Online education offers more choices for students and personalizes their learning, something traditional public schools can’t always do. It’s adaptable and flexible to students’ needs. It provides credit recovery options for students who have fallen behind, accelerated options for those breezing ahead of their peers, and everything in between.
This is why a moratorium on virtual charters in Illinois is a bad idea. Lawmakers are right to question accountability, curriculum standards, and performance—as the newly created state commission will do—but not while sacrificing educational options for kids.
Earlier this month, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation placing a one-year moratorium on any new online charter school in districts outside of Chicago. The law was created after a proposal to open a school by the non-profit group, Virtual Learning Solutions, was rejected by 18 districts. These districts were mainly concerned about curriculum standards, funding, support for students, accountability, and teacher quality. They’re not wrong to advocate for those things.
However, students need more learning options, especially in Illinois. In a recent Education Sector report, John Chubb and I looked at state progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over the past decade. Illinois falls in the bottom half of achievement, when compared with states across the country. This is a signal to policymakers the status quo isn’t working.
A report from the Illinois Virtual School, which has been operating for 12 years, states that they offer 126 semester courses, all aligned to the Illinois learning standards, and they are being updated to meet Common Core State Standards. In the 2011-12 school year, school officials have seen more than 3,000 course enrollments, and in the summer 2012, it reported a 95 percent completion rate. Clearly, there is demand for online learning in Illinois.
By taking a year off to better understand the world of online learning, other states like Utah, Florida, and Minnesota—already leaders in online learning—will leave Illinois in the dust. It seems silly that an online proposal for one school is derailing educational opportunities for so many other students across the state.
Photo Credit: EAG News