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Summary of Virtual School Status

Virtual schools have been increasing in number and have become a major part of
education in America. Torre states that, 40 U.S. states have authorized virtual
charter schools in some capacity and that across the U.S. nearly 250,000 students
are enrolled in these schools full-time (Torre, 2013). With the increase in the
number of virtual school and consequently the number of enrolled students, it is
imperative to consider the potential use of them in some capacity for our district as
well. Watson et al. expands on the increase in popularity of virtual schools by
suggesting that, nearly all school districts are using online learning at some level
and that, most of this usage is of supplemental online courses, with smaller
numbers of students in hybrid and fully online schools (Watson, Gemin, Vashaw &
Pape, 2015, p. 13). I believe that the best course of action is to take advantage of
the rise in popularity of Virtual Schools and establish one that provides
supplemental online courses for our students.
Recommended Model
The best model for our district to use would be a supplemental online program.
Wicks defines a supplemental online program as an online program that enrolls
students in individual courses as opposed to a full course of study (2010, p. 13).
This would be excellent for our students as they can continue learning in their
current brick-and-mortar school with the additional option of taking some classes
online. If this is successful, the program can eventually be expanded so that
students can have the option to attend school fully online.
Watson et al. state that online programs provide the following benefits:

Alternatives for scheduling conflicts

Highly qualified teachers in subjects where teachers were not available,


particularly Advanced Placement

Access to hard to find courses, especially in rural or inner-city schools

Electives and other accelerated options for college bound students

Flexibility for athletes, homebound students, those in the arts, dropouts, and
pregnant or incarcerated students

Credit recovery programs for at-risk students

Solutions for small class sizes and emergency shortfalls in teachers. (2015, p.
25).

In other words, supplemental online programs would have the ability to provide
services that a more traditional school setting would have difficulty providing.
Imagine providing a way for students to recover lost credits, offer classes that would
otherwise be impossible to provide, or help prepare and provide a springboard for
students that are college bound. This proposed online program will not replace
brick-and-mortar-schools, but it will enhance them.

Hamilton County Virtual School is a Tennessee school that has successfully


implemented a supplemental online program. According to Wicks, it create[d] a
personalized learning path for each student based on the students performance on
state assessments by providing, credit recovery for high school and online
reading and math summer program for Title I students (2010, p. 13). We could do
the same in our district by targeting at-risk students and even gifted and talented
students and provide them an individualized learning experience that meets their
needs.
There are several hurdles to overcome in order to ensure the success of the
proposed online model. First, Allen and Seaman suggest that, students need more
discipline to succeed in online courses (2007, p.14). It may be difficult for some
students to stick to an online schedule and they may find themselves off task and
not completing their assigned work. This could eventually lead to them falling
behind and finding themselves overwhelmed by work. The best way to overcome
the discipline hurdle, would be to heavily involve parents and to provide a clear
schedule that students must adhere to in order to complete the course successfully.
A second hurdle to overcome would be the issue of equal access for all students.
Wicks states that students must, have access to a computer, basic software, and
the Internet and that schools must, ensure that the opportunities of online
education are available to students across all income levels, geographic regions,
and ethnic groups (2010, p. 19). To do so, schools must become familiar with the
socio-economic demographics of their student population and must have a plan in
place that will provide access to the technology that is needed to complete the
course.
Student cheating is another hurdle that must addressed in order to have a
successful online program. It is very easy for students to copy material off of the
internet and to be able to access materials that normally would not available to
them during assessments. Wicks suggests that, software may be used to compare
students work against resources available on the Internet, to make sure that
students arent plagiarizing easily available resources (2010, p. 17).