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Online Learning Gains Popularity

“Florida virtual school growing”
by Rob Shaw
Tampa Tribune
October 15, 2012

When she taught in public schools, Jill Rogier always worried about the kids who slipped through the cracks — those who were bored because they were advanced or who struggled because they felt like they were left behind.

Now in her fifth year with Florida Virtual School, Rogier said she doesn’t have to worry about that anymore.

“If you don’t understand fractions, you don’t move on to equations with fractions,” she said. “You decide when you are ready. Your pace is your pace.”

More students apparently are learning the value of the way of life in the school without walls. The virtual school that offers more than 120 free online classes had about 25,000 more students at the end of the last school year than it did the year before.

That annual jump seems to be consistent the last several years — quite a leap from the modest 77 students enrolled in its debut 15 years ago. The school had about 148,000 students statewide at the end of the last school year, with more than 13,000 of those coming from Hillsborough County, the third highest total in Florida.

The numbers in Florida are part of a growing trend nationwide, as states try to do more with fewer education dollars.

The state saves nearly $2,200 per student who is enrolled in virtual school as opposed to the brick-and-mortar type, said Tania Clow, spokeswoman for the Florida Virtual School. A student attending a district school in Florida costs the state an average of $7,000, while one taking classes online costs the state $4,800.

To be sure, virtual schools are not without critics, who complain they deprive traditional school districts of valuable tax dollars and insulate students from socialization with their peers.

Those concerns are misplaced, supporters say.

“I can tell you

Read More …

Virginia: Moving Forward or Backward in Education?

Entering 2012, the state of Virginia was coping with the effects of a faulty funding formula, which did not provide equity for all students statewide, that the existence of full-time virtual schools had exposed.

Senate Bill 598 was introduced in January to fix the problem by insuring fair funding for public school students who wanted access to full-time, statewide virtual schools that had been approved by during a rigorous review process by the Virginia Department of Education. The fixes—themselves worked through in a lengthy and rigorous process—insured fair funding not only for the students, but also in a way that could work for the districts.

In the last week of February, however, changes were introduced to the bill that struck out all of the well-balanced language in the bill designed to fix the faulty funding formula. Read More…

Know Your Choices: Sowing the Seeds of Education Reform

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