What a state with no online options should do

There are still a few states where students can’t all or part of their learning online.  Here’s three reasons it makes sense to adopt online learning policies:

  1. With the push for high common standards including advanced math and science, there simply aren’t enough qualified teachers to fill needs in many communities; high schools will need to offer online courses.
  2. There’s no more money and won’t be for several years.  Online learning can save money and reduce the need for new school facilities.
  3. Lots of kids are simply bored; the digital natives do everything else online, they want to learning online.

There are three preconditions that need to be in place

  1. Money must follow the student
  2. Performance-based progress with no seat-time requirements (or at least a simple waiver)
  3. Simple waiver process for modified staffing (ie teaching assistant onsite, teacher online)

There are three inexpensive ways for a state to get started

  1. Invite iNACOL.org to help craft policies
  2. Invite proposals from online providers and issue three statewide charters or contracts (and allow districts to enroll students statewide)
  3. Encourage students that have demonstrated college-ready competence to begin taking online college courses

Three more expensive (but potentially grant supported) things a state can do include:

  1. License popular tools and content statewide (instead of adopting textbooks)
  2. Launch a state run virtual school (with investment of >$5m)
  3. Issue an RFP for school models that blend online and onsite learning for turnarounds & restarts; create stable of certified vendors that can be matched with schools in need of improvement

And finally, here’s three things to avoid:

  1. Limiting enrollment by geography (e.g. CA virtual schools stop at county lines)
  2. Paying double for students (by making a state virtual school a budget line item or protecting districts from loss of enrollment)
  3. Developing content

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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