How Online Courses Can Help
From some of the feedback I’ve received on my writing about virtual schools, I get the impression that readers think online education is about supplanting traditional schools. For example, Million writes that “the digital realm is not going to and cannot replace the physical one anytime soon,” and equates online courses with “taking kids out of classrooms.”
Some students do enroll in virtual schools full-time, but that’s not the only possible model for online education. And while a mass exodus of students from brick-and-mortar schools would certainly spur competition, more realistic scenarios would improve the education market too.
Online courses came to mind when I read this article in the Post-Dispatch about the discrepancy between graduation rates and scores on state tests. High schools are graduating some students who score below proficient on core high school subjects like algebra and English. All high schools require those courses for graduation, but the content students learn varies from district to district.
Virtual schools could boost the achievement of students in districts with less rigorous courses. If everyone sees that a district’s curriculum for algebra doesn’t prepare students for the state test, the students could take that course after school or during the summer through the online academy. The district would have to bring its course up to the level of the virtual schools, or enrollment for that course would plummet.
If all else failed, it could schedule the class in a computer lab and enroll students in the virtual school during class time. Districts no longer have the excuse that it would take them years to design a new curriculum, because online courses are ready for use and available in all districts.