ED: Online programs key to boosting achievement

The Florida Virtual School offers online classes to students in grades eight-12 and is free to students throughout the state. The school projects it will enroll more than 8,000 kids in the upcoming year. While students cannot earn a diploma, they can take part in more than 66 classes taught by 70 different state-certified teachers, Young said.

What’s more, technology-based supplemental service programs allow for increased database management and tend to yield quicker results.

This is critical, said Mike Williamson, chief academic officer for HOSTS Learning, because supplemental services must accomplish a lot in what amounts to no more than 16 hours of instruction.

“You need to reduce the amount of time it takes to aggregate, sort, and analyze data quickly. We need to get through the data challenge so that each teacher can teach each child,” he said.

ED officials said they were optimistic that schools would be able to find a number of acceptable, high-quality supplemental service providers through technology-based and online channels.

“What the power of the internet offers is the ability to tap into literally the best instructors, the best supplemental service providers, the best tutors from all around the country and all around the world,” said John Bailey, ED’s director of education technology.

While several educators found the session on technology-based services helpful, there was obvious disagreement about ED’s ability to provide clear, concise answers to more specific policy-related questions.

“It’s very frustrating to states that [ED] really has no firm guidelines,” said Bob Bonner of the Georgia Department of Education.

Bonner said many of the federal guidelines established at the conference were too broad. State and local educators are not sure if the strides they have made toward compliance—including the providers they have selected—will be approved when final requirements are released by ED in August, he said.

Bonner’s comments came just days after Secretary Paige released a letter outlining the major provisions of the new service requirements and imploring educators to begin planning for the changes immediately.

Rodney Watson, assistant superintendent for the Louisiana Department of Education, said, “Clearly, there are some things that have yet to be worked out on the federal level.”

Watson said it’s doubtful that all of the nation’s schools will be able to integrate approved supplemental service programs by September. But he acknowledged that he knew more about the latest requirements when he left the conference than when he arrived.

Sarah Hall, Title I coordinator for the Maryland Department of Education, said it’s difficult for ED to release school-specific federal guidelines because education systems vary widely from state to state. “We have to remember that there are 50 different entities implementing these services. We are all unique,” she said.

Related Links:
U.S. Department of Education

Sec. Paige’s Letter

Parents’ Guide to Supplemental Services

Georgia Department of Education

Louisiana Department of Education

Maryland Department of Education

eSchool News Staff

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