Virtual schools see strong growth–and calls for more oversight

The Christian Science Monitor reports that enrollment in online classes last year reached the 1 million mark, growing 22 times the level seen in 2000–and a new paper by the Hoover Institute predicts that by 2019, half of courses in grades 9 to 12 will be delivered online. But there’s little research assessing the quality of these programs, which some experts say don’t have enough official oversight. Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, "you have to have high standards, tight oversight, scrutiny over what teachers are doing. Yet on the other extreme, also promoted by the federal government, are these loosely accountable approaches to schooling," says Luis Huerta, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College who has researched virtual schools for more than a decade. Even some supporters of online learning say education officials need to provide more guidance. Some states allow online Advanced Placement courses; some don’t. Ditto for requiring lab work in science courses. The inconsistencies stunt the online model’s growth, says David Reed, a researcher at Arizona State University in Tempe…

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