7 keys to effective online learning

Online learning’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years amid reports of poor academic performance and concerns over lax regulation. While there is certainly some cause for concern, many of the problems center on for-profit providers who manage full-time virtual schools. The truth is that not all online learning experiences are of suspect quality.

When done well, online learning can be highly successful—opening the door to numerous learning opportunities that students otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to, while providing very rich and rigorous instruction. In fact, students who take online Advanced Placement courses from VHS Learning consistently outperform national passing rate averages on AP exams.

Related content: 10 things to help students during the COVID-19 outbreak…Read More

Are virtual schools failing students?

A new in-depth analysis of school performance measures for full-time virtual and blended schools indicates they might not be as successful as traditional public schools.

The data comes from the National Education Policy Center’s (NEPC) Sixth Annual Report on Virtual Education, Full-Time Virtual and Blended Schools: Enrollment, Student Characteristics, and Performance.

Virtual schools continued to under-perform academically, including in comparison to blended schools. Overall, 36.4 percent of full-time virtual schools and 43.1 percent of blended schools received acceptable performance ratings.…Read More

Report questions efficacy of full-time virtual schools

“The current weak measures of effectiveness need updating to measure true student success based on outcomes,” said one online learning advocate.

A report released last week by university researchers is the latest to question the academic merits of full-time virtual schools run by K12 Inc.—and by extension, the promise of cyber education in general.

According to the report, students enrolled in schools run by K12—the nation’s largest virtual school company—have lower scores in math and reading on end-of-year exams than students in traditional schools, and parents are pulling their students out in droves. K12 disputes the report’s findings, saying they fail to measure student growth over time and are based on flawed research methods.

The report, titled “Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools,” was released by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado. It comes on the heels of a recent class-action lawsuit against K12 claiming that the company misled investors (see “Online learning provider K12 faces class-action lawsuit”).…Read More

Virtual schools booming as states mull warnings

iNACOL acknowledges that states need to do a better job overseeing online schools.

More schoolchildren than ever are taking their classes online, using technology to avoid long commutes to school, add courses they wouldn’t otherwise be able to take—and save their school districts money.

But as states pour money into virtual classrooms, with an estimated 200,000 virtual K-12 students in 40 states from Washington to Wisconsin, educators are raising questions about virtual learning. States are taking halting steps to increase oversight, but regulation isn’t moving nearly as fast as the virtual school boom.

The virtual learning debate pits traditional education backers, including teachers’ unions, against lawmakers tempted by the promise of cheaper online schools and school-choice advocates who believe private companies will apply cutting-edge technology to education.…Read More

Growth of online instruction continues, though unevenly

Online education programs are now available to at least some K-12 students in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

Online instruction continues to grow quickly overall, according to the latest snapshot of online education programs in grades K-12. But the shape and pace of this growth remains uneven throughout the U.S., and two states—Delaware and New York—still don’t offer any opportunities for K-12 students to take classes online.

That’s according to the 2010 edition of “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning,” an annual review of the status of online instruction in the U.S., published by Evergreen Education Group. The latest “Keeping Pace” report says tight budgets, new policy developments, and changing technologies are accelerating the growth of online education programs in some states, while slowing their growth in others.

As of the report’s publication, online education programs were available to at least some K-12 students in 48 states and the District of Columbia, its authors said—but no state provides a full range of opportunities for online instruction, which the report defines as both supplemental and full-time options for students of all grade levels.…Read More

Virtual schools in a fight for adequate funding

Virtual school funding gets 'Do Not Pass Go' in Georgia.
Virtual school funding gets 'Do Not Pass Go' in Georgia.

Heart-wrenching decisions made by state bureaucrats that affect the pursuit of a child’s dream might sound like the makings of a Hollywood movie, but for virtual schools in Georgia and elsewhere, these are par for the course.

Two proposed virtual schools in Georgia got the OK to open this fall, but with very limited funding. Their plans are now on hold while they appeal the state’s decision, which supporters of online instruction say was based on politics and not a careful analysis of the costs necessary to operate a high-quality virtual school. What’s more, virtual school advocates say Georgia is not alone in funding virtual schools at a level that is dramatically lower than what traditional schools receive per pupil.

The two Georgia virtual schools, Kaplan Academy of Georgia and Provost Academy Georgia, were approved in June by the Georgia Charter Schools Commission (GCSC), which also decides how much funding each school should receive.…Read More

Oregon’s education board seeks rules on virtual schools

This week, the Oregon Board of Education took a small step toward resolving a five-year dispute over one of the thorniest questions of the virtual-schools movement, reports the Oregonian: Who decides whether a child can attend an online-only school? In Oregon, education dollars follow the students. And this issue pits parent choice against school district stability. Initially, each of six members of the state board suggested slightly different solutions. After nearly three hours of discussion, however, most board members said they would support parent choice—but only if there was a cap on how many students could leave an individual school district. Though they couldn’t agree on details, the board will send this recommendation as part of a larger report on virtual schools to the Legislature on Sept.1. The Legislature will take up the issue again in 2011. Since Oregon’s first virtual charter school opened in 2005, some school districts, union leaders, and politicians have been concerned that the schools would pull too many kids and resources from traditional public schools and cripple already-underfunded programs. Meanwhile, parents, charter, and virtual school advocates argued that parents deserve the right to choose what educational option best fits their child. Kaaren Heikes, executive director of the Northwest Center for Education Options, the state’s charter school association, said the board’s consensus on this issue was an important compromise. “Districts wanted to be protected from losing too many kids,” Heikes said. “That fear is addressed. Brick and mortar schools have natural enrollment limits. This gives virtual schools a reasonable limit as well.”

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Superintendent’s online-learning business raises concerns

Houston Public Schools (Minn.) Superintendent Kim Ross will resign when his contract expires on June 30.
Houston, Minn., Public Schools Superintendent Kim Ross will leave the district when his contract expires June 30.

The superintendent of Minnesota’s Houston School District is leaving amid concerns about his involvement with a private online-learning consulting firm.

Houston Public Schools spokeswoman Kelley Stanage said Kim Ross has announced he’ll leave the district when his contract expires June 30. Ross, who is currently on paid administrative leave, was named a Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award winner by eSchool News earlier this year.

In March, school board members expressed concerns about Ross’s role in Ambient Learning, which he created with Steve Kerska, another district employee.…Read More

Virtual schools will soon become reality in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is about to join a growing virtual-school movement that already has taken hold in many other states, reports the Boston Globe. Virtual public schools could open in Massachusetts as soon as this fall, enabling hundreds of students to take all their classes online. The first such school is poised to open this fall in Greenfield, a small city of rolling pastures in Western Massachusetts. Last week, its School Committee set an enrollment goal of up to 600 students and is seeking a principal to further develop the “Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield,” which will be open to students statewide in kindergarten through grade 8. The schools are being developed under a little-known provision of the state’s sweeping education law enacted in January. The law, which urges districts to pursue innovations, gave local school committees authority to create public schools that operate almost entirely in cyberspace. Having students tap the internet for all their courses marks the next evolution of online learning in Massachusetts. Typically, school districts—mostly high schools—turn to the web to supplement elective course offerings. About 40 percent of Massachusetts school districts had at least one student enrolled in an online course last school year, state officials said. But across the nation, virtual public schools have been growing in popularity in such states as Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, online education specialists say…

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