Monday, May 10, 2010

New Virtual Schools Set to Open in Massachusetts

As part of a new education law enacted in January, the state of Massachusetts is set to open “Virtual Schools” to students throughout the state beginning this fall, according to an article in the Boston Globe May 5. The schools are an attempt to stem the drop-out rate, and attract students “who are bored or unchallenged by curriculums in traditional schools, and could benefit students who can’t attend regular school because of a medical condition, expulsion or incarceration, among other reasons,” the paper said.

“I think that for some students a virtual environment for all schooling or most schooling may make sense,’’ said Mitchell Chester, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education. “But I don’t think online learning for all programs will be appropriate for most students. Learning at its heart is a social endeavor. . . . I think for most students face-to-face instruction is the medium that gives them most benefit.’’

The first Virtual School is scheduled to enroll up to 600 students in grades kindergarten through grade 8 in Greenfield, a small town in Western Massachusetts. Students must meet state requirements for class time, which in high school means completing 990 hours of “structured learning’’ annually. Online classes will be designed to meet the state’s academic standards. Schools districts outside the virtual school districts will need to pay $5,000 to the virtual school for each of their students who attend.

Not all school districts are jumping on board. Some district prefer providing classes, but not an entire program. “Online learning is a tool that allows students to enhance their education,’’ said State Senator Stanley Rosenberg from Amherst. “But it’s important for them not to spend 12 years at home looking at a computer.’’

For the complete article see .