As your children begin the new school year here in the Sunshine State, there are more options than ever for how and where they learn. From online school at home to lucrative career training certifications starting as early as middle school, families continue to show interest in alternatives to traditional in-school academic models and the traditional college prep path. No longer is it assumed a student would want a 4-year degree, given the stats on college loan debt and the high demand for skilled, trade-specific employees. Career training is becoming more prevalent as a learning model for students.

According to the Center on Reinventing Public Education, Florida is among ten states whose virtual school enrollments continue to rise even after the pandemic.

And recent legislation impacting school vouchers and other education policies is opening the door for more families to forgo the well-known, brick-and-mortar model for other options in where they learn and what they learn.

For example, the Digital Academy of Florida (DAOF) enrolls more than 6,000 virtual students from across the state. In June, almost 40 percent of the online school’s 390 graduating seniors walked away with industry certifications they earned at DAOF, which is part of the Hendry County school district. While 236 of these graduates reported plans to continue with postsecondary education, 143 said they plan to go directly into the workforce.

School administrators say these early career training certification options can better serve Florida students by exposing them to more career and job options and giving them earning opportunities early on.

According to the Florida Department of Education:

  • Florida has nearly 800,000 K-12 students enrolled in career and technical education (CTE)– the highest in the state’s history (this marks a 9.5 percent increase in participation across a five-year span dating back to 2017 and is the highest number of students involved in the program since its inception.)
  • Of the 800,000, 31 percent are in middle school, while the remaining 69 percent are in high school.
  • In the 2022-23 school year, 65 percent of high school seniors enrolled in a CTE concentration graduate with at least one industry certification.

The K-12 experience and the path beyond high school graduation are definitely evolving. As a parent, it is important to understand and research the options and find what works best for your child.

For more information about Digital Academy and other online learning and industry certification options for your child, visit DAOF online.


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