Friday, March 11, 2011
Online charter schools get the chance to show their quality
SB65, which allows students to take ala carte classes from online charter schools or online district programs, passed the House and Senate, and will be in place next year.
This new Statewide Online Education Program means that students will be able to enroll in their local public high school (or charter school or other public school of their choice) and still take one or more classes from an online school that offers courses not available at the traditional brick and mortar school.
This will be a tremendous improvement for students in rural districts, especially. Smaller rural schools have more limited offerings in all subjects. Now, a student at Richfield High can take most classes at the school, but opt to take some advanced math classes, or an elective not offered by the school, at an online school, with funding for that portion of the school day flowing to the online school.
The program also implements a needed paradigm shift in education. Instead of students getting credit and schools getting paid based on seat-time, here students have flexibility and schools have accountability. Students will have the flexibility to take and complete courses as their abilities and situation allows. If a student masters concepts and moves through quickly, they can complete the course in a matter of weeks instead of months. And if they don't satisfactorily complete it, then the online school loses 40 percent of the funding for the student.
Those two changes are the most important of the bill because they set a new standard for how education can be funded and provided in Utah. If this model works, we can improve all education funding and standards so that students are judged based on outcomes and achievement, instead of time in a desk, and schools are paid based on that achievement. Those incentives improve education for all.