Originally published in MetroFamily on May 4, 2023
Did you know Oklahoma has an online alternative school designed for students in grades 6-12 who need extra help and support to finish high school? We recently learned of the accomplishments of Insight School of Oklahoma — the state’s only online alternative education institution — which has become a prime example of a school embracing change and thriving because of it.
Over the last five years, Insight implemented significant changes to become one of the fastest-growing online schools in the state. Last year, the school experienced an 18% increase in enrollment. And in May 2023, 237 students will walk across the stage to receive diplomas, nearly a 200% increase since 2019.
To learn more about Insight School of Oklahoma, we interviewed their Head of School, Jennifer Wilkinson.
MetroFamily: Please tell us more about your online school.
Insight School of Oklahoma (ISOK) is a TUITION-FREE public online charter school serving students in grades 6-12 across Oklahoma. The school was founded in 2014 as the state’s only virtual school offering alternative education. All teachers are state-certified in specific subjects.
The school caters to students who have substance abuse issues, have been expelled from other schools, are teen parents, have struggled in brick-and-mortar schools, are not on track to graduate, are credit deficient and/or have special needs. Students up to age 21 who have not graduated high school or received their GED are eligible to enroll.
ISOK is trauma-certified and all students have access to a Social Emotional Learning Program and Family Support Teams to help ensure their success. Plus, students are set up with Individualized Learning Plans to meet their specific needs.
Unlike many other online schools, students are required to log in every day to keep them accountable. ISOK also offers flexible schedules and classes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. No other online school in Oklahoma offers night school.
MetroFamily: Why is online school beneficial for students, especially teens who need an alternative school setting?
We’ve found that online education offers flexibility, convenience and many resources unavailable at brick-and-mortar schools. For example, students can work at their own pace, but they’re still held accountable by their teachers. ISOK works to remove as many barriers as possible before students even enter the classroom, including:
- Providing food boxes as needed with donations from local nonprofits (70% of Insight’s students are low-income)
- Having licensed counselors on staff, as 100% of students currently enrolled have had an adverse childhood experience
- Providing free laptops and hot spots
MetroFamily: Are classes offered online only or is there some combination of in-person and online classes?
All classes are taught online, but there are many opportunities for socialization with fellow students, including regular outings, field trips and school-based clubs. Clubs offered include esports, art, photography, cooking, fitness, books and much more. ISOK also has a student council.
MetroFamily: What are your goals for Insight School and how are they being met?
Our goals are three-fold: increase graduation rates, train reading teachers and provide post-graduation support.
To increase graduation rates, we have worked to diversify how credits are accrued, which makes graduating more attainable for most students. Students struggling with certain subjects can receive direct instruction from teachers, but otherwise they’re free to work at their own pace. This flexibility makes getting an education more accessible — especially for those students who have jobs, children to support or other commitments outside of school.
We recognized strong reading skills are the foundation for all learning. Every teacher at ISOK is trained as a reading teacher to equip students with needed skills post-graduation.
And we want to ensure students have a clear path to success post-graduation. Counselors meet with students regularly to help them transition to the next stage of their lives, whether it is to college, career tech or the workforce.
MetroFamily: What does the future look like for Insight School?
Insight strives to serve even more students who need specialized education and flexible schedules. And we hope to forge new community partnerships to better support our students and provide them opportunities for internships, job shadowing and career tech opportunities.
About Insight’s Head of School:
Jennifer Wilkinson. M.Ed., LPC, NCC, NCSC, has 19 years of experience in education. While Jennifer has diverse teaching experiences at the elementary and secondary levels, she spent the past 16 years in alternative education, with seven years as the Director of Alternative Education at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Jennifer led the Alternative Education Advisory Committee for several years, focusing on improving alternative education in Oklahoma. The work of this committee led to the update of a 25-year-old alternative education law.
For more information about Insight School of Oklahoma, visit insightok.k12.com