Some families in The Woodlands, Texas area are taking advantage of Texas’s school choice opportunities by attending iSchool High School at Lone Star College – University Park. iSchool High School is a public charter high school whose curriculum takes students through high school and up to two years of college courses in four years at no additional cost. The program is offered at many Lone Star College campuses around the Houston area and online.
One family who attends iSchool High School are the Bunches. Grant is a sophomore and Aidan is a freshman at iSchool HS. Their parents offered them the choice to attend either the local public high school or iSchool, laying out the pros and cons of attending either and both boys chose iSchool. I interviewed Alex Bunch about sending his sons to iSchool HS.
The program is student-led, meaning students are responsible for learning at their own pace. The curriculum is rigorous and the standards are high. This program is not for everyone. Those who struggle are assessed and sometimes guided to re-enroll in the local traditional public high school. iSchool HS prides itself on a 100% success rate, which they define as a student graduating with a 3.0 gpa or higher and each student taking college courses that can lead to a professional trade certification, associate’s degree or credits to transfer to a four-year university.
Alex and his family have lived in many different places in the world, including spending five years in England. When the Bunches moved to The Woodlands area, Grant attended his first year at College Park High School and Aidan attended Knox Junior High. When the Bunches learned of iSchool HS, Alex and his wife considered the different options. Their vision for their teens’ futures is to enable the boys to be “successful and happy” knowing that this definition means different things to each of their children.
Alex Bunch likes the iSchool HS model because it allows students the freedom to make their own choices. iSchool HS is a self-driven, self-paced model. Each student has a set of books on a particular subject that they must complete. After they finish each book on that subject, the student schedules an oral exam with one of the professors. A passing grade for the oral exam is 90%. If the student passes the oral exam, they then schedule a time to take the written test which will be their final grade. Anything less than a 90% score on the oral exam means they must study and prepare better to retake the oral exam before taking the written exam. Faculty is always available to help the students. Students determine when they are ready to take these exams but there is a structured pace to maintain. There are no career students at iSchool HS.
Alex believes that traditional schooling is missing the critical thinking skills needed to navigate the world and the permission in the classroom to exercise those skills. Rather than thinking “I need an expert to explain this subject/idea to me”, he’d rather his teens learn “I can research and learn for myself”. The iSchool HS model helps grow their teens’ confidence as they learn good study habits and accept the responsibility to determine their own success. The Bunches believe that learning to make choices and understanding the consequences of those choices is key to a successful and happy life.
When I asked Alex about what parents and students should expect if they choose iSchool HS, he pointed out that iSchool HS doesn’t have the traditional high school social activities like Homecoming and Prom. Also, the physical education portion of the curriculum must be done on the student’s own time. iSchool HS does have their own activities and clubs and, as Alex mentions, their boys’ social lives are as active as any normal teen.
Overall, the Bunch family is pleased that their sons are attending iSchool HS. As Alex says, it’s “teaching them how to be independent”. Alex comments on his sons’ visions for the future:
“Aidan is into gaming and technology, but continues to say “I’m going to be an entrepreneur.” His mind always thinking of what needs are out there he could fill a void for. He has a keen mind and is excellent with people, so no doubt whatever he chooses he will do well.”
“Grant either wants to be a Director or a Chef. He has an extraordinary storytelling mind, that if it could be harnessed and focused, I believe he could be the next George Lucas or JK Rowling. Grant has a “can’t we just all get along” spirit, so iSchool works well as there seems to be much less drama than he experienced his Freshman year in public school.”
Thankfully, for students like Grant and Aidan, there is choice in how they can learn about the world around them. School choice permits each student to fulfill their potential by using the best style of learning for them to become a happy, successful and contributing member of society.
For more information on iSchool High School, click HERE.