By Jennifer Roy
In an increasingly digital age, a growing number of American families are turning to online educational options to help bring a 21st century education to their children. With important education initiatives on the ballot on November 6th, families across the country took to the streets knocking on doors and sending letters to friends, asking for their support for school choice. Their hard work did not go unnoticed as school choice initiatives passed in Georgia, Washington and California.
It is no secret that the archaic, one-size-fits all factory approach to education does not work well for today’s tech-savvy students. The online learning approach offers individualized learning options that allow students to advance more quickly with certain subjects, or to review a more challenging subject until mastery is obtained. For those of us who remember the frustration that comes with the bell rings just as you start to “get it”, or being forced to dwell on a chapter that you had mastered on the first day, online learning removes those obstacles in the way of academic success.
While the higher-education sphere has readily accepted digital learning, politics have gotten in the way of more online options being made available for k-12 students. An increasing number of families are looking to provide their children with the tools to succeed in a modern world. Rather than sitting around waiting for their school systems to catch up to our tech-driven society, they are calling on their elected officials and educational leaders to make a change today.
The passage of Amendment One in Georgia and the re-establishment of a state charter authorizing body proves that families want more than the status quo for their children. Educational leaders now have the ability to develop and support innovative school options. Amendment One’s passage will open up the doors for the creation of online and blended learning programs, providing more students with access to an education that will better prepare them for colleges, careers and life.
In Washington voters passed a ballot initiative to allow for the creation of statewide charter schools. Initiative 1240 paves the way for the creation of eight charter schools each year for the next five years.
Nearly 54 percent of California voters said yes to Proposition 30, helping the state to avoid $8.3 million worth of education and other public service cuts. While Proposition 30 did not call for the establishment of additional charter programs, it does add a layer of protection to the current innovative options available in the state.
Momentum that was generated this Election Day in support of online learning continues to grow. Draft legislation has been prepared for Governor Rick Snyder that would expand online learning options for students in Michigan. The bill, which is expected to be part of Gov. Snyder’s budget presentation in early 2013, would remove district ownership of students, giving students the ability to access any online learning option available in the state. This would allow students to completely customize their educational experience. The funding would follow the students with a percentage directed to each of the programs in which students enroll.
Expanding access to online learning was also a major focus of Gov. Snyder last year. Last spring, the Michigan State legislature voted to lift the cap on the number of charter school programs available in the state, providing thousands of students access to online programs.
When students learn online, they generate data that can help teachers and parents understand their learning styles. Knowing and understanding what type of learner they are, the curriculum can be customized to match that style drawing out their full learning potential in unique and individualized ways. Just like there are seven different learning styles making each child unique in their educational need, there should be choice in the educational models that matches each child’s need. Let’s continue to build on the pro-school choice momentum in the new year by calling on our leaders to support innovation in the classroom. After all, how can we expect our students to compete in an increasingly digital world if their only educational option is still stuck in the 1950s?
Jennifer Roy is the President of the Board of PublicSchoolOptions.org, a national alliance of parents that supports parents’ rights to access the best public school options for students.