How K12 High School Differs From K-8

The way a typical, full-time online K12 high school program operates is distinct from K–8, given the more complex world of content, skills, and time management required.

Key Differences

Here are some key ways that high school is different:

  • Each course has a regular weekly schedule of assignments and activities.
  • A full-time high school teacher, qualified to teach his or her subject area, is deeply engaged with the students' work every week.
  • Most high school courses in English, History, Science and Math are available in a choice of five levels: Core, Comprehensive, Honors, AP, and Credit Recovery. In this way, students can be successfully matched to the level that suits their learning needs. There are even Credit Recovery and Remediation courses in many subjects.
  • Students are regularly involved on a course-by-course basis in threaded, teacher-monitored discussions with each other about key topics and ideas being covered.
  • Parents are not expected to be engaged in the academic work directly, although the usual parental moral support for high school kids is enough (and plenty!).

Regular Weekly Schedule

Unlike the "go-at-your-own-pace" scheduling used for the K12 K-8 curriculum, our high school courses make use of a weekly schedule of activities and assignments. The student has the flexibility to decide what work gets done when, so students who work best on some subjects early in the morning can tackle them then, while students who are night owls can burn the candle to get their work done at the time of day that works best for them.

Each week, however, there are due dates, and assignments and mandatory online discussion sessions designed into the program to:

  • Allow a group of kids to move through material at the same time (or in close proximity); virtual discussions are a powerful learning engine at this level
  • Enable teachers to run online group activities as needed for each section of students, helping many students to overcome the same (often complex) obstacles at the same time
  • Free parents from detailed academic support burdens that may be beyond them at the high school level
  • Encourage students (with help from family and teachers) to acquire the experience of planning their work and lives day by day, which is a key skill for later in life

While providing students with the needed flexibility for work, extracurricular activities, and hobbies, the K12 high school program's weekly schedule permits the teacher to ensure that each student is moving along at a reasonable pace, and enables state-of-the-art distance learning techniques to be used, such as conducting a full-class meeting online. If you wish, you can sign up to see the Online School.

Well-trained, Highly Engaged Teachers

K12 trains each teacher in the underpinnings of the courses, the ins and outs of online learning, and provides them with rubrics and support "hot lines" that can connect them directly to our curriculum developers, if needed. This means K12 high school teachers have access to some of the finest curriculum minds in the country as they work through courses with kids.

This group of exceptional teachers works closely with students, week in and week out, to build their skills, weave the community of learners together, answer questions, and give professional-grade advice on how to improve performance as the course progresses.

The feedback these teachers give about the activities and assignments feeds directly into the K12 curriculum development group as well, allowing courses to be improved year-by-year (even month-by-month in some cases). We encourage teachers to share their best practices with other teachers across the country, providing an unprecedented professional community that can improve virtual teaching practice (as well as the curriculum) year after year.

Threaded, Monitored Discussions with Other Students

The most successful online learning environments are those in which groups form a "community of learners" with their teacher. Students come to know each other, respect each other's differences and contributions, and work together.

  • With the complex concepts encountered in high school, there often isn't a lot of opportunity to discuss these at home. The Federalist Papers, for example, is probably not a weekly conversation topic!
  • In the high school program, students (with guidance from their teacher) talk with one another and wrestle with unfamiliar content together—getting and giving input.
  • These online, teacher-monitored discussions provide students with both practice and confidence in the underlying concepts of a particular topic, as well as practice in communicating.
  • Another value of these virtual conversations is that there's no "hiding in the corner"—each student is required to participate, and they can take the time they need to think through what they want to say. Teachers can both coach one-on-one, privately, and provide direction to the whole group at once.
  • Teachers and students often find that they know each other much better from their discussions in an online course than from an equivalent classroom course—each student appears as they are, not hidden away.
  • Working with other kids can build a close connection and commitment between students and teacher—a bond within the learning community itself. This enhances kids' interest in finishing what they've started, and gets them interested in helping each other as well.

In K12 High School, Parents Step Back, But Not Away

The parent still plays an important supportive role to help the student stay on task and help ensure the student is following through on his or her assignments—but the student is expected to start managing his or her own time and schedule more directly.

In K12 high school courses, teachers grade students' assignments and assessments, respond to student questions via e-mail or phone, conduct online tutorial sessions to reinforce difficult topics, and conduct online "office hours" to allow students to "drop in" with questions.

These teachers are responsible for reviewing all student work and providing instructional feedback. Teachers work together on a teaching team, and employ a cooperative team-teaching approach. The student is expected to move at a more consistent pace with her or his "class." In each subject, though, there is room for flexibility.

In short, with K12 teachers at the helm, parents don't need to worry about having expertise in high school subjects.

Where to Get This Program

The K12 high school program is delivered through K12 partner schools—online public schools in many states around the country. The implementation of the program is customized to each state's standards and requirements. The program is also available through K12's online private school, K12 International Academy. Our most academically challenging, personalized college prep program is The George Washington University Online High School. To learn more and enroll, we invite you to find a K12 partner school in your area.

The K12 curriculum is also available by direct purchase for parents who wish to supplement their children's regular schooling, as well as to homeschooling families.

You can have an enrollment counselor call you at your convenience for more information about K12's high school program options.