Monday, September 29, 2008


Believed to be the most wide-ranging virtual mandate in the US, a new Florida state law requires districts to create full-time virtual schools, collaborate with other districts, or contract with providers approved by the state. Your children and grandchildren who live in Florida will be able to go to school entirely online from kindergarten through 12th grade, never setting foot in a classroom, but about 20% of the curriculum may be taught online and parents must commit to walking their children through the rest of the lessons. School superintendents must be ready by August with details from how to provide the needed technology to how to engage kindergartners attention spans as they sit at the computer for many hours in a row. While this program may eliminate the need to build more schools, the districts still must pay teachers, revamp their curriculum appropriately, and purchase new technology. Districts can choose to pay a state-approved private company to do that . Two online schools are already funded, one for students from kindergarten through eighth grade, and the Florida Virtual School offering middle and high school courses. During last year’s school year, 57,000 students took at least one Florida Virtual School course, but very few committed to an all-online experience. The new Web-based education is expected to attract many students. This year the district will start with 12 students, kindergarten through 8th grade, who are registered for online school through a state program. Students and parents will be asked for input. For accountability, virtual students must meet state standards and take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. There is concern that the virtual experience cannot be provided to students whose families cannot afford home computers and internet access. Opening school computer labs is one alternative being considered. The North American Council for Online Learning will be watching, as will the rest of us, to see how it goes. For more details see Online courses are available for adults too. Check it out!

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