Online schools: The importance of international benchmarking

With the ongoing growth of online schooling in South Africa, parents are increasingly considering this route as a viable option for their children. Still, they are left overwhelmed by the massive range of schools and their differences in offerings.

Additionally, the quality varies dramatically from school to school, with some schools reporting excellent results and others proving a disaster for the child and their family. It is, therefore, crucial that parents decide about their choice of online school very carefully, based on an objective assessment of the quality and standard of offering, and that they do not simply rely on a school’s promotional materials and promises.

One of the best indicators of a school’s ability to provide the highest quality of academic excellence in an online environment is its international MAP ranking, an education expert says.

MAP is short for the Measures of Academic Progress international benchmarking evaluation, and any online school worth its salt should be able to produce its current standing, says Colin Northmore, principal of Evolve Online School, a brand of ADvTECH.

“International benchmarking enables schools to objectively compare their students’ performance against students in other schools, including brick-and-mortar as well as online schools, and against students in other countries. It is a tool to monitor the effectiveness of a school’s focus on consistent student growth and to track effective teaching and learning,” he says.

“Choosing to go the online route is often a step into unknown territory for most parents, so knowing beforehand that a school is in excellent standing in terms of international benchmarks can save much time, anxiety and money for families.”

MAP is used in 1 500 schools in 145 countries, with 9 million students participating. Data is presented at the individual level, but also provides school, regional, continental and global comparisons. 

MAP Growth tests evaluate mathematics, reading and language usage for students from kindergarten through Grade 12, and the tests are given two to three times per year to measure progress – most often at the beginning, middle and end of the year. 

Evolve Online School consistently scores in the top percentile against other schools and when compared to the international benchmark since it began participating in MAP benchmarking.

Northmore says that in addition to ensuring a positive international benchmarking positioning, parents evaluating online schools should also consider the following: 

  • That proper registration and accreditation are in place with all relevant authorities.
  • That the school has a reputation for academic excellence over at least a few years.
  • That they enquire from current and past parents about the school’s reputation.
  • That the school forms part of a larger group that can provide the best institutional support and, if not part of a larger group with a strong track record, that the school can demonstrate its support structures are sound.
  • That the school can demonstrate logistical competence in terms of academic delivery.
  • That there is an excellent balance between screen time, dream time, team time and green time to avoid the student developing feelings of isolation.

“But even if all the above are in place, international benchmarking remains the gold standard in assessing a school’s ability to deliver academic excellence in an online setting, and parents are encouraged to ensure their chosen school has that in place,” says Northmore.

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