Author: Diana Moore (Page 1 of 2)

Three Ways Your School Can Join the Digital Revolution

This summer we’ve covered what’s wrong with our public school system, how we let it get this bad, how digital learning can be the solution, schools that are leveraging digital learning, and how parents can help their own kids get a great education. Learning definitely starts at home, so supercharging your own child’s education is key. But how can every child in your neighborhood have access to an excellent education through digital learning? How can your school become a leader in the digital revolution? We have a few ideas you could implement right away.

1. Offer courses through the Digital Learning Department. Washington’s Digital Learning Department has relationships with outstanding online content providers, and they’ve compiled an impressive catalog of more than 600 courses. Schools can give students access to this catalog by simply contracting with the DLD—and they do the rest. Imagine being able to offer not only French, Spanish, and German, but also Mandarin, Japanese, and Latin. You can go beyond Intro to Computers and let students explore Animation, Commercial Photography, Audio Engineering, or Video Game Programming. Have trouble staffing Advanced Placement courses? Through the DLD, students can access 105 different AP courses. These resources are already available. Schools only need to sign up. Visit the DLD’s websiteto learn more.

2. Flip a Classroom. “Flipped Learning” has taken the country by storm in the last two years. The concept is very simple: Instead of teaching a lesson during class time and doing homework after school, the teacher assigns an instructional video (either of themselves or someone else) as homework, and students do the practice (usually considered “homework”) in class.

What’s the advantage? When it comes to the instructional component, students can watch the video as many times as they need to

in order to grasp the concept. Teachers can also assign optional videos that provide background or content related to the new concept. In fact, some online video instruction providers (like Khan Academy and Virtual Nerd) automatically suggest related videos to students and provide teachers with a dashboard that shows which videos students are viewing, for how long, which ones they viewed next, and so forth. (MentorMob and TED-Ed are also great resources for customizable instructional videos)

Flipping the classroom also frees up class time for the teacher to interact personally with students. Instead of struggling alone after school on a concept they don’t understand, students can get immediate help from their teacher or other classmates. Meanwhile, advanced students don’t have to wait for the rest of the class. The teacher can simply assign more advanced videos and let them accelerate.

Schools around the country are seeing great success through flipped learning—and it’s not a difficult change to make. A single teacher can decide to flip their class, or the flip can happen school-wide. What’s more, it doesn’t require a lot of new technology or financial investment. View a great example of flipped learning at Clintondale High School in Michigan. Find more information here, here, and here.

3. Blend. Flipped learning is actually considered a form of blended learning, but there are several more. The Innosight Institute, a leading researcher on blended learning, defines blended learning as follows:

 “Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace and at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.”

Innosight identifies four models of blended learning, with subcategories under those models. But for today, let’s keep it simple: Blended learning promotes personalization, important 21st century skill development, increased teacher attention (and satisfaction), high academic achievement, and potentially lower costs. It comes in many shapes and sizes, ranging from the school that looks only slightly different from a traditional school to the radically innovative model. So you can take a look at your school’s size, culture, needs, budget, etc. and create the blended model that works for you. Read Innosight’s full report and browse their dozens of blended school profiles for examples. (You can also learn more about blended learning in an all-new chapter for our recently updated Online Learning 101)

These are just a few suggestions in a world full of innovative education strategies. The tools and examples available today make it more doable than ever. Frankly, with such resources we have no excuse to stick to a failing status quo. Moreover, the digital revolution is customizable and can be as incremental as necessary. Bottom line: It’s time to get started. Flip a class, offer DLD courses, blend just one subject. Start somewhere, and become a digital leader. Your students will thank you.


[Reprinted with permission from the Freedom Foundation’s iLearn Project blog; featured photo credit: ]

One Autistic Student’s Story of Academic Success with Online Learning

Can online learning help special needs students succeed? Ryan Fox, a bright, talented autistic student from Sultan, WA. Ryan first shared his story with the Freedom Foundation in the summer of 2010. He has now completed a very successful freshman year at Central Washington University where he is studying Instrumental Music Performance. Watch his story (and share it!), and read his own words about the life-changing impact of online learning.


I love online learning! It has changed my life. Back in 10th grade I had a bad attitude because school was very frustrating. There were distractions all the time. Classes were really stressful to me because of the chaos. Also, the teachers talked too fast and didn’t use enough visual aids, and they changed topics a lot. I couldn’t take notes fast enough because I can’t take notes and pay attention at the same time. My IEP listed many accommodations. My bad attitude also came from having to start my school day all over at 2:30 when I got home. Each night my mom helped me relearn all the information I didn’t understand (or even hear) all day long. I wanted to learn, but by the time we were done we were both exhausted.

Then came online learning. My mom and dad knew I wanted to study music—which I am pretty good at—so they sent me to a community college in 11th grade for orchestra, jazz, and theory. The commute was long, and I couldn’t get back to my high school before 2:30 for classes, so we found an online high school for the flexible schedule. By the end of the first month, I was totally hooked! It seemed like a whole world designed just for me. In regular schools they assume that if you are smart enough to get good grades then you must also be able to handle chaos and distractions, listen to very rapid speaking, not mind lots of interpersonal issues, and easily deal with changes to your day. They think smart students are those who don’t need structure. I admire people who can do all that, but I’m smart too, and I need structure.

I am autistic. I like order and correctness, and I always like to know exactly what to do next. I also like to finish one thing before I go on. The online school gives me all of these things. It also helps me feel very organized, calm, and safe. There are no surprises and few changes, so I get done quicker and have more time to practice my music. Now I need almost no accommodations. The classes are all recorded so I can replay them slowly over and over again until I get everything. I also can work in a course as long as I want to because there is no bell to make me stop and move to the next class. I take classes either in the library, at home, or in other quiet places. Nobody is throwing spit wads, goofing around distracting me, or being disrespectful toward the teacher. It’s great! My teachers are very, very friendly, helpful, and smart. My physics teacher even taught one class from up in a tree and another while he was kiteboarding on Bellingham Bay, where he used a live webcam to show us about velocity and friction. He also taught about momentum from the Winter Olympics in Vancouver by showing us ice skaters. I’m in honors chemistry now in 12th grade. I do lots of labs at home with my kit.

One other great thing about online school is that I get to take some classes my local school doesn’t offer, such as video production. In the old days my mom used to help me by making videos of me giving presentations (and then editing out the pauses) because my brain doesn’t let me talk fast enough to make real time speeches. I showed the videos in class and got credit for the speeches, but I always wanted to learn to make those videos myself. Last spring I took an online class in how to make my own videos. This skill not only lets me make school presentations, it also helped me raise money for a European music performance tour I went on. My community loved the videos I made about my trip, before and after. I have also made travel videos for little kids with autism so they won’t be afraid to ride trains.

When I was really little I was curious and loved to learn, but then for a while I got so frustrated I forgot what that was like. I think any student who has certain needs and wants to rediscover his or her love of learning should try online learning. I really believe that in the future everyone will learn this way! We will all be able to learn from the very smartest people on Earth, and we will do it at our own pace every day. Our abilities will matter more than our disabilities.

Read Past “Summer of Success: True Stories of Lives Changed by Digital Learning” Articles:


[Reprinted with permission from the Freedom Foundation’s iLearn Project blog]

Three Schools That Are Getting It Right

It’s easy to spend a lot of time on what’s wrong with education—and there’s a place for that. Identifying problems can lead us to solutions.

But another crucial part of the conversation needs to be discussing schools that have already found solutions—and how can they be replicated. By looking to successful schools, we see 1) that success IS possible, 2) where our techniques/systems are falling short, 3) multiple methods of moving beyond our status quo.

So today let’s look at a few schools that are getting it right.

KIPP Empower Academy

KIPP Empower Academy, one of five public charter schools in KIPP LA’s South and East Los Angeles network, was scheduled to open in the fall of 2010. Based on high standards and low student-teacher ratios, leaders and faculty were excited about what was in store for their 116 kindergarten students. According to their case study, 98% of students are African American or Latino, 92% qualified for free or reduced lunch, and 8% were classified as special needs.

Then funds were cut. To operate within their new budget, class sizes had to be increased to 28-1. That’s a lot of 5-year-olds per adult. It was then that school founder and principal Mike Kerr made the decision that KIPP Empower would be a blended school.

By putting computer stations in each classroom and rotating students from small group instruction to the computers for each core subject, Kerr ensured that student-teacher ratios would be 14-1 or better.

KIPP Empower is committed to preparing their “scholars” from the earliest grades “to lead lives of significance, to be critical thinkers, to be leaders, and to be on a trajectory that maximizes their potential,” says Kerr.

The important question is, of course, does it work? Innovation for its own sake isn’t worth anything. It only counts if students learn. Many of the blended schools we hear about are middle and high schools. Can it work for the earliest grades? The results speak for themselves. After one year at KIPP Empower, 96% of students scored at or above average on the nationally norm MAP test in Reading and Math, with 58% in the top quartile in Math and 68% in the top quartile in Reading.

(Watch their informational video and read our exclusive interview with founder Mike Kerr.)

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem is a network of online and blended public schools serving grades 6-12, started in Yuma, AZ. Their methods revolve around the fact that today’s students are comfortable with and skilled in the use of technology. Maximizing both this fact and the capabilities of online learning, they’ve created a rigorous and relevant public school experience that meets students’ needs.

At the heart of Carpe Diem’s facility is the “learning center,” equipped with 300 cubicles containing computer stations. Students split their time between independent online learning and hands-on, teacher-led “workshops.” Teachers review data from their students’ online coursework daily, and the data enable them to identify students’ needs and intervene immediately when a student struggles.

Like many blended schools, Carpe Diem places much value on the personal relationship between teachers and students. Unlike many schools, however, Carpe Diem reinforces this relationship by giving students the same teachers for each subject throughout all six years at the school.

But, again, the process and model (inputs) are meaningless if we’re not getting results (output), right? Well, Carpe Diem is. In fact, their results are outstanding. Carpe Diem’s student demographics are nearly identical to the rest of their district, yet their test scores exceed the district’s by approximately 25 percent. Additionally, Carpe Diem spends $4,000 less per student than national expenses.

(Watch their informational video, and read our exclusive interview with founder Rick Ogston)


Many schools claim to “personalize” or “customize” education, but rarely does this goal permeate the academic program, teaching, technology, and even architecture to the extent that you will find in any KED Network school.

Kunskapsskolan operates 34 schools in Sweden and contracts with 3 schools in the United Kingdom. In 2011, Innovate Manhattan Charter School became the first state-side school to offer the KED program.

In their own words, ““The purpose of the school is to be a greenhouse for learning and development. The center of this objective is the student — not as a collective, anonymous group just clustered by age, but as individuals, with capabilities, ambitions and personalities.”

Upon entering a KED Network school, each student’s academic level is assessed. Next, a working plan comprised of short-term and medium term goals is written, and “strategies” are drafted.

Students have ownership of their plan and their time. KED considers this an important part of the learning process.

Kunskapsskolan  writes, “The most important assets for student success are skilled teachers with the time and capability to teach, coach and support the learning process.” Coaching sessions happen at least once a week but can take place daily, as needed.

In addition to teachers, Kunskapsskolan employs a team of more than 30 who work exclusively on research and development.

The “Learning Portal”, an online platform, houses students’ learning materials so they can access their studies anytime, anywhere, removing the distinction between schoolwork and homework.

Additionally, using the Learning Portal, students, teachers, and parents can view student progress in real time, instead of being surprised by learning outcomes.

The Learning Portal also provides a platform for teachers to collaborate. By sharing information, teachers can spend more time with students and less time recreating materials another teacher might have already written.

Even the curriculum at Kunskapsskolan is designed for maximum personalization. Courses are organized into “step” or “thematic” courses, with step courses providing “academic depth, perspective and opportunities to advance your knowledge” and thematic courses designed for “context and breadth.”

But does it work? Absolutely. Kunskapsskolan schools achieve excellent results.

There are many more schools worthy of careful study and imitation. Success is possible, and we deprive students of quality educational opportunities when we don’t look outside the box at existing solutions.

Please respond in the comments section with suggestions of excellent schools—or chime in on Facebook. This dialogue is too important to end here.


[Reprinted with permission from the Freedom Foundation’s iLearn Project blog; featured photo credit: flickr]



Top 5 Ways Our Schools are Failing Our Kids

There’s something wrong with public education today. More and more we’re coming to grips with this—and racking our brains trying to figure out how to fix it. But first let’s start with what’s wrong and move forward from there.

1. Forcing one-size-fits-all education instead of embracing customization: Every child is unique. And in today’s technology-driven world, customization is possible from the district right down to the classroom and student level. Yet students are still moved through school in batches, based on their age.

That’s because today’s education model comes straight out of the industrial era. As the world got bigger it became essential for the United States to produce more and more competent hands for the workforce. So we put five year-olds on the conveyor belt called public education in kindergarten and hoped they stepped off 12 years later ready to contribute to industry. At the time, it worked well.

Today we live in an information age, not an industrial age. But still, our education system functions like a factory where classes are the stations on the conveyor belt. At each station students receive a new part and move on to the next. In the end, they’re supposed to be uniformly prepared for higher education or to compete in the 21st century marketplace. (I came across this great video that literally illustrates this problem.)

But what about the student who learns differently? The one the new part doesn’t fit? The teacher might try a couple different approaches, but she has 25 other students to fit the part to. Usually that student simply keeps moving forward, missing a piece they’ll need one day.

Here in Washington, more than 14,000 students left the factory in the 2009-10 school year. Only roughly 76 percent graduated on time.

It’s important to note that many teachers do a great job differentiating instruction and teaching to individual students, not just the middle of the class. But they’re the exception, not the rule. And they personalize learning in spite of the system, not because of it.

2. Disconnecting School from Real Life (and the 21st Century): Today’s students are typically plugged in all the time. They read online, socialize online, play online. And as adults, they’ll be expected to research online, write online, program online, and so forth.

Yet when kids come to school, what are they expected to do? Power down and sit still.

Not only is school unplugged from their everyday lives, it’s not preparing them for membership in the 21st century workforce.

3. Not removing ineffective teachers: Over the years education has come to revolve more around the adults who make a living in it than the students whose future livelihoods depend on it. Despite the fact that having a good teacher is the single most important element in a child’s education, employee contracts make it nearly impossible to dismiss an underperforming teacher.

4. Using time and resources to benefit adults, not students: Have you ever wondered why so many students have regular “early release” days? In the midst of financial hardships that make it difficult to increase teacher pay, a growing trend is to reduce the days in the school year so teachers are paid the same amount for doing less work. While good teachers absolutely deserve higher pay, services to students must come first.

5. Restricting Choices Instead of Expanding Them: Having options is the most effective way to get needs met. And in education, where you’re dealing with unique individuals who have unique learning and life needs, it’s essential that families can research and choose the schooling option that’s best for them. Especially in Washington where charter schools are against the law, the student who can’t afford private school doesn’t have options. Online schools have considerably helped improve the situation, but the fact remains that a school system without choices hurts kids; it doesn’t help them.

Only a few kids can actually reach their potential in such a system. Wasted potential is failure. So in reality, the public school system is failing most of the kids who come through its doors, not just the ones who drop out.

These problems are pretty intuitive. Political persuasion aside, we can generally agree the above characteristics need to change. But why haven’t they already? Stay tuned for the next installment. And after that, I promise there will be good news (Here’s a hint: It has to do with digital learning).


[Reprinted with permission from the Freedom Foundation’s iLearn blog]

The Walker Win in Wisconsin and Removing Artificial Barriers to Education

My access to online information doesn’t change based on what zip code I’m in at the moment. As long as I can log on to the internet, I can access the same information from any location. That’s the nature of the internet, right? Offering equal access to a world of opportunity, and for our purposes, educational opportunity.

By harnessing the power of the internet, any student in any internet-wired location can access any Advanced Placement course. Can study not only French, Spanish, and German, but also Mandarin, Japanese, or Latin. Can take Java Programming, Green Design & Technology, or International Business. Every single student can access a world class education.

And it’s not a pipe dream. It’s possible.

What stands in the way? The same thing that always does. Bureaucracy. Adult interests. Money.

As we’ve written before, online learning is one of the only alternatives to traditional public school available in the Evergreen State.Yet this week, the Everett Herald pointed out that even online options are often highly restricted.

Here in Washington a student can request to transfer their enrollment to any district in the state, and their state funding will follow them to the new district. Simple enough, right?

But what about the student who wants to stay in their local school for some courses or extracurricular activities and take the rest online, perhaps take a course their local school doesn’t offer?

There are several ways districts can make it easy for students to access these options. First, they can contract with an online provider to offer courses. Second, they can develop and offer their own online courses. Third, they can contract with the Digital Learning Department to offer students access to the DLD’s more than 600 a la cart course offerings.

Not only this, but districts can take advantage of resources like Washington Online (by the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges) to create their own online Running Start Program.

A student in a district that does any one of these things is in luck. But what if the district doesn’t?

In that case, you would think it simple enough to split the enrollment between the home district and a district that does offer what the student needs. But there’s the rub.

To split enrollment, the resident and non-resident district must create an inter-local agreement. And they can refuse to do so. The Herald article points this out very poignantly in the example of 12-year-old Bobbie Bouma, a young lady who wanted to take her academic courses through Washington Virtual Academy due to bullying, but also wanted to remain involved in her local school. Sadly for Bobbie, Everett refuses to play well with other districts. (Read The Herald’s full article here for more details)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has called education an “8-track tape in an iTunes world.” While customization is possible in every other sphere of life, we restrict even the reach of the internet due to politics and bureaucracy.

It’s time for that to change. If Washington was truly committed to providing every child with access to an excellent education, we would tear down artificial barriers like zip codes—not only for online education, but for education in general. We would put student interests before the interests of well, special interests. We wouldn’t even consider reducing student services in order to increase employee benefits. We would create more opportunities for innovation through flexible school governance. The list goes on and on.

Many other states are having this realization and doing something about it. This week’s election in Wisconsin is a good sign for the education revolution since five of the six winners were staunch supporters of student-centered reforms (reforms that would be considered quite radical in Washington).

Let’s hope Washington catches on. The Herald points out a serious problem in one of the only school choices families have. If we can’t reverse the trend of adult interests (and money) trumping what’s best for students, we’re in trouble.

Be sure to follow the Freedom Foundation’s iLearn Project on Facebook and Twitter to continue the conversation.

(If you’re having trouble with a transfer request or splitting enrollment to participate in an out-of-district online course, contact the iLearn Project at


[Reprinted with permission from the Freedom Foundation Liberty Live blog]

The Unintended Cost of Cutting Online Learning

[“The Cost of Cutting Online Learning” by Diana Moore was originally published on]

State budgets have been hurting in a bad way. Across the country, legislatures continue to struggle to close deficits while still providing essential services. While cuts have been necessary, the wrong cuts can be devastating and ironically, very costly.

On the chopping block time and again has been online learning. This is due to the fact that, financially speaking, there’s a common misunderstanding about how online learning fits into public education. Unfortunately, it is viewed as an extra program, something schools and taxpayers pay more to offer. In reality, online and blended schools are simply alternative methods of delivering a public education. But because of this misunderstanding, legislators continue to go to online learning when making cuts.

So why is online learning a costly cut? There are three unique costs when budget cuts force an online program to close.

First, cutting funding to online programs can actually cost taxpayers more money.

When reduced funding forces an online program to close its doors, it’s likely the majority of students will return to traditional public schools. Each state has its own funding mechanism for online schools, but it’s typically safe to say digital programs receive funding from fewer sources than traditional schools and are therefore more cost-effective. (For example, in Washington, online schools typically don’t receive any local levy funding.)

Thus costs increase when students who formerly attended an online school are forced to transfer to a traditional school. In this situation, the only savings comes if students choose to opt out of the public school system altogether and attend a private school or homeschool. Students leaving the public school system should never be considered a viable cost-savings measure.

But even more important than the increased expense is the cost to students and their futures when online programs are cut.

While simply an alternative to traditional public school (and not an add-on), online programs have the ability to offer much more than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. They create opportunities where none exist, allowing students in every corner of America to get state-of-the-art instruction from world class teachers in subjects their local schools might not be able to offer.

They provide flexibility and customization that isn’t possible in a classroom of 30 students with a single teacher and a whiteboard.

In a nutshell, online learning opens a world of opportunity to every student wherever Internet access is available.

When an online school is forced to close due to funding cuts, the door to that world of opportunity is slammed shut. Kids are sentenced back to the 19th century education model their great-grandparents used.

When state policymakers cut online learning, taxpayers pay more and students get less.

The third cost of cutting online programs is to the state that moves backward in the education race while the rest of the country and world press on.

The only direction any society can afford to move in education is forward. That’s why digital learning—in all its forms—must be a priority if this generation and the next are to compete in today’s global idea economy and become tomorrow’s leaders.


[featured photo credit: readerwalker]

Report Defines New Models for Blending Online and Brick-and-Mortar K-12 Education

This week the Innosight Institute released a groundbreaking report titled “Classifying K-12 Blended Learning.” While intended to clarify definitions and provide a common language for the education community, the report does much more. It illustrates the growth and prominence of blended learning (more than 80 programs were consulted in drafting this report). And it provides a crystal clear map of four different blended learning models.

Authors Heather Staker and Michael B. Horn define blended learning as follows: “A formal education program in which a student learns at AND at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.”

Blended programs shake up the 19th century education model and put the emphasis back on students. These two videos illustrate the success possible through blended learning: KIPP Empower Academy and Carpe Diem Collegiate High School and Middle School.

If you’re interested in learning more about the blended learning revolution, download Innosight’s report. Better yet, make a copy and give it to your local school board. As always, the iLearn Project is here to help.

Higher test scores and lower costs are just around the corner for Washington’s schools through blended learning. Sign up to receive regular updates about the latest in online and blended learning and the possibilities for Washington.


[Reprinted from the iLearn Project blog; feature photo credit: Foto_di_Signorina]

VIDEO: “Does Your Brain Only Work When Your Butt is in a Chair?”

The Colorado Legacy Foundation produced a great short film that hits the nail on the head when it comes to what’s missing in public education, the possibilities for turning it around, and the mindset necessary to get us there.

Using pithy, common sense questions, the film explores the faulty assumptions that drive public education and lead to the fact that, “Too many of our kids aren’t graduating ready to go to college. Or enter the workplace. Or give back to their community. They are not keeping up with their global counterparts.”

They also propose a simple process for expanding learning opportunities: “Try new things. Measure results. Adjust. Repeat … Because if we’re not moving forward we’re actually going backward.”

Watch the video to get inspired then browse the links below for articles and examples of how schools and individuals are expanding learning opportunities.


[Reprinted from the iLearn Project blog]

Steilacoom to Stop Offering Washington Virtual Academy

In the 2011 legislative session, legislators tried to “save” money by reducing the Basic Education Allocation (BEA) for students enrolled in Alternative Learning Experience Programs. (For background on the issue and debate, read our coverage here, here, and here.) Online public schools fall into this category, and online students’ BEA was cut by 15 percent.

Well, we’re starting to see the effects of that “cost-savings” move.

This week it was announced that the Steilacoom Historical School District will not renew its contract with K12, Inc. to operate Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA).

Online public schools provide choice, customization, 21st century learning, and more control for families, not bureaucrats.  WAVA’s closure in Steilacoom is a bad sign. Rather than moving forward in innovation and options, Washington is driving the innovators out.

Steilacoom’s history

Steilacoom was the first district in Washington to contract with K12, Inc., starting in 2004 with 25 students. As of last spring, enrollment exceeded 1,500.

According to a recent News Tribune article, only about 25 of these students live in Steilacoom. The majority use the state’s Choice Law to transfer their enrollment and take advantage of the program from wherever they live. State funding follows the student to the district providing services, making this one of the only school choices families have.

The funding debate

On the surface, it makes sense that online public schools would cost less than traditional public schools: no facilities, no buses, no food service, etc. So they should get less money, right? It’s not that simple.

First, prior to the funding cut of 2011, students enrolled in online schools were already receiving less funding. Including building, bus, facilities, and so forth, traditional public schools receive roughly $12,000 per pupil. Online public schools typically receive only the Basic Education Allocation—roughly  $5,000, now reduced by 15 percent. Meanwhile, they have the same staffing costs and unique technology costs.

The News Tribune reports:

“Former state representative Gigi Talcott of Tacoma, coordinator for Washington Families For Online Learning, said state funding cuts aimed at online programs have proven painful. She said school districts now get about $4,200 per student in state funding for online students – about $1,000 less per pupil than they get in basic education and materials funding for traditional students.

“That’s not enough to run a high-quality program,” she said.

Knowing this to be the case, in 2011 we cautioned legislators that making this cut would not save the state money since online schools might be forced to close and students would likely return to traditional public schools, costing the state even more. Cuts were absolutely necessary in the 2011 session, but this cut didn’t make sense—for students or financially.

With Steilacoom’s closure of WAVA, we’re seeing our predictions begin to unfold.

Fortunately, Steilacoom isn’t the only district to contract with K12. Using the same Choice Law, students can enroll in WAVA through the Omak School District.

Still, Steilacoom’s decision doesn’t bode well for the dozens of other districts that offer online programs.

The good news is that options do still exist, and a dedicated group of online learning families are hard at work to protect those choices.

The Washington Families for Online Learning Coalition is currently suing the state for restoration of full BEA funding for online students. They are arguing that it is unconstitutional to reduce state funding for one subset of public school students.


[Reprinted from the iLearn Project blog; feature photo credit: 19melissa68]

Meet Mackenzie Platt, Downtown Olympia’s Favorite Online Student

Mackenzie is never far from the thick of things—even when doing her school work in a custom-built (by dad) classroom above the store.

In the midst of the hectic world around them, the Platt family starts each day by sitting down to a hot breakfast and the newspaper, and the kids are no exception.

That’s how Mackenzie Platt first heard about online public school.

A fourth-grader brimming with potential, Mackenzie was bored in school. She was tired of having to work on the same content over and over—even if she understood it. She also didn’t enjoy the many distractions that come with a traditional classroom.

“Her teacher tried,” said Mackenzie’s mom Kimberly. But the fact was, the traditional school wasn’t meeting Mackenzie’s needs.

The Platt’s wanted to enroll Mackenzie in the district’s gifted program, but with limited space her fate was left up to a lottery. And she didn’t win.

That brings us to the newspaper. After reading an article about two online students in Tumwater, Wash., nine-year-old Mackenzie made up her mind that she wanted to do school online. After consideration, her parents agreed, provided she would stick with it for a full year then evaluate.

It was no wonder Mackenzie had been bored in school. Her initial English placement test put her two grades ahead of her age cohort. Now a freshman in high school—taking all sophomore and junior level classes—she can’t imagine going back to traditional school.

Online learning has allowed Mackenzie to excel in subjects she enjoys and to take more time in more difficult subjects, all under the supervision of an online teacher. “The teachers are super encouraging. It’s great to know you have that support.”

Online learning has also given her the opportunity to pursue interests piqued during her studies such as literature, and in particular, Emerson.

“What a wonderful adventure to see her sponging up everything,” said Kimberly, “I’d have to flip ahead to keep up with her.”

As a parent, Kimberly also appreciates how Mackenzie is gaining skills that will prepare her for the 21st century. This includes learning to use the internet with integrity. Mackenzie’s online school uses a program called “Turnitin” that automatically checks assignments for plagiarism.

By focusing on her studies and not being distracted by the drama of the traditional school setting, Mackenzie is able to excel while saving a lot of time. She spends that time on a number of activities including working for the family business, Mailbox of Olympia. Located in the heart of downtown Olympia, Mackenzie is never far from the thick of things—even when doing her school work in a custom-built (by dad) classroom above the store.

But the business isn’t Mackenzie’s only contribution to the community. She also volunteers extensively, is a teacher’s assistant at a local dance studio, and participates in theater at the Capitol Playhouse.

When asked what would be different if she had stayed in traditional public school, Mackenzie quickly replied, “I wouldn’t be as involved as I am, and I would be less social. I don’t miss out on anything with online school.”

Her mom agrees. “Online school has helped her become a more well-rounded young lady. The community respects her and always asks about her schooling.”

The reports these days are encouraging. Having earned 10 college credits through Everett Community College—in partnership with her online school—Mackenzie plans to graduate a year early and apply to NYU where she will either study dramatics or editing. Someday soon, her family and friends might be reading about her in the morning paper.


[Reprinted from the Freedom Foundation’s iLearn Project blog]


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