As online classes boom, questions of rigor arise

A fast-growing number of K-12 students in Minnesota and across the nation are migrating from the classroom to online learning. But while some Minnesota online schools tout impressive test scores, many fall short of statewide performance levels in reading, science, and especially math, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Many educators say that’s because struggling students often turn to online options, but others question the rigor of some online programs. “We’ve seen several cases where students … earn a whole bunch of credits so fast that it’s inconceivable,” said Charlie Kyte, head of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. He said virtual learning can be valuable, but the quality varies widely. Minnesota has at least 24 certified public online K-12 programs. State test results from these online schools are all over the map. Some beat statewide performance; many fall far below. Only 3 percent of students were proficient in math last year at Insight School of Minnesota, and only 17 percent at Wolf Creek Distance Learning Center. “Eighty-five percent of our kids are at risk,” said Tracy Quarnstrom, Wolf Creek’s director. “We run about 20 percent teen parents, and we have students coming out of [drug treatment]. … Still, we need to prove that we can get kids to the point where they need to be.”

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