Strategize for Online Education

Article excerpt

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Al King

The Register-Guard was on point in its April 8 editorial saying that Oregon needs an effective framework for virtual schools. Unfortunately, Oregon is far behind in both time and strategy in dealing with this important issue.

Oregon already has virtual schools, but they have developed without a statewide strategy. Most of their development has occurred in small school districts looking to increase student enrollment to gain per-student state funding at other school districts' expense.

Basically, these small districts would find an online, corporate virtual school provider for a service fee, then offer that system to students from any district in order to capture the annual state compensation for each student they enroll. Small school districts are having a hard time surviving under Oregon's school financing formula, because they do not benefit from economies of scale and it is difficult for them to have enough specialist teachers.

The Legislature limited virtual students to 50 percent of student enrollment. The result is that small districts have established charter schools to allow them to continue capturing out-of-district pupils.

Oregon's students need the best curriculum we can provide - not just a low-cost, narrow-option provider, and not just systems designed for small districts. Online education now provides tremendous opportunities and flexibility, and it will be an integral part of America's education system in the near future.

For instance, textbooks soon will no longer be a main source of curricula. They will be replaced by online courses, curricula and research. Oregon is far behind most other states in the country in approaching this landmark change.

In the Springfield School District, we provided a laptop computer for each student at Springfield Middle School. This meant much more than just having a computer. It meant that students and teachers went on the Internet to get their curriculum, testing, research and much more.

Their performance level has soared since this introduction. Today's students live and breathe computers, and they are much more versed in computer-related learning than in traditional textbook study. …