Connections Academy

For Nontraditional Students, Connections Academy Offers a New Kind of Classroom Online

During much of elementary and middle school, Matthew Shiflet felt unchallenged. His parents tried private schools and home-schooling, but the curriculum and pacing still moved too slowly for Matthew. In seventh grade, he enrolled in the Ohio Connections Academy (OCA), an online public school program that offered him a challenging curriculum and the ability to work at his own pace—along with certified teachers to support his learning and help him achieve his post-secondary goals.

"There were so many aspects of OCA that I loved... [It’s] a great program for flexibility, growth, and for unconventional learners who don't fit into the traditional bricks-and-mortar schools."

Matthew Shiflet, Ohio Connections Academy alumnus

After graduating from OCA, Matthew enrolled in the Honors Tutorial College at Ohio University and continues to pursue his passions for video game news journalism and public relations in the technology industry.

Connections Academy schools are accredited, tuition-free, online public schools for K-12 students, providing a personalized approach to learning, supported by certified teachers and a high-quality custom curriculum that aligns to state and National Standards for Quality Online Courses (iNACOL). Since the first Connections Academy opened in 2002, the schools have been established in 26 U.S. states and have served nearly 270,000 students who—for academic, personal, or professional reasons—may be better suited for online rather than brick-and-mortar school. Connections schools are solving real education and social problems for students and families, and superior academic results continue to be the mission-driven focus.

Connections believes that all students perform better when they receive individual attention in a safe, nurturing environment—what Connections calls Personalized Performance Learning®. Students are able to accelerate learning in areas of strength or receive extra attention in areas of weakness. Individualized learning does not mean learning alone—students meet regularly in online instructional LiveLesson® sessions and have opportunities to share ideas and experiences while having fun learning together. In-person events, clubs, activities, graduation ceremonies, and field trips help students socialize, stay connected, and make friends. Parents, as Learning Coaches, are closely involved in their children’s education and personalized learning plans.

2002

The first Connections Academy opened

270,000

Number of students served by Connections Academy

26

US states now have Schools established

Lyndsey Fry, a native of Arizona, began playing hockey around the same time she started kindergarten. She soon discovered that the sport was her calling. During her junior and senior years of high school, Lyndsey began playing for the highly competitive U18 National Hockey Team—and she knew that she needed a more flexible school schedule than the traditional one if she was going to successfully balance hockey and student life. So she turned to Arizona Connections Academy (ACA).

"Online school is not for everyone. However, it [was] the answer my family and I were searching for to help me reach my goals. It requires dedication, organization, and sacrifices, which have all been worth it for me."

Lyndsey Fry, Arizona Connections Academy alumna

Like Matthew Shiflet, Lyndsey continued her studies after graduating from Connections Academy and continues to pursue her sport. She went on to play hockey and study at Harvard University, and later earned a silver medal in the 2014 Sochi Olympics with the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team.

Intended outcome 1

Learners will increase their academic achievement and realize their post-secondary plans.

Pearson has significant qualitative evidence, as well as non-experimental data, that Connections Academy schools have a positive effect on these learner outcomes.1

Three longitudinal studies beginning in 2016 will examine how Connections Academy influences student achievement and success in achieving post-secondary plans.

To increase the rigor of Connections Academy research and gather experimental evidence, a research agenda has been designed and will be implemented to further document the impact of Connections Academy on student outcomes.

Specifically, Pearson will commission two quasi-experimental longitudinal studies in 2016 to examine how matched students in brick-and-mortar schools compare with Connections Academy students with respect to academic achievement and achieving post secondary plans. A third, which began in January 2016, will examine whether or not the Connections Academy Core Model is associated with increased student performance, and whether certain parts of this Core Model have a greater or lesser effect on learning and achievement.

1 Executive Board Summary, Connections Academy Parent Satisfaction Survey (2013-14).

At his traditional brick-and-mortar school, Blake Eiler was having difficulty focusing and maintaining good grades due to his Asperger’s Syndrome.

"Blake was not engaging in school. The more stress and the more anxiety, the more he shut[s] down. He shut down with teachers and peers and [was] not doing any school work."

Jane Eiler, mother of Iowa Connections Academy student Blake Eiler, in an interview with Iowa Public Radio

Blake enrolled in the Iowa Connections Academy his freshman year of high school and his academic performance improved dramatically.

"His grades turned around right away [and] he got accepted in the National Honor Society. I'm sure he would have graduated high school, but now he's going to graduate with honors."

Jane Eiler, in an interview with Iowa Public Radio

Blake and Jane Eiler have gone on to advocate for online school programs like Connections Academy and spoken several times before the Iowa legislature to promote the value of these schools. Jane Eiler’s support of Connections Academy highlights the product’s aim of meeting the needs of parents as well as learners.

Intended outcome 2

Parents will be satisfied with their children’s experience at the school.2

Pearson has found through interviews and surveys that Connections Academy parents are overall very satisfied with their children's education and would recommend the school to their friends.

This evidence is the result of an annual survey administered in 2015 by an independent third party to ensure anonymity. More than 18,000 Connections Academy families were surveyed across the 29 existing Connections Academy schools in 25 states. More than 90 percent of respondents said they would give their school a grade of an A or B, agreed that the curriculum is high quality, agreed that their child is making good progress, and would recommend the school to parents who have not yet enrolled their children in Connections Academy.

These findings do not imply causality or necessarily reflect the opinions of every Connections Academy family. Pearson will continue to conduct student and parent surveys across the Connections Academy schools to determine how well the schools meet family expectations and needs.

2 Ibid.

Our parent survey

90% would give Connections Academy an A or a B

95% believe their child is satisfied with the school

91% agree their child is making good progress

95% agree the curriculum is high quality 

96% are satisfied with their children's Connections Academy teachers

93% would recommend the school to another parent

Today, students who are not thriving in traditional brick-and-mortar schools have alternatives to choose from - and Connections Academy offers one of the most well-respected and results-oriented alternatives for these students and their families. Because Connections Academy schools are public and accredited, families know they are getting a high-quality, tuition-free education for their students. And the research demonstrates parents’ perceptions of the schools’ effectiveness, with more than 90 percent of parents voicing satisfaction with their children’s education. As Connections Academy continues to improve based on the results of additional efficacy research, it remains committed to offering a viable, desirable, and highly effective alternative for students who find that traditional schools are not leading them to success.

Connections Academy has ambitious plans to conduct research that will further demonstrate the impact of the program on learner outcomes. For an overview of these plans, please see the accompanying Impact Evaluation Report below.

Today, students who are not thriving in traditional brick-and-mortar schools have alternatives to choose from - and Connections Academy offers one of the most well-respected and results-oriented alternatives for these students and their families. Because Connections Academy schools are public and accredited, families know they are getting a high-quality, tuition-free education for their students. And the research demonstrates parents’ perceptions of the schools’ effectiveness, with more than 90 percent of parents voicing satisfaction with their children’s education. As Connections Academy continues to improve based on the results of additional efficacy research, it remains committed to offering a viable, desirable, and highly effective alternative for students who find that traditional schools are not leading them to success.

Connections Academy has ambitious plans to conduct research that will further demonstrate the impact of the program on learner outcomes. For an overview of these plans, please see the accompanying Impact Evaluation Report below.

Today, students who are not thriving in traditional brick-and-mortar schools have alternatives to choose from - and Connections Academy offers one of the most well-respected and results-oriented alternatives for these students and their families. Because Connections Academy schools are public and accredited, families know they are getting a high-quality, tuition-free education for their students. And the research demonstrates parents’ perceptions of the schools’ effectiveness, with more than 90 percent of parents voicing satisfaction with their children’s education. As Connections Academy continues to improve based on the results of additional efficacy research, it remains committed to offering a viable, desirable, and highly effective alternative for students who find that traditional schools are not leading them to success.

Connections Academy has ambitious plans to conduct research that will further demonstrate the impact of the program on learner outcomes. For an overview of these plans, please see the accompanying Impact Evaluation Report below.

In 2013, we announced our efficacy initiative to measure the impact that our products and services have on our learners. We committed to publicly report our findings starting in 2018, and to subject those reports to external audit.  We are pleased to release our preliminary reports to share the work we have done so far and what we have planned ahead. The content in these reports reflects the continued refinement of our approach; while our work continues to advance, we are proud to share transparently what we have learned. We anticipate that we will continue to further refine these reports as we approach our 2018 target.

Age/Stage: Primary/Secondary

Type: Learning Institution

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