The Holton-Arms School announced June 19, the creation of the first ever online school dedicated to secondary education for girls, The Online School for Girls. Developed by a consortium of independent all-girls' schools including Harpeth Hall School (Tenn.), Holton-Arms School, Laurel School (Ohio), and Westover School (Conn.), the School will begin offering pilot classes in the 2009-2010 school year.
"Online education is rapidly becoming a cornerstone of the educational experience of the twenty-first century," says Holton's Director of Technology Brad Rathgeber. According to K-12 Online Learning: A 2008 Follow-up of the Survey of U.S. School District Administrators, more than one million secondary school students enrolled in online courses and 70 percent of high schools had at least one student who took an online class during the 2008-2009 school year.
In addition, Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning reports that 44 states have or are in the process of creating virtual secondary schools, "but none of them specifically address the educational needs of girls," Mr. Rathgeber explains. "We believe that girls inhabit online spaces differently than boys and that this initiative can combine a powerful, transformative online learning environment for girls with a high-quality, twenty-first century academic experience."
Guided by current research on how girls learn best, the School will focus on several key principles: emphasizing connections among participants; incorporating collaboration into the learning experience; inspiring and rewarding creativity; and engaging in real-world problems and applications while having students probe the social and ethical dynamics that define and stretch our global society.
"Not every girl has the opportunity to attend an all girls' school," says Holton's Head of School Susanna Jones, "so our hope in embarking on this initiative is to inspire and challenge girls on a worldwide scale. We envision an educational experience designed for girls that provides vigorous coursework, exposure to new ideas, and a fun, relevant learning environment in an online setting."
The Online School for Girls officially launches in September 2009, offering two pilot courses in the fall semester and four courses in the spring semester of the 2009-2010 school year. Students from consortium member schools will take and evaluate the initial courses. Courses offered for the first year will be upper-level secondary courses in math, the sciences and humanities.
In coming years, the Online School will expand the scope and reach of a traditional girls' school and work to engage a worldwide and diverse student base, including students who are in need of a more flexible school schedule, are home schooled, or would not otherwise have opportunities available for challenging or unique coursework.
Brad Rathgeber, Holton's Director of Technology, announces the Online School initiative during the National Coalition of Girls' Schools conference at Holton-Arms, June 17-19.