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Removing the Barriers: Virtual Schools and State Regulations

Digital learning is becoming increasingly popular across the country. However, some states have implemented regulations that have hindered the movement’s progress, barring access to online education for hundreds of thousands of children.

In December, the Pioneer Institute held an event and released a publication, Virtual Schools, Actual Learning: Online Education Becomes A Valid Option, introducing online learning and its implementation across the country and in Massachusetts.

The forum, “Removing the Barriers: Virtual Schools and State Regulations,” is a follow up to that event and report. This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Please RSVP asap to Brian Patterson at 617-723-2277, ext. 217 or bpatterson at pioneerinstitute.org. Find details about the event below, or on the Pioneer Institute’s event page.

When: Thursday, March 1, 2012 — 3:00 – 5:15 pm

Where: Omni Parker House, 60 School Street, Boston

Who: The keynote address will be delivered by Susan Patrick, President and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), the leading voice for the emerging field of online and blended learning. She is the former Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. This event is co-sponsored by Pioneer Institute, Florida Virtual Schools, Democrats for Education Reform, and the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University. A panel discussion will follow, featuring Julie Young, President and CEO of Florida Virtual School.

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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A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Right Online Program

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) published a document to helps parents understand and navigate online learning options available for their children.

Virtual Reality — Online Learning Is Growing

Once upon a time considered more sci-fi than science, online learning is growing by leaps and bounds, providing students and families yet another choice for education.

New York, Florida, and Tennessee have changed laws to make it easier for online learning to expand. In Ohio, while school districts call for a hiring freeze or lay off teachers, several online charters, including Ohio Virtual Academy and Ohio Connections Academy, are actually increasing the number of students and teachers, according to Bill Sims, head of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

California’s The Press Enterprise explains that “virtual schools here and throughout California provide flexibility needed by child actors, musicians and serious athletes,” and also “offer options to regular students dissatisfied with traditional classrooms.” Ditto in Louisiana where parents’ “overwhelming” interest in online learning has one virtual school asking the state board of education to double its enrollment.

A Maryland online program is geared toward keeping kids from repeating a grade or dropping out of school. And, Indiana has started its first virtual school to both help students who have fallen behind as well as provide AP courses for kids in schools without high-level courses.

In Arizona, the Cactus Shadows High School’s blended (classes offered online and in classroom) online school attracts so many students, the district is adding an evening version. And, here’s the clincher: The Arizona Republic says “The eLearning program was meant to recapture students who left the district to attend independent online schools or those who weren’t succeeding in the traditional classroom.” Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, school officials also point to the growth in private cyber education as a reason to “look through the lens” to better accommodate student needs. Just another example of how choice helps all schools improve to meet

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The 10 Elements of Digital Learning

(from http://digitallearningnow.com)

The 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning were released on December 1, 2010 at the Excellence in Action National Summit on Education Reform in Washington DC. During the fall of 2010, the Digital Learning Council defined the elements and identified the actions that need to be taken by lawmakers and policymakers to foster a high quality, customized education for all students.  This includes technology-enhanced learning in traditional schools, online and virtual learning, and blended learning that combines digital and classroom learning. The Elements are grouped into three areas of focus; Students (#1-4), Providers (#5-8), and Government (#9-10).

1. Student Eligibility: All students are digital learners.

2. Student Access: All students have access to high quality digital content and online courses.

3. Personalized Learning: All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved provider.

4. Advancement: Students progress based on demonstrated competency.

5. Content: Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.

6. Instruction: Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.

7. Providers: All students have access to multiple high quality providers.

8. Assessment and Accountability: Student learning is the metric for evaluating the quality of content and instruction.

9. Funding: Funding creates incentives for performance, options and innovation.

10. Delivery: Infrastructure supports digital learning.

*Click on each element for more information.

View the full report here.

Poll: Americans support teachers, but not online education

“Survey suggests Americans support teachers, but not online education”
by Jenna Zwang
eSchool news
August 18, 2011

New poll results from Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup reveal that the American public has an overall positive outlook on its children’s schools, although poll respondents seem to oppose online learning.

While those surveyed overwhelmingly support access to the Internet and technology in schools (61 percent said it is “very important” for public school students to have access at schools), 59 percent oppose having high school students attend school for fewer hours each week if they are using computer technology to learn at home.

Despite this finding, 74 percent of respondents said that public schools should invest more in computer technology for instructional purposes, although that number is down from 82 percent in 2000.

Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, said the PDK/Gallup poll results are somewhat misleading, because of the lack of context that pollsters provide.

“The public allegedly supports more technology use in schools but opposes online learning,” said Allen. “In reality, the poll does little to define it, inferring that such a notion is about learning at home, rather than learning in a fully integrated online environment supported by professionals.”

Survey respondents are more positive regarding their own children’s schools than they have been in the past 36 years, with 79 percent giving an “A” or “B” rating to the school their oldest child attends. Teachers received similarly high marks, with 69 percent of survey respondents giving them “A” or “B” ratings, up from 50 percent in 1985.

Know Your Choices: Sowing the Seeds of Education Reform

A handbook to help parents make sense of schooling options to get a better education for their child.

Download or print your PDF copy of Know Your Choices

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