Eighth-grader James Roll enjoys learning math, science, English and social studies through an online school that lets him learn at his own pace using a computer at home. But he says he likes the art and music classes at what he calls “real school” — Kromrey Middle School in Middleton — even more.
James is a pioneer of sorts, and so is the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, when it comes to computer-based, or virtual, learning.
This year, Middleton launched its 21st Century eSchool. It’s one of just a dozen virtual schools in Wisconsin, and the second in Dane County; last year the McFarland School District became the sponsoring district for the Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA), which opened for the 2009-2010 school year with about 400 students and this year counts twice that many.
The two schools share several key elements: They offer a broad range of online courses, beginning at the kindergarten level and continuing all the way through high school, employ licensed Wisconsin teachers to oversee online learning, and require that students participate in mandatory testing each year.
Hughes’ obvious irritation was fueled by recent open enrollment figures showing that Madison has lost more than 150 students to McFarland, both to the Wisconsin Virtual Academy and to McFarland bricks-and-mortar schools.
Hughes expanded on his frustration in a recent piece he wrote for his Ed Hughes School Blog: “Since we have to send about $6,800 per student to districts that receive our open enrollers, this means that we’ll be cutting a (perhaps figurative) check in excess of $1,000,000 to the McFarland School District.”
But McFarland Superintendent Scott Brown says his district is only getting $300 to $350 per student per year from the online school and says the Wisconsin Virtual Academy is not necessarily poaching students from the traditional classroom. “Schools like WIVA have brought a lot of students who may not have been under the tent of public education into school districts like ours.
More options for our children is great for them, parents, business, our communities and taxpayers.
With respect to Ed’s post, providing alternative models at what appears to be substantially lower cost than Madison’s annual $15K per student expenditures is good for all of us, particularly the students.
The financial aspects of the open enrollment and alternative education models gets to the heart of whether traditional districts exist to promote adult employment or student education.
The Khan Academy is worth a visit.. Standing in front of new education models and more choices for our children is a losing proposition. Just yesterday, Apple, Inc. announced the end of hard drives for volume computers with the introduction of a flash memory based notebook. Certainly, hard drive manufacturers will be fighting over a smaller market, but, new opportunities are emerging. Some will take advantage of them, others won’t. Education is no different.