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My kids started at Texas Connections Academy and transferred over to California Connections Academy a year later. This is a wonderful online school. Kids are not bogged down with school work and teachers keep in contact via email or text. The transfer was easy. We have no complaints and it has been a great experience for all.
I enrolled into this school in 6th grade, I was excited for it but then it started to be really hard because it's a brand new thing that I am not use to using. I struggled the whole year but I decided to stay the at Connections for the next few years and my grades went up DRAMATICALLY. I knew how the system worked so I knew what to expect. They do have a quite a bit of school work to do but you eventually just get the hang of it. Honestly, it's not hard at all if you actually read the assignments. The teachers help when you call. I still go to this school and I am now in 11th grade. Going to Connections Academy was the best decision I've ever made.
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I started at Connections Academy in Pennsylvania in sixth grade and graduated in 2016 from CA. I’m now entering my final year in my undergrad and graduate programs and wanted to write an honest review about the middle and high school that got me here. What You Need to Succeed: Ambition, Drive, Dedication. CA is not a normal public school. In a traditional school setting, students spend their day sitting in lessons and doing assignments. They face in-person consequences if work is not completed. In cyber school this is simply not the case. Work is done when the student wants to do it and distraction is very easy to come by.
Learning Materials and Lessons:
Learning comes in three forms: through live lessons, textbooks, and/or the lesson pop-ups themselves.
- Live Lessons (LLs): A live lesson is a recorded classroom meeting between the teacher and any students who wish to attend. The teacher shares their computer screen with the students and uses a microphone and/or video feed to teach the lesson. Students can communicate directly with the teacher and other students through an active chat pod. These LLs are recorded for other students to watch.
- Textbook: CA will ship you all relevant textbooks and provide digital copies of them as well. Some classes do not utilize textbooks whatsoever (specifically for high school electives) and students must rely on LLs and lesson pop-ups for learning.
- Lesson Pop-Ups: I’m not actually sure what these are called. But basically every day the student has regularly scheduled classes that come up on their planner. Each class has an individual lesson link that you click on and a pop-up comes up. On that pop-up is an overview of the lesson, extra learning materials, activities, readings, and assignments. If you miss a lesson, they pile up and become “overdue” (though there is no penalty for overdue lessons, unless this policy has changed).
It is important to note that ALL of these are optional, and that’s where ambition, drive, and dedication come into play. Without them your student will spend the next so-many years of their education scraping by and learning nothing. My Experience & Strategy:
Middle-School: In middle-school, teachers kept a much closer reign on us in one specific way: they would often phone home, ask questions about the lessons over the phone, and ask to speak to a parental guardian. This is because it is expected that a parent be home with the student during the school day. These phone calls ceased during high school (perhaps due to age, or perhaps because school policy changed).
Overall: I never had patience for live lessons and never attended them live. I would watch recordings of LLs for my math classes only (these were invaluable). In essence, I self-taught myself for 6 years using textbooks. This has its advantages because exams and quizzes are usually word-for-word from the textbook (as the textbook authors generally write exam questions for teachers to use). It also saved me from having to watch the LLs for an hour, read the textbook, take notes, and take assignments. This is where many parents complain because their children get caught up in doing too many things. Honestly, you need to find what works for you (be it LLs or textbooks) and stick with that.
Teachers were very helpful if you reached out to them. You cannot be shy—in cyber school, no news is good news. If you are not communicating with your teachers you WILL fall behind and get buried underneath things you don’t understand. I had numerous math teachers who I could literally call when I had questions on my math tests and they would help me through the exam, but only because I reached out for help.
In addition, some teachers will use the quick checks, quizzes, and tests that are in the lesson pop-ups. In my experience many of these questions were poorly written or incorrect. If I noticed a question was out of order I emailed my teacher with the evidence and they would fix my grade if I was correct. By the time I was finishing high school many of the teachers had started making their own tests and hosting them on Google forms. This had a lot of benefits because these tests better reflected lesson material (especially for math) and test questions would change if you closed and reopened the window (meaning you’d have to start over if you exited a window accidentally). I had some English teachers who would help me navigate tricky questions one exams if I called them as well. But make sure you take exams/quizzes during business hours so teachers are available for you to call.
Is cyber school more work? Yes. It is. But it’s not as bad as some of the reviewers make it seem. When you first join cyber it is very overwhelming because you think you have to do everything in the lesson pop-ups. You don’t. Actually, for most classes, you only need to do two things: read the textbook pages assigned (usually 5-7 pages) and take a quick check (QC) (a short “test” between 3-5 questions). The other things (activities, videos, extra text) are usually irrelevant (unless it’s an English class (consider that a pro-tip)).
What does suck is that for most classes, at least in high school, you take QCs every single day, and these small tests usually make up 10% of your overall grade for the school year. Which means that your grade is on the line every day when you take a lesson. I think they instituted this policy because kids weren’t taking the QCs seriously enough and they were letting their textbook readings pile up to extreme levels.
In CA’s high school you get to take classes you normally wouldn’t. Some of the offerings when I was in school included some basic medical classes and business classes. Which means you can get a taste of what you want to go to college for while you’re still in high school. Also, scheduling is not a problem. In a brick-and-mortar school you wouldn’t be able to schedule two classes at one time, but in cyber school the “timing” of classes is of no concern.
You can work ahead or work behind. For my elective classes I would dedicate a week to finishing them for the entire semester so I would only have to work on my major classes during the year. You can also take time off if you need it and let your work pile up, or you can work ahead and finish school early for the summer (I would usually get an extra 3 weeks to my summer break as a result). You can work at night if you’re more productive, or on the weekends. Your schedule is up to you.
Drawbacks:• No real school experience. (I have no friends from my time in cyber school and only met my classmates on my graduation day.) (You do have opportunities to join virtual clubs and go on field trips but if you live in remote areas, you’ll have difficulty with this.)
• Poor communication about college credit opportunities that can hurt you in the long run (no one communicated with me the value of AP classes or mentioned CLEP exams while I was at CA, and thus I had to do catching up in college in order to accomplish my goals).
The Result: With CA I graduated high school in 2016 with over a 4.00. Because of the flexible scheduling I was able to do a lot of extracurriculars and spend time with family. Even though my parent earn too much money for me to qualify for most scholarships, my GPA and class history with CA was able to get me an $11,000-yearly scholarship to my university.
In high school I was able to take several business classes which helped me pick my majors in college (I ended up going for marketing, management, and HR). Because CA didn’t communicate with me the credit-value of AP classes and CLEP exams I had to take a full course schedule throughout college (in addition to working) and take CLEP exams on the side (8 total) to make up the credits I needed to graduate with my majors and an MBA in 4 years (through an integrate undergrad and graduate program). Overall, I can actually say I learned a lot in CA without having to worry about the pressures of a traditional school. But I had to work long hours to get there. Would I recommend it? Yes (if you’re dedicated).
The school has internet schooling down to a science yet it lacks in everything else. Most of the teachers are cold and robot-like. They do not establish a relationship with the student and students are basically forced to self-teach for all subjects. The subjects offered are fairly diverse yet material presented is subpar. The material presented does not challenge or create original thought. If your intention is to create a clone and stamp out individuality then this is the school for you. If not, anything else will probably be better.
Let me explain. I joined Connections in 7th grade. I was happy, excited even for the chance to learn from home. But honestly the worst mistake of my life. Language courses are actually terrible. They don't teach you anything, and just shove tests in your face. Every class just shoves tests and quizzes in your face. The workload is more than the hour per class promised, you end up doing hours and hours for one lesson. Not only that the work at your own pace is crap. You get yelled at with overdue lessons. Don't talk to me about teachers. They barely help you and get mad at you if you don't do it the way they want. I wish I never went there in the first place. You read about all the great reviews but consider the being away from everyone, the terrible teachers, the terrible tests (One test was 20 percent of my grade and covered stuff from my first semester 5 months ago). DO NOT SEND YOUR KIDS HERE IF YOU WANT THEM TO SUCCEED.
I started Connections Academy about 3 years ago. I should already be graduated but I am now 19 going to be 20 in a couple of months in the 11th grade. Let me just start off with this school gives you no help... Portfolios are the most confusing nonsense ever, you get just one thing wrong or you don’t do it exactly how they want it in their format you get it wrong. I can’t tell you how much times I have failed classes because of one little mess up in a portfolio. We need some actually teachers to help us out and take us step by step on what we need to do.
I got an email a day ago saying that I will be unenrolled in three days because rules wasn’t being followed. Today (the next day) I am not even allowed to turn in the rest of my work... SO MUCH FOR 3 ** DAYS!! This is honestly the worst homeschool. It says you can work at your own speed, but doesn't give you the warning that they are going to pile up a bunch of work on top. Which then makes you rush, and if you don’t get everything done you get emails and texts saying you need to get this done now or it’s a zero. I was in public school and it was not near as stressful and complicated than this...
Before researching everything, my mom would always get onto me because she thought I was just slacking. Not knowing that the school piles work up on the, and then if you don’t do it on time you get a zero (which makes you fail) and if you don’t do the portfolios perfect you also fail. Lol, but that’s fine. I’m not going to let this school ruin my chance of graduating. I will find a different school and I will graduate. So, good luck to all of you that are signed up or getting signed up for this school.
We moved from Ca to Las Vegas Nv in 2019. My son signed himself up for Connections Academy. He started 3 weeks late so was already a little behind but quickly caught up. My son and I have never had any problems but this school turned into daily blow up fights! He is very smart and capable. As semester was ending I kept seeing he was FAILING Every single class, even though he was busting his butt & turning in all assignments? It wasn't until I sat down & started really seeing what was going on. He had 100% of all assignments, turned in 75% or higher on all tests yet was still failing all classes due to portfolios he had not done or done correctly.
They were confusing so we reached out to teachers several times. They'd call back and say, "I web mailed you the instructions follow them." None would actually take the time to stay on the phone and walk us through the steps which was discouraging. They said portfolios are 23% of overall grade. Turns out they are 100% of grade. My son (16) has 45/45 assignments 17/17, 36/36, etc, All 100% complete and still failed EVERY SINGLE CLASS?
After working so hard to catch up & submit every assignment/test he still failed which has made him feel HOPELESS, depressed & give UP!!! In my opinion this school set him up for failure and now he just WANTS TO DROP OUT ALL TOGETHER, DROP OUT OF SCHOOL 3 months shy of 17!!! What is a parent to do? NOW I'm feeling HELPLESS.
I enrolled my child very early and that was the start of the problems. We did the Getting Started part, My son watched the videos and took the quiz's one by one then in a couple days I would get a call stating my son did not do it so he would go and do it again, "All the while I was believing my son was lying and not doing the work after the 3rd time and punishing my son for not doing it, I completed the task with him. Lo and behold I get the call again and I told them he did it so they thought he may have left something off so we completed by this time 5 times and tech support was with us. They wanted this to be completed and we would have to wait for the information to be annotated in the system. It failed. Now mind you My son could not do any work until GETTING STARTED WAS COMPLETED even though my son now did it 6 times.
So 3 weeks later and many threats to dis-enroll my son they decided to allow him to start class and they would override the error. Now we are doing the classwork together as we started 36 lessons behind but the problems still existed. We could not complete many of the courses due to whatever was the case being we never found out even though we called many times. I watched my son complete many courses and the academy continued to have problems (I believe because my son was behind to begin it would not let many courses to be submitted but not positive.).
Finally we get a threatening message that this meeting was mandatory. After a few words the COMPLIANCE DIRECTOR said as long as my child did 6 lessons a day all would be ok) So I had my son do 8 but we now the very next day I was locked out 1 day before break, I immediately tried to call and messaged them and also had my son message them to let them know I cannot check any of his work off or turn in his hours.
Now after break we get a call stating my son was dis-enrolled due to truancy. When I spoke to registration person (BTW who could do nothing to actually help) she was there to tell me my son was basically expelled due to truancy. Now mind you I had my son logging in 6 days a week and sometimes 7 just to get caught up oh yeah and his BENCHMARKS were within the TOP 20%. I am so frustrated with this school. I punished my child and he was telling the truth all along. This School in my opinion needs to be completely overhauled. I have 2 degrees and I must say that this setup is more complicated than Bannerweb and Blackboard. Please review all options before you enroll your child here. It was the biggest mistake I made.
I enrolled here for 6th grade. It is hell. So much work is adding up in a pile. I also have a very short attention span for school work so I seem to drift away very quickly. I use this on my gaming computer. My computer has a high end RTX 2070 with 16 gb of DDR4 Ram and a Ryzen 7 2700X processor. It hurts me to do boring work and be so close to all the Triple A games I own. I also learn more in a 5 minute video than in a lesson that takes me 1 hour.
When I first started this school it was great. I had to beg my parents to allow me to go to this school, and at first I thought it was perfectly worth it. I enjoyed it for about three weeks, easily would've been five stars if it stayed like that. But then suddenly after three weeks, 'work at your own pace', became non-existent as they started to overload me with assignments, AND the teachers would get mad at you. I got yelled at by my homeroom teacher (whom I will not name), for having one overdue lesson, even though I have a 504 saying I'm allowed to take my time on each lesson (even if you don't have a disability they're supposed to allow you lessons behind).
When I went to public school I would often learn things that are more advanced than my grade. My teachers have accused me of cheating multiple times, but with no proof, because I used something they didn't teach me yet... Before enrolling in this school I had plenty of friends and was really happy. After being in this school for half a year... I lost all of my friends because I was busy with school work, there is no way to make more friends with this school, I got diagnosed with anxiety and depression. My migraine problem has gotten worse and I have started to have fainting spells (neurologist says it's because of stress).
I begged my parents so much for this school and worked so hard to convince them, that they won't let me switch back to public school. I used to be a straight A student, and had never had anything under a C in my entire life. Since starting this school I barely passed last year and this year, I'm not sure if I will pass. If this school shuts down my life will instantly improve and it will be the best day of my life.
TL;DR: This school ruined mine and many other peoples lives, trust me, don't enroll in the school. If you go to Connections Academy right now, feel it out, see if you have the same opinion as me. If you do feel the same as me please leave a review so we can get this school shut down, or at least stop other people from having to go through it.
Connections Academy author review by ConsumerAffairs
Connections Academy is a virtual education organization that provides a free public online school for grades K-12, as well as a tuition-based online private school. Connections Academy is a division of Connections Education LLC.
In-person and online informational events: Connections Academy offers both online and in-person events for prospective students and their families to have their questions answered.
Personalized Performance Learning: Connections Academy provides a personalized educational experience using its Personalized Performance Learning approach. The school begins by reviewing the student’s background and learning style. It then conducts periodical testing to track progress over time and uses assessments to identify a student’s core strengths and weaknesses.
Career technical education: This program is designed for students — especially high school students — who would like to gain more targeted education towards a career in many fields; including, accounting, education, programming and business.
Diverse course options: Connections Academy can meet the needs of a diverse range of students with traditional courses, Honors and AP courses, and the ability to take college and NCAA approved courses while in high school.
Student experience catalog: Through a wide variety of extracurricular activities, Connections Academy provides one of the most advanced socialization programs in the online school industry.
Connections Academy Company Information
- Company Name:
- Connections Academy
- Year Founded:
- 1001 Fleet Street, 5th Floor
- Postal Code:
- United States
- (800) 382-6010