Colorado lawmakers are talking about several measures to increase oversight for the booming online school industry, and their efforts could inspire similar legislation elsewhere as well.
Online school is helping Michelle Nuss catch up. The 17-year-old is only a freshman in high school, falling behind a few years ago when she and her mother were homeless and living in a hotel.
These days, Nuss studies online up to six days a week and hopes she’ll be a junior by the end of the year.
”I love it,” she said of Connections Academy, her publicly funded online-only school. ”They should keep it around and make it accessible for everybody.”
But some Colorado lawmakers want to know if Nuss and other online students are really getting the best education. So far, Colorado’s online schools have shown disappointing results.
A 2010 report by the state Department of Education showed below-average test scores, dropout rates near 50 percent in some cases and, at one school, a student-to-teacher ratio of 317 to 1.
Still, the state’s online school industry is growing by double digits a year. Enrollment grew by more than 12 percent between 2008 and 2009.
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Last year, Colorado spent some $85 million teaching about 14,200 students online. Like brick-and-mortar schools, online schools are funded based on the number of students enrolled on a single ”count day,” Oct.1. Some fear the enrollment procedure gives online schools little incentive to keep pupils enrolled.
State lawmakers are talking about several measures to increase oversight for the booming online school industry, and their efforts could inspire similar legislation elsewhere as well.
”We’re looking at some increased accountability,” said Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, who plans to sponsor a bill that would change the role of an office within the Education Department called the ”Unit of Online Learning.” Steadman says the office needs ”more teeth.”