The HISD Board of Education voted last week to expand the Texas Connections Academy to include 9th and 10th grades for the next school year. TCA is a partnership between HISD and its virtual school partner, Connections Academy.
The Texas Connections Academy at Houston began operating a free, full-time, statewide virtual school program in December of 2008. It’s the only Texas Education Agency approved statewide virtual school program.
The pilot program began with 100 students in grades three through eight in December 2008 and currently serves 1,000 students from all over Texas. With grades nine and ten being added to the online offerings the goal is to expand to serve 3,000 students. Future plans call to add 11th and 12th grades to the virtual school.
Students enrolled in the Texas Connections Academy work with Texas state-certified teachers over the Internet and on the phone while an adult “Learning Coach” (usually a parent) monitors progress in the home.
The online academy is tuition-free. Students receive school materials and support including: Texas-certified teachers, textbooks, other curriculum materials and online resources. Eligible students can also receive a loaned computer and a subsidy for Internet service.
Although all the course work is done at home, the students must take the state mandated, standardized TAKS tests in person at locations designated by TCA, as close as possible to the student’s home.
A wide range of students are taking advantage of the Texas Connections Academy, including Home bound students, home schooled students, those who are significantly ahead or behind in the classroom, students who want more individualized instruction, those who want a more flexible learning schedule and those who need a learning environment outside of the traditional classroom.