GW launches online high school

The University launched a private, online high school this month, becoming the second college in the nation to oversee a virtual secondary school for the college-bound.

Since starting classes last week, The George Washington University Online High School joins a small but growing number of college preparatory schools that operate entirely online. Though other online high schools exist in several states, what sets GW’s new school apart is its connection to a research university.

Michael Feuer, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, said the program will allow GSEHD students and faculty to conduct research into how online learning affects students.

“It will give us a tremendous opportunity to expose our students and some of our faculty to this new way of teaching and learning,” Feuer said.

Feuer also added that one of the reasons GW wanted to enter into the partnership was to put the University in the game of online learning research.

With online learning growing as a source of education, Feuer said he thinks the University wants to be involved to help shape online education.

Feuer said K12, Inc. – a Herndon, Va.-based company that specializes in online learning – reached out to the University to form the partnership because of GW’s interest in online education. GW and K12 developed the program jointly.

While the University’s name is attached to the project, Feuer said GW would not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the online high school.

K12, which operates online high schools in more than 25 states, will run the school and provide the resources, curriculum and technology needed, Jeff Kwitowski, a spokesman for K12, said.

The current class consists of 16 students studying in nine states.

Besides classes, the school provides personalized support from teachers and counselors, online clubs and activities and a social-networking component.

Kwitowski added that K12 will pay a University employee to work full-time as the associate director of the school, and it will send GW “a small portion” of the revenue to support research in education. He declined to say how much GW will be paid, citing contract obligations. Instead, Feuer said the University would be allocating some of its intellectual resources to oversee the school’s management and curriculum.

Feuer said the returns on the University’s investment should be tremendous, as opportunities for research and student involvement are vast.

“We will establish through our advisory board a coherent approach to research, which will surely involve students from GSEHD and faculty,” Feuer said. “Methods used in research need to always be appropriate to the questions that the research is intended to address, and we have considerable expertise in our school on the issue of research methods.”

In addition to research, Feuer said students will have an opportunity to better understand how online teaching works, and will potentially interact with the high school students.

Acceptance to the high school, however, does not guarantee admission to GW. Graduates will compete for admission to the University in the same way as any other applicant, Feuer said.

While Feuer expressed confidence that the program would succeed, he said the seven-year contract the University has signed with K12 allows for modifications or terminations should the project fail to meet certain standards.

The program with K12 is not the first time GW has partnered with a primary or secondary school to further education in the United States. GW partners with the School Without Walls – offering high school students the ability to take GW courses – and GW students and faculty serve in local schools across the Metro D.C. area, Feuer said.

“This adds to the repertoire of a very rich constellation of existing and potential new partnerships,” Feuer said.

The only other private, online high school of this type was developed by Stanford University. Since its founding in 2006, the California-based Education Program for Gifted Youth Online High School has been sending graduates to elite and Ivy League colleges.

“This puts us into a very nice league,” he said. “I am looking forward to comparing notes with others that have gone into this [research].”

For an annual tuition of $9,995, the school will offer 100 classes in varying disciplines, including honors and AP classes and SAT and ACT prep courses. The full-time high school will target ambitious, high-achieving students from across the globe, and could be utilized by elite athletes, who often travel and miss school.

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