Virtual Classrooms: Good for students, good for Missouri
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is working on a plan to create virtual classes for Missouri students. This program would serve three basic purposes: first, it would give students, particularly rural ones, access to classes they might not otherwise have access to; second, it would enable students to retake courses at any time, rather than having to wait for that course to become available the following school year; third, it would grant further access to Advanced Placement courses, as only about a third of Missouri’s districts currently offer such classes.
Some educators are understandably wary about such a program: it could threaten their jobs significantly. If students find their needs are better served through an online program, as opposed to a traditional public school classroom, they may decide against attending public schools at all, and instead switch to homeschooling supplemented with online classes. While this prospect bodes ill for those schools and districts that do not meet student needs, it gives those schools a positive incentive to improve their services to compete with the new program. This can only lead to better schools and educational options for Missouri’s students.
Some logistical concerns do apply as well. The new program presents challenges in conforming with current No Child Left Behind laws, and the requisite testing for that program. Presumably all Missouri students would still be required to take the Missouri Assessment Program test, and those taking online classes could conceivably lower the states overall score on that test if the online classes do not include the relevant material for the test. There are also concerns about enrollment; demand has already grown beyond supply, and some kind of lottery system will likely be implemented to deal with the overruns. These concerns aside, any program that creates choice for Missouri’s students and puts pressure on schools and teacher to perform can only prove beneficial to public education in Missouri.