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Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Reality of Virtual Schooling

I received this message from Julie Heon via the AP Small Schools listserve. As she was describing the Virtual High School, I though it was worthwhile to post here.

We have used Virtual High School for three years and are quite satisfied. The quality of the instructors is very high, and they communicate very well with our students. Our state has formed a consortium and contracted with VHS in order to negotiate rates.

A very few students have taken AP Bio or Stats. The results on these AP exams have not been as high as in-school AP courses. But the students were satisfied to have the experience.

Online courses have worked for our students who have the capability and responsibility to work independently. We offer them time at a computer at school or they can work at home. Our coordinator for online courses is a guidance counselor who gets regular/bi-weekly progress reports on each student. This helps to prevent a student from getting too far behind before someone at our school intervenes.

Julie Heon
Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Pembroke Academy
I include it here because I believe it outlines a number of the things that I have often argued about the current state of virtual schooling.

For example, the students in the virtual courses did not perform as well on the standardized exam as students in the classroom courses (and the AP exams are pretty good standardized exams, as far as standardized exams go). The students have to "have the capability and responsibility to work independently", characteristics of the typical adult learner and not necessarily of the adoloscent learner. The need for access to a cmputer at home or additional access at school.

Is it possible to design a virtual school experience, where students can have the same level of success as their classroom counterparts, which is accessible to students of all abilities and all socio-economic levels?

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