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Time Is Running Out to Improve Arizona's Digital Learning Options This Session

October 29, 2014

We cannot expect all sides to agree with every detail of such a large piece of legislation, but current Arizona law lacks guidance when it comes to online learning.

As a result, some districts have adopted policies that limit student options for online coursework. Additionally, the state’s virtual school funding system pays schools based on enrollment, not student course completion and subject mastery. Until we find virtual truancy officers that won’t trample First Amendment rights, the state should adopt policies that fund schools based, in part, on course completion and evidence of student proficiency.

“Essentially, virtual education is moving into that intersection where rising popularity meets calls for greater accountability,” writes Kevin C. Bushweller in Education Week. “How the virtual education movement responds to those calls will have a significant impact on how it evolves in K-12 over the next five to 10 years.”

Education researchers and state lawmakers around the country are exploring ways to provide quality educational options online. Simply allowing students to enroll in any online class and use those credits for graduation is risky; students are bound to stumble across a class that demands little from them and, consequently, is not valuable to them.

Likewise, limiting student options to what local districts provide is akin to letting beachgoers swim only in tide pools.

This bill also creates a feedback system for parents and students. The result will be a guide to course selection similar to Consumer Reports. Parents and students will rate courses and offer comments on their experiences, and these ratings will be made available to help other students as they consider their options.

SB 1259 gives students more options and should give parents a consumer guide to online courses. Updates such as these help create an effective digital education environment for all students.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute: Cane Toads, Virtual Schools, and Unintended Consequences

Goldwater Institute: Keeping Up with the Speed of Virtual Education

Goldwater Institute: School Choice and the Future of Online Education

Education Week: Spotlight Turns Toward Virtual Ed. Accountability



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