Waivers free Michigan students to study online, off-campus

Eleven Michigan school districts and one charter school now can allow students to take more courses online and off-campus, reports the Detroit Free Press–a move that could further cement the state’s reputation as a leader in online education. Michigan already broke new ground in 2006 by becoming the first state in the nation to require students take an online class or have an online educational experience in order to graduate. In November, the Center for Digital Education ranked Michigan second, behind Florida, for online education. Two metro Detroit districts–Waterford and Avondale–are among the handful moving farther ahead, winning approval from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to allow larger numbers of students to take online courses wherever they want. At least two dozen of the state’s 552 districts and 230 charter schools have applied for the waivers from rules that require students be in a school building for nearly 1,100 hours each school year. Students also are currently limited by state law to taking only two online courses outside a school building during a semester. The waivers are a result of a challenge issued to districts earlier this year by State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, with the goal of seeing what innovative ideas school districts could come up with if they were allowed to bypass some rules that might be "standing in the way of schools reaching more kids," said MaryAlice Galloway, senior adviser to the chief academic officer at MDE. Most of the 24 districts that submitted proposals targeted struggling students, particularly those attending alternative high schools. That’s not surprising, given that a quarter of the state’s students fail to graduate on time–including 15 percent who drop out altogether…

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