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Monday, April 04, 2005

Who Are Virtual Schools For?

This past week I have been trying to find other blogs, or at least entries from other blogs on the virtual school movement. A few that I came across were Althouse's post on Virtual High School, Snooze Button Dreams' entry entitled Virtual School, Kimberly's Number 2 Pencil's post titled Surf the web, earn an A, and Joanne Jacobs' entry on Online classes for all. The essence of these entries look at who virtual schools are for and how they will affect the quality of education.

I'll leave the second issue for another day, but I wanted to look at the first issue in this entry. Many of you who have been reading my blog to date know of my own bias towards students in rural schools who are disadvantaged because their schools aren't able to attract teachers qualified to teach specialized courses or they simply don't have the enrolment figures to justify allocating a teacher to so few students.

But let me through out the issue in another way. The legislature here in Georgia, has decided that not only will the publically-funded, state-wide virtual high school cater to students in the public system, but will also be available to students in private schools and homeschooled students. While I am no expert on the homeschooling movement, I do know that I had a homeschooled student in one of my online Advanced Placement courses a few years back.

This girl was an exception student who was in my course for two reasons: the content was at a level where she felt that she was unable to do it on her own and her family were unable to support it, and she was interested in trying out an online course because it was something that was becoming quite popular at the university that she was interested in attending. It was at about the same time that the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Association was beginning to offer their online courses (see http://www.pahomeschoolers.com/courses/index.html).

While the feelings towards the online opportunities offered to homeschooled students by virtual schools was mixed in the four blogs above, I can't see how these opportunities could be a bad thing?!? Like any instructional product, there are online courses that are well designed and online courses that aren't so well designed. Like any traditional classroom, there are some online teachers who are quite good and some online teachers that aren't so good. However, I would argue that in many of the specialized areas (such as the AP courses offered by the Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Association) are beyond the ability of many parents of homeschooled students to support in a way that maintains the academic rigour of these courses.

But like I said, I'm no expert in homeschooling... So let's hear from those out there who know a little bit more about the homeschool movement than I. What do y'all think?

Tags: , , homeschool, ,


Blogger Jim said...

I think the traditional school model is so frayed that it is about to come unbound. It's ironic that the school administrations and support industries battle so hard against extra-scholastic programs. It is precisely these programs that are taking the pressure off of the outdated traditional scholastic set-up and allowing it to stay on life support.

3:10 PM  
Blogger MKB said...


Can you give me an example of one of these extra-scholastic progams that are taking the pressure off of the outdated traditional scholastic set-up? Maybe it is just the terminology, but I'm not sure I am understanding the same thing you are trying to get across.


4:21 PM  

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