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The Top Challenges Facing Texas Students Today

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Students in Texas are standing at an educational crossroad that is unlike many others in our state’s history. On one hand, educational opportunities are greater than ever with the rise of technology, school choice and funding from the 2019 legislative session.

On the other hand, there are looming problems that show no sign of slowing down.

Classroom sizes continue to swell in Texas, making it difficult for students to receive personal attention. Bullying continues to be a concern with the rise in cyberbullying.

Despite increases in state funding, financial challenges for less affluent districts are still prevalent in many regions throughout the state.

While progress is being made, there is still a lot of work to be done to solve a few of the key challenges facing students in Texas today.

Class Size Issues

It’s no mystery that the larger a classroom size, the less personal attention each student may receive from their teacher. In Texas, it is mandated that each district maintain an average ratio of 20 students to one teacher.

However, this number is often exceeded in many districts with high growth populations.

Texas adds more people to its population than any other state. This has led to classrooms in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Austin to exceed to the student-to-teacher ratio.

The result of this classroom overcrowding has led many teachers to leave the industry.

According to the Houston Chronicle, “Nearly one in three public school teachers in Texas call it quits before reaching their sixth school year…and education advocates are split on whether billions of state dollars recently approved for raises will persuade teachers to stay longer.”

Actions are being taken to help improve overcrowding in the classroom.

For example, online education is helping to remove students from noisy, populated classrooms and provide them with greater control over their personal education.

Hopefully, the recent $11.6 billion decision made in May will be used to help increase teacher pay and lead to improved retention through an increase in teacher pay.

Texas senate chambers

Interior of the Texas State Capitol

Bullying in Texas Public Schools

Bullying is an unfortunate challenge that students have had to face throughout decades in public school. While lawmakers have passed legislation and increased awareness to combat bullying, students are still as susceptible as ever.

In fact, technology has caused an increase in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is difficult to spot, so it’s vitally important for parents and caretakers to stay in close communication with their students. Here are some helpful signs to spot cyberbullying.

“There’s a rise in cyberbullying nationwide, with three times as many girls reporting being harassed online or by text message than boys,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics .

Thankfully, parents have several options to help their children in the event they are being bullied. Texas allows parents to transfer their students to new classrooms or campuses or enroll them in online education.

Studying in front of computer experiencing bullying

Transportation & After School Care Costs

“ Poverty affects students’ learning opportunities in many ways but primarily through after school care and transportation issues.

Families experiencing poverty often have greater difficulties getting after school care, as many parents work long hours or multiple jobs to support their families.

In addition, certain after school programs can be costly. This barrier prevents an opportunity for those unable to afford these helpful programs.

According to The Motley Fool, “The average cost of an after school babysitter is $214 per week. The average family that uses an after school sitter, therefore, spends roughly $7,700 per year, assuming a 36-week school year.”

Transportation costs can also hinder students’ ability to even regularly attend school. Those in rural areas may struggle with transportation costs as students may live too far away from school to walk or receive bus transportation.

For example, students may have to spend several hours a week commuting back and forth between home and school. This is valuable time that could be spent sleeping, studying or participating in recreational activities proven to be vital for childhood development.

Varying Resources by District

School districts get money from two main sources: their local property taxes and the state. This can create a clear divide in funding between districts with high property values and those without.

To help offset this, Texas passed the controversial “Robin Hood” bill in 1993. This bill mandates funds from more affluent districts to be distributed to districts that can’t raise as much money.

However, the distribution of this wealth has never achieved the desired goal of quality education throughout the state. In fact, many lawmakers are looking to remove it entirely and move to a system that doesn’t rely as heavily on property taxes to fund education.

Regardless of the method of funding, the fact remains today that the quality of education available for students in Texas depends highly on the zip code in which the students live.

To provide alternatives for parents and students, Texas has seen an increase in both public online education and charter schools. However, much work is left to be done to help increase Texas’ educational standards across the board.

Despite these challenges, educational opportunities for Texans are increasing thanks to a push from students, parents, educators and lawmakers. The impact of passing House Bill 3 in the 2019 legislative session is still up for debate, but it is a sign that Texas has focused on making positive strides for education.

Teachers are continuing to fight for additional resources in the classroom to meet the needs of their students. Improvements in technology, teacher compensation and awareness of bullying are a few highlights in the long road ahead.

How Online Public School is Preparing Students for College

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It’s November, so you know what that means—students are gearing up to take their SATs and ACTs with the hopes of getting into college. This is true for both students enrolled in online charter schools and for students taking the traditional public school route. 

However, anyone that has been through college can tell you that SAT and ACT results are inadequate forebears for success at an institution for higher education. More so, success at college requires discipline, productive study habits, and grit. 

Interestingly, online education is helping students to prepare for college more than ever, thanks to advances in technology, individualized learning experiences, and strengthened writing skills. 

Familiarity with Technology

The college classrooms of today are more technologically advanced than ever. In fact, many current college students will never even step foot on a physical campus

Even in-person college classes make use of virtual learning environments for additional lessons, homework assignments, discussion forums, audio-visual supplements, or research.

Knowing the tech goes beyond the actual classes—social aspects are just as important. Students use technology to schedule study meet-ups with online calendars. They also use social media groups to keep track of the material and collaborate on projects. 

Tech-savviness is a big advantage for those wanting to get the most out of their education. Students already familiar with online learning will easily be able to jump into the college-level equivalent and have the skills to stay on top of their studies.

Student Studying for Courses Online

Independence and Self-Discipline

One of the hardest things about transitioning from high school to college is imposing self-given deadlines. 

While professors may outline due dates in their syllabi, students must also set their own goals and manage their own time to get things done. Many students struggle with keeping track of their assignments while they adjust to larger class sizes and less personal attention from professors.

Online learning builds self-reliance in students, a skill that will help them plan their time in college courses more effectively. Similarly, students with experience in online learning tend to take greater initiatives to learn on their own, seek help from tutors, and set objectives based on their own progress.

We see that many of the students enrolled in iSchool Virtual Academy of Texas are already experts at balancing a busy work, study, and personal schedule.

Student Using Tablet to Update College Course Schedule

Written Communication Skills

The ability to exceptionally communicate through writing is a vital skill for college and in the workplace. Few things are more frustrating than confusion simply due to a poorly-worded email.

In the classroom, the ability to communicate clearly is not only important in daily homework assignments but also applies to note-taking, speaking with professors, and collaborating with classmates for a team project. 

Effective written communication is honed through online learning and serves students well in college and beyond in our increasingly online world.

Higher education is a huge life adjustment. Having a background in online learning can ease the transition and set students up for success in ways that traditional education may not. 

As society moves more and more toward digital mediums, the skills gained through online learning will help students better navigate our rapidly evolving world and succeed in college and beyond.

iSchool Virtual Academy Students at Graduation

girl receiving virtual education

What Are the Benefits of Virtual Education?

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Online and virtual education programs are on the rise as many parents and students turn away from traditional school models—but many more still have questions or doubts about this growing form of education. What are the benefits of pursuing virtual education over traditional schooling?

More Flexibility

Perhaps the most obvious benefit is the flexibility that online education offers. Students can take classes and learn at their own pace around work or other obligations. For some, it’s merely a matter of an unusual or strenuous work schedule; for others, it’s a medical condition that makes operating within traditional schooling difficult.

By learning online from home, students are able to fit in schooling when they can and with the best learning environment for them.

In addition, online schooling allows access to more specialized classes that students may not otherwise student learning online at own pacehave access to. Courses covering specific interests that a traditional school may not have the resources to offer are available virtually.

Plus, students will never be turned away from a class they want to take because the class is full—virtually, there’s always room.

High-Quality Education

Students are not trading quality for convenience with virtual education. They still get direct access to a teacher fully certified by the TEA, so they can rest assured that the teacher knows what they’re doing and knows the material they’re teaching.

The opportunity for one-on-one connection to teachers means students are getting more personalized support, instead of being one of many students in an increasingly overcrowded classroom.

Studies show that smaller class sizes are the most beneficial environment, both for a teacher’s ability to teach and a student’s ability to learn. This can be an issue in many traditional brick-and-mortar schools, where a declining number of teachers is leading to larger and larger class sizes. 

A Safe Environment

As mentioned earlier, learning online from home allows for more control of variables that can negatively affect a student’s health. Special diets, allergies, and prescribed medicines are all significantly easier to keep track of when learning from home.

But physical safety isn’t the only benefit—mental health is also known to improve. Many students who have transferred to virtual education from public schooling have greatly improved in their studies, once they no longer have had to worry about bullying or other distractions from their peers.

iSchool Students Gathering Together for Graduation

Some parents worry that removing their child from traditional schooling will negatively impact their child’s socialization skills—but this doesn’t have to be the case. After all, socialization happens in plenty of other spaces other than in school. From extracurriculars and clubs, to trips to museums or other educational places, to any family observances or traditions, socialization can still happen and leave children able to connect with others in meaningful ways.

 

Virtual education may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly a great option to have when deciding what’s best for a student. Greater flexibility alongside great quality instruction means that students can have the best education that will prepare them for their future.