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Expanding Online Learning In Iowa

“Companies looking to expand online public education in Iowa”
by Timothy Meinch and Grant Rodgers
Des Moines Register
February 23, 2012

Two national private companies could significantly impact the classroom experience for kindergarten through 12th-grade students across Iowa.

Connections Academy and K12 Inc. plan to offer full-time online education programs, in which Iowa students could enroll rather than attend their own district, in the fall.

Connections Academy plans to partner with the CAM Community School District (Cumberland, Anita, Massena) in Cass County, opening Iowa Connections Academy, and K12 will partner with the Clayton Ridge district in Clayton County, opening Iowa Virtual Academy.

Officials from both companies are currently showing curriculums to parents and explaining how online education systems work at a series of meetings with families across the state. Iowa Connections Academy will host an event in Altoona at the Holiday Inn Express, 165 Adventureland Drive N.W., at 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 24. “There’s a lot about full-time virtual school that is still kind of mysterious to people,” Allison Bazin, a spokeswoman for Connections Academy, said.

While online public schools remain a mystery to many, representatives from both companies say their full-time online students get a full school day, complete with clubs, activities and field trips.

Gov. Terry Branstad, in his reform efforts, has pushed for more online learning for students. Proponents of online or virtual learning say it will allow smaller districts to expand their course offerings.

Using an online education system, students will log on each day and receive live lessons, similar to a webinar, from the school’s Iowa-licensed teachers. After-school activities available at Iowa Connections Academy range from chess club to a student newspaper.

All Iowa students are able to open-enroll in the virtual schools; both Iowa Connections Academy and Iowa Virtual Academy are public schools within their respective districts.

The virtual schools also offer Iowa-licensed teacher

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Des Moines Register: Leaders hope 7th time's a charm for education reform plan

For decades, recommendations have been made, but most failed to gain traction.

Des Moines Register
October 1, 2011

Six times in the past three decades, education reform proposals aimed at ratcheting up teachers’ classroom performance and students’ academic skills have been rolled out in Iowa.

And six times, reports filled with ideas on how to create a world-class education system were shelved because of a lack of money and political bickering.

Monday morning, the newest round of education reforms will be unveiled. And, like previous ideas, these proposals are expected to focus on setting clear and rigorous academic standards for the state’s 468,000 students; improving the effectiveness of 35,000 teachers; and increasing innovation in classrooms.

While the broad ideas are not new, the urgency to implement them is. And this time around, education leaders are counting on the reforms to stick.

“A lot of what has occurred has just been tinkering around the edges,” said Kittie Weston-Knauer, a retired Des Moines principal hired to open the district’s first charter school. “We have these initiatives that come to the forefront and then things just fall to the wayside.”

That’s not to say reform measures haven’t taken hold in Iowa. A few have, including teacher licensure procedures.

Most other reforms, though, failed largely because education leaders and lawmakers adopted initiatives piecemeal.

Some initiatives fell to the wayside after lawmakers cut funding or grant money ran out, said Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education.

“I understand there is skepticism,” he said. “What has to be different now is we have to build a reform agenda that transcends ideology and traditional party politics. We need this to sustain beyond the next election. We have to pitch it right down the middle.”

Other states and countries have recognized the need to strengthen their education systems in order to compete in

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