Joe Klein, in a recent column about his visit with student leaders in Indiana, briefly touched on the potential of online education at the high school level. Interviewing a group of impressive students at the Girls State leadership program, Klein heard firsthand their enthusiasm for online courses:
Morgan was one of the three who were taking online courses. She was taking American History from the University of Miami. “It’s more work than all my other AP courses combined,” she said. “I wish I could take all my classes online.”…Martha Scott was taking college-level courses in government and economics. She said she had a weekly phone call with her online professors and participated in a chat room with her fellow online students. (This seemed to me a very promising educational development, a way to challenge top high school students and expand the curricula available in smaller high schools.)
Texas, where a lot of local high schools struggle to offer a broad range of courses, is experimenting with online programs. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:
When Arlington teacher R.J. Williams speaks during her online multimedia classes, high school students all over Texas log on to listen.Williams is among a growing number of educators who are teaching in the Texas Virtual School Network, a clearinghouse established by the Legislature in 2007. The network offers a statewide catalog of supplemental online courses to students in charter and public schools.
One state senator, the chairwoman of the Committee on Education, said that online learning should become an integral part of public schooling in coming years:
“The whole philosophy of online learning needs to permeate our public education system,” said state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Education and a former teacher.
If online education can really be made to work in secondary school, the shift away from big box high schools and centralized school districts is likely to pick up steam. In practical terms, it will mean that smaller schools can offer a more diverse curriculum (Mandarin classes in small town schools, art and music classes without the expense in every school of full time faculty and so on).America has the chance to build school systems that slash bureaucratic overhead and red tape while giving teachers more autonomy and parents and students more choice. Online instruction is a big part of making that happen; congratulations to all the students, parents, teachers and administrators brave enough to give this a try.