The Best Online K-12 Schools for Rural Education
For students living in rural America, internet access isn’t as straightforward as it is elsewhere in the country. Instead of binge-watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram for hours, some Americans living in rural America struggle to get a decent internet connection at all—let alone one with high speeds.
As providers of satellite internet, we know a thing or two about rural America. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing schools to take a hard look at remote learning options, the digital divide between urban and rural America has never been more apparent.
So, how many virtual schools do rural American students have access to? Also known as online schools, virtual schools are different from homeschooling. Instead of meeting in person, virtual schools teach everything online—a helpful solution for rural students who may live hours away from the nearest school.
To see the impact the digital divide has had on rural education, we wanted to know rural students’ options. Only fifteen states offer virtual K-12 schools to rural students, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t high-quality virtual schools within those fifteen states, each doing their part to bridge the digital divide in education.
The Top 10 Virtual K-12 Schools for Rural Education
|1||Odyssey Academy of Virtual Learning||Wisconsin||Town: Distant|
|2||Iowa Virtual Academy||Iowa||Rural: Distant|
|3||Maize Virtual Preparatory School||Kansas||Rural: Fringe|
|4||Washington Virtual Academy Omak High School||Washington||Town: Remote|
|5||Clinton Virtual Jr./Sr. High School||Michigan||Town: Distant|
|6||Tomorrow River Virtual Charter School (Trvcs)||Wisconsin||Rural: Distant|
|7||Island City Virtual Academy||Wisconsin||Rural: Remote|
|7||Mighty River Academy of Virtual Education||Wisconsin||Town: Remote|
|9||Usd 331 Virtual School||Kansas||Town: Distant|
|10||Hartland Virtual Academy||Michigan||Rural: Fringe|
Here’s What We Found
- Wisconsin has the highest number of virtual K-12 schools available for rural students (12 total). One fourth (25%) of all residents who live in Wisconsin live in a rural area, accounting for 1,502,031 people.
- Each virtual school on our list is located in a county where at least 83% of households have access to an internet subscription. To put that in perspective, only 67% of rural American households have an internet subscription.
- Island City Virtual Academy in Wisconsin has an impressively high graduation rate of 95%.
We used data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to find the number of virtual schools within each state. From there, we narrowed our focus to schools available in rural areas, schools that have at least ten registered students, and non-vocational schools.
Once we acquired a list of schools, we weighted them using the following metrics:
- Graduation rate (using information from Public School Review, State Department, Niche, and US News)
- Math test proficiency rates
- Reading and language proficiency rates
We also calculated the average percentage of internet subscriptions and computing devices within each household in each county using US Census Data.
Then we weighed each score accordingly:
- Percentage of households in each county with an internet subscription (20%)
- Percentage of households in each county with access to a desktop or laptop (15%)
- Math test proficient rates (30%)
- Reading and language proficiency rates (30%)
- Graduation rate (5%)
We curved each final score to receive a final score out of 100.
States without a virtual-only school were not included in our rankings:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
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