schools  that must meet the same state-mandated curriculum requirements and TAKS  testing of students at any other public school in Texas. Parents choose this kind of schools for a variety of reasons and for different types of students: some kids are deeply involved in athletics, acting or other activities that don’t fit neatly into a standard school schedule. Others have health issues. Some parents want to maintain the control over their children’s activities that home schooling allows but also want the professionally supervised structure the public schools offer. Parents have quick online access to a comprehensive assessment of their child’s progress, with test grades and copies of assignments, completed lessons and upcoming lesson plans. IQ Academy offers 24/7 tech support for the inevitable computer glitches. The company also has teaching coaches on staff to help parents with academic challenges for individual students. And the regular class teachers are available for “office hour” conversations. The students do get together several times a year. For the state-required benchmark and TAKS tests, each school holds regional, proctored exams that the students are required to attend in person. And several times a year, the schools host fun events where the kids get to meet the faces behind the online identities.

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