Policies and Handbook
The FAQs are in the handbook. Some of the most popular ones are also answered below:
When does registration open for the following school year?
March 1 is registration day — a preview of our schedule and course line up is generally available in February. Sign up for our e-mail list to stay abreast of developments.
Are your teachers employees?
Yes, they are. Here’s why you should care. . .
A few years ago, the IRS ruled against an online provider of homeschool classes, finding that their teachers should be classified as employees, not independent contractors. The resulting fines and back taxes assessed forced the provider out of business. Most distressing, they could not refund the families who had paid for classes that disappeared overnight–leaving these folks scrambling midyear to find replacement classes they had to pay for again.
The day after this event became public, I hired Carol Topp (http://homeschoolcpa.com/) to conduct a thorough review of Aim Academy’s employment practices. I have always used a knowledgeable accountant, but I wanted someone with experience with the IRS in this area, and Carol has that.
When she sent me her review letter, I immediately implemented her recommendation that I make Aim Academy teachers employees–even though this is a costly pivot. I do not want to risk the fines/back taxes and the disruption this would cause to the families who trust us to be above reproach and sustainable.
While it is more expensive for me to employ our instructors, it is the right thing to do. This change provides better protection for them and their families (they have unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation). It is also better for our families — you do not have to worry about the financial solvency of Aim Academy. We aren’t going anywhere. We aspire to serve you and your children for years to come.
(HSLDA also hired employment attorneys to review the situation, and they came back with the same recommendation–online teachers should be employees not independent contractors, if paid directly by the organization.)
Do you charge a registration fee?
Yes. We charge $24 per order to help cover administration, record-keeping, and technology. The fee is the same no matter how many classes you register for per order. This fee is called a technology fee on your order.
What is included in the cost?
Aim tuition covers student and parent access to the course website and access to the live class sessions (one student only). Live sessions are provided at least three out of four weeks of the month. When a live session is not provided, teachers provide a recorded lecture. Any modification of this provision will be clearly noted in the sign-up materials.
What is not included in the cost?
The cost of the course does not include the required texts, unless noted in the course description. Teachers have selected texts that are appropriate for the course and, as a secondary priority, those that are easily available used.
How often are live classes held?
Unless otherwise noted, instructors will provide a live class at least three out of four weeks in a given month. If a live class is not provided, a recorded lecture will be offered. However unexpected interruptions or illness may prevent an instructor from providing a live or recorded class. A make-up session will be offered for more than two canceled classes for a full year course.
The time slot doesn’t work for us. Must students attend the live classes?
Students do not have to attend the live class. Live classes are recorded. Attendance is optional. Listening to the recording is required.
What is the schedule for the school year?
Full year and semester long courses begin the last week of August. Classes end between the last week of April and the second week of May. Classes meet at least 32 weeks. Classes that prepare students for end of the year AP or CLEP exams typically meet 34 weeks. Class breaks are scheduled for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and early spring.
The current school year schedule is listed here and in the handbook above.
What is your refund policy?
Registration (technology) fees are nonrefundable.
For classes paid in full before the start of the course, the following refund policies apply:
- Please request a refund by e-mail via our website.
- We will issue a 80% refund if you withdraw from the course prior to the third Monday of August. (This gives us time to add wait-listed students to classes that are closed.)
- We will issue an 70% refund if you withdraw from the course prior to Week 7. ( Second week of October)
- No refunds are issued after Oct. 2, 2020.
For mini-courses and one semester courses: 80% if you withdraw prior to first week of the course. 70% if you withdraw prior to 3rd week of the course. No refunds issued after 1st Monday of Week 3.
For students on a payment plan, the following refund policies apply:
- Please request a refund by e-mail via our website.
- We will issue a refund, less 20% of full scheduled payment, if you withdraw prior to the last Monday of August. (For example, if full payment would have been $600, we will return what you have paid, less $120).
- We will issue a refund, less 30% of full scheduled payment, if you withdraw prior to Week 7. (Second week of October)
- The same policies apply to mini-courses and semester courses if you withdraw prior to the 3rd week of the course. No refunds after the 1st Monday of Week 3.
Credit Option: You may elect to receive 90% credit for the full amount paid, excluding technology fee, toward a future Aim Academy course. The credit option is available up to the deadlines for 70% refund (prior to week 7 of full year course; prior to week 3 of semester/minicourses.)
What are college entrance exams?
The SAT and the ACT are college entrance exams. Students should take these during their junior and senior years of high school to demonstrate their college readiness.These exams measure students skill levels in critical reading, mathematics, and writing. Our current classes are designed to help students improve the critical reading, vocabulary, writing skills, and core knowledge tested by these exams.
What are equivalency exams?
Equivalency exams (also know as credit-by-exam) test a student’s knowledge and skill in a college level subject area. Students who score well on these exams may be awarded either credit or advanced placement at the university or college where they matriculate. The AP and CLEP exams are the most frequently accepted equivalency exams. Each individual college or university determines which equivalency exams they will accept and the credit or advanced placement they will award.
What is the difference between earning credit and advanced placement for these exams?
If a college awards credit for a CLEP or AP exam score, then the student does not have to take the class the exam replaces. The student also earns the credits the college would have awarded a student who successfully completed that course (without having to pay the college for those credits). This is the best policy, as it saves you money and advances the student towards a degree.
If a college awards advanced placement, then the student is only exempt from taking the class the exam replaces. The student does not earn credit toward a degree but may take more advanced coursework in its place. This can be advantageous in allowing the student to earn advanced standing at the college or university earlier ( which will have its own set of privileges.) For example, a student who receives advanced placement in French because of AP or CLEP exam scores, may be able to take graduate level classes which count concurrently toward an undergraduate and graduate level degree.
What type of student is best suited for these classes?
We believe these classes are best suited for any college bound student. The skills and content we teach are focused around the CLEP and AP equivalency exams. These exams, in turn, are designed to reflect the current skills and content commonly taught at the college level. The College Board routinely surveys colleges and universities to insure that these exams are aligned with current course requirements. All types of colleges are included in their survey; e.g. Catholic, Christian, private, and public. If the colleges and universities you are considering for your child accept CLEP and AP credits, then that means these exams are aligned with their course content. Beyond preparing students for these equivalency exams, our classes prepare students in an incremental and supportive way for the rigors and expectations of future college-level work.
How much do these classes cost?
The cost of each full year course varies depending upon the qualifications and experience of the instructor, as well as, the time required to grade assignments and provide quality feedback to the student. These range from $499-$700 a class. One semester courses cost $299. Mini-courses are $225. Other than books ( and most can be purchased used), there are no additional fees for these classes.
Are course texts included in the cost?
No, the course materials are extra. However, most classes use textbooks that are widely available used, and teacher only change the required texts for a course when absolutely necessary so you will be able to resell or reuse the materials with other children.
My child has never taken an online class before. How will we know what to do?
We’ve got you covered. Our teachers understand that they are acclimating students to online learning; as well as, the challenges of college prep work. They are coached to help all students get comfortable with an online environment during the first few weeks. Additionally, we are all using CANVAS, Zoom conferencing tool, and online gradebook – so you can expect a quicker adjustment with each of our classes you enroll in.
What is the class format?
- Students and parents have access to all class materials via the class website, built with Instructure’s CANVAS learning management system (LMS). Separate invitations to both student and parent will be e-mailed the week the course begins. It is important that each student and each parent accept their invitations and set up their individual accounts for signing into the class website. After the start of the class, all communications with the teacher should take place within CANVAS so a permanent record of teacher/student and teacher/parent interactions is created.
- The class syllabus will be available at the start of the course; this may be updated or modified as needed by the teacher, though these are kept to a minimum. Students always have at least seven days to complete an assignment.
Students and teacher will be able to discuss the material via a class discussion forum which is private. Parents also have full access to the class website and discussion forums.
- Instructors regularly use the Zoom conferencing tool to offer a live discussion or chat with students. Students receive an e-mail link to the live discussion prior to the start of class. The first time a student uses the Zoom conferencing tool, a small file will be downloaded to the student’s computer that will allow the student to enter the classroom.
- The time slot for the live sessions is predetermined and posted on the Aim Academy website. Students are not required to attend a live session, though most do if their schedule permits. While attendance at live sessions is not required, students are required to listen to the recorded lesson as soon as possible to stay caught up with the course information.
- Students will also have access to recorded lectures made by the instructor. These will also include media; such as, PowerPoint presentations, whiteboard demonstrations or video.
- Students and parents will be able to track student progress through an online grade book.
- CANVAS also provides analytics, which allows teacher and parent to see student activity and progress in the course.
What kind of technology is required?
High speed, broadband Internet, sound card and microphone are necessary to participate in the optional live class sessions. Streaming video capabilities are necessary to watch recorded lectures. A quality headset is also recommended for live lectures (one with a USB connection is best). A scanner is recommended for most high school level classes; as well as, the ability to convert documents to a PDF format.
What should we do about technical issues?
The teacher or Aim administrator will be able to guide you through any technical issues concerning Canvas LMS. Zoom provides 24/7 live support for technical difficulties. A phone number for contacting support will be included in the e-mail link to all live sessions. Technical difficulties not related to CANVAS or Web-ex will be the responsibility of the parent.
What are the differences among introductory, pre-AP and AP courses?
Introductory level – foundational middle school or high school course. The first in the recommended sequence of courses in that subject area.
Pre-AP – equivalent to a college prep high school level class. The difference is a pre-AP level class introduces the core content and critical skills that are focused on indepth in the subsequent AP class in that subject area.
AP – equivalent to a college level class at a selective university. These courses are more rigorous than a similar course at a community college. This is the reason doing well in an AP course and on the AP exam helps students win merit scholarship. It demonstrates they are capable of excelling in advanced level work. It also illustrates why we are offering graduated levels — to help students be ready to do their best in an AP class.
What kind of time commitment is necessary?
The time commitment increases with level and it will vary from student to student. In general, the time commitment is affected by the student’s reading level. If the student is already reading beyond grade level, he or she will move through the material more quickly. If the student is weak in critical reading skills, then more time will be needed.
All of our classes focus on developing a student’s critical reading and comprehension skills — as this is a key component of all the exams we are prepping for. What follows is a general rule of thumb for each level:
Middle school – 3-4 hrs. a week
Intermediate – 4-6 hrs. a week
Pre-AP – 5-7 hrs. a week
AP – 8-10 hrs. a week
What kind of software is required?
Microsoft Word is recommended but not required and Adobe Acrobat. A scanner is necessary for math and science classes, or a quality camera phone — to send in student’s written work.
Are classes taught from a Christian worldview?
Our classes are not explicitly Christian (unless otherwise noted), though we are careful to choose materials that respect the concerns of religious and conservative families. Teachers are free to express their faith and their opinions in the classes they teach. We also respect the rights of students to express their faith and opinions in class and in assignments (when relevant to the class discussion and assignment.) However, the unique purpose of Aim Academy courses is to prepare our students for college level entrance exams and CLEP and AP exams by the end of high school. This is our focus, and students from all faith backgrounds or none at all are welcomed in our classes. Teachers are also responsible for creating a class culture where students from all backgrounds feel comfortable, respected, and valued.
When are assignments due?
Students always have seven days or more to complete and submit an assignment. The assignment due date is published on the class assignment page and class calendar. Most teachers require assignments to be submitted the same day of the week every week. Students have ample time to complete more substantial assignments; such as, papers and projects.
How is homework submitted?
Students can submit assignments directly through CANVAS by uploading an attachment as an .rtf, .doc, .docx, or pdf. (MAC users must convert to one of these extensions). Alternatively, students can type or copy and paste their assignments directly into a text box provided on the assignment page in CANVAS. Many quizzes and tests are built directly into CANVAS. Students will know their results on these assignments immediately.
How soon will homework be graded?
It is our intention to return assignments to students, with appropriate feedback, within seven days. In the event this is not possible; the teacher will notify the class or individual students in advance. Bigger assignments, such as a research paper or project, may require more than seven days. Again, the teacher will set the expectation for when big projects will be graded in advance.
How much feedback will my student receive?
Specific, targeted feedback will be provided for all written work, including lab reports. It is our goal to prepare your student for future CLEP, AP or SAT subject tests, and timely, individualize feedback is a key component of the preparations. The quality and quantity of individualized feedback AIM provides is a distinct characteristic of our classes which sets us apart from other options. However, it is not common to comment on ALL aspects of a student’s work – frequently teachers are focused on particular skills and those skills will be the only ones evaluated in a student’s work, particularly during the first semester of a course.
A commenting tool provided by CANVAS is used by many teachers. These comments are sometimes not visible when using certain browsers. Please contact the teacher if your child does not have any feedback on a written assignment. It is highly likely the comments are just not visible to you and a simple adjustment is all that is necessary.
Do teachers accept late work?
I (Debra Bell) encourage teachers to set a strict late work policy for these reasons:
I want teachers to have time to provide the timely feedback that sets AIM classes apart from other options. Late work detracts from that time.
Grading late work takes a lot of extra time–it’s much faster to grade ALL student work for any given assignment in one sitting.
From my thirty years of teaching I’ve found once a teacher starts accepting late work, many more students start turning in late work and the problems created snowball.
- Students are better served by setting reasonable expectations for turning work in on time. This is an important college-ready skill for students to develop.
- AIM Academy teachers are not required to accept late work. With that said, teachers are free to set their individual class policies, and you will find that ALL Aim teachers have policies in place to accommodate illness, family emergencies and infrequent requests for an extension.
What should my student expect the first week of class?
During the first week of class teachers will orient students to CANVAS, course technologies and class policies. Some teachers do a “soft” start to allow for families who are still on vacation and to make sure everyone has time to get acclimated to an online environment.
We are going to be out-of-town, can my student complete assignments in advance?
It is at the teacher’s discretion to provide assignments in advance to accommodate a student’s schedule. In general, this practice is discouraged because course assignments are aligned with course lectures (and teachers will not be able to provide these in advance.)
In the event that a teacher does allow a student access to course modules and assignments early, the teacher will not be able to grade this work in advance.
Is creative writing an elective or can it be used for a high school English credit?
Our creative writing courses also includes literature and enough formal writing instruction to fulfill an English credit for high school, without adding any other coursework to your schedule. It can be used as a pre-AP English literature course if desired.
Are parents expected to do any grading?
Not typically. Parents will be asked to proctor exams, but they will be scored at our end.
In some classes, students may be asked to self-check routine assignments and report their scores. We use this method when self-checking their work helps students to learn. Teachers will also be using teaching assistants to check homework and enter grades.
Do you plan to offer additional classes?
Yes, our plan is to offer a complete line-up of middle school and high school level classes that cover essential college prep material and prepare students in an incremental and targeted way for equivalency exams and college entrance exams. We will add classes as the right teachers are identified. We believe the teacher is the critical component that will make or break the success of the course and your satisfaction with what we offer. We want your experience with our online classes to be consistent and overwhelmingly positive.