The author is academic director of FreedomProject Academy, an online classical school.
FreedomProject Academy is reaching young people and their families at unprecedented levels. FPA is a classical school that offers online classes in real time, with live teachers and student interaction, not recorded lessons. The 2015-16 school year was our most successful year to date, with over 600 students enrolled across the country, from Kindergarten through high school. Our media, original programming, and scholastic materials were accessed by millions of students and viewers, and for the first time we provided diplomas for the initial wave of students who spent all four years of high school with FPA. We currently have 250 students on the track to receive diplomas, our highest number ever, reflecting 35 percent growth from one year ago. Diplomas granted to the recent senior class are also 38 percent higher than the previous year.
These classically educated young people are now enrolling in colleges and universities, accepting internships, and entering the workforce. They are prepared to compete at a very high level, bolstered by an education big on civics, economics, writing, and math, and fortified by the Judeo-Christian values that are at the heart of our curriculum.
The 2016-2017 academic year will see the impact of FPA expand even further. As they have for each of the last five years, student numbers continue to grow, and the new school year brings record numbers. Our fall enrollment figures are cause for great optimism. We have filled over 75 percent of our elementary school classes, an all-time high and an important predictor of future enrollments. More parents are entrusting their students to us at younger ages, and as a result these kids are much more likely to remain with FPA for the long haul. We now have students in all 50 states and 10 foreign countries, including Canada, Barbados, Italy, Mexico, Dominican Republic, to name just a few.
FPA offers free placement exams in math and writing — whether families decide to use our program or not — and this is a tremendous source of recruitment, as well as a wake-up call. We find that students who come to us from the public schools are on average two years behind where they should be. With every passing year, public school kids lag farther behind FPA students. We test many more students every year than actually enroll with us. Even though some families do not choose FPA as the immediate answer, they finally understand in concrete terms the failure of the public schools. Besides the many parents who choose us, some opt to homeschool or put their kids into private Christian schools. Another encouraging sign: Many kids who take our placement exams end up joining FPA after spending a few years in private schools, where parents become frustrated with the cost of tuition and the imposition of Common Core in the classroom. FPA offered a whopping 401 placement exams in 2016 alone.
Our middle and high school courses are filled to the highest capacity in FPA history, and we have experienced a record 75 percent retention rate from last year’s class — a remarkable number, when taking into account the students who graduated from our high school. Our advertising, expanding media footprint, and positive reviews have made FPA a national brand. This year, more than 40 percent of our new students were referred by current FPA families. We also witnessed a 900 percent increase since last year in the number of Information Packets sent out to families, and for the first time we ran out of Program Guides before enrollment closed. In 2015, for instance, we sent out 161 program guides. In 2016 we have already sent out more than 1,500 program guides. FPA is also partnering with private schools, homeschooling co-ops, and churches, beaming our teachers and curriculum into their local communities, affording families a quality education in safe spaces.
Furthermore, FPA’s reputation as a national leader in online K-12 education has provided a platform for us to offer national leadership in the fight against Common Core standards and the federalization of education. To date, we have delivered over 500 anti-Common Core talks in 46 states, and have participated in over 2,000 radio, TV, and Skype interviews, reaching in total over three million listeners during the last five years.
But the impact of FPA has resonated well beyond the ability of numbers and statistics to measure. We are changing lives and preparing the next generation of patriot leaders. The calls and e-mails from satisfied parents attest not just to our academic rigor, but also to the success of our focus on character development and moral improvement. FPA kids are economically literate, schooled in the Constitution and founding documents. We are creating morally responsible, civic-minded thinkers, and we’re doing it without the help of the federal government. I encourage you to read these moving testimonials for yourself at Facebook.com/FreedomProjectEducation/.