North Carolina has been a leader in part time online learning. The state’s Virtual Public School serves more than 35,000 students–mostly high school students taking one or two high school courses online to supplement their local education. The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) where I’m a director, recently issued a brief outlining how part time online learning provides Equitable Opportunities for College and Career Ready Students.

However, North Carolina families lack the access available in most states to full time online learning. That’s about to change. The recent law, SB744, requires that two K-12 virtual charter school pilots open by Fall 2015. After an extensive review, a special committee made a December recommendation to the State Board that North Carolina Virtual Academy, to be managed by K12 Inc., and N.C. Connections Academy, affiliated with Connections Education, Getting Smart Advocacy Partner, be allowed to participate in a four-year program. This will allow thousands of students from kindergarten through high school to enroll in online schools.

In a myth-busting paper, we co-authored with iNACOL’s Susan Patrick, we noted that there is no typical profile of online learners–but for many it is the best, sometimes, the only option. It provides options for students with chronic health conditions that make attending a physical school difficult. For families that move frequently (like military families), it can provide a stable education placement. For many, online learning is the only alternative for those who experienced failure in a traditional school setting. Online learning also offers a personalized pathway with more choices for students who feel disengaged in a traditional setting. Online learning levels the playing field so all children, regardless of where they live, are able to receive the world- class education they deserve.

Many districts are adding full and part time online learning options, but many North Carolina families still lack the options they deserve. In the most recent Digital Learning Now state report card North Carolina scored a C- based on the 10 Elements of High Quality of Digital Learning. By opening these full time online schools, North Carolina will remove barriers for students and see improvement on their next state report card. Two high capacity providers were recommended to the State Board. Both are Advocacy Partners of Getting Smart and both are working hard to improve outcomes for families that need learning options.

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