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Published in Print: October 19, 2011, as Michigan Pushes E-Learning Options

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Michigan Pushes E-Learning Options

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The Michigan Department of Education isn’t waiting for the legislature to increase online options for students.

The department has released guidelines that allow more middle school students to take all classes online and some districts to open more virtual charter schools, among other changes that expand online options.

The new guidelines are in response to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s push for the legislature to remove rules that cap some online enrollment. Although the state education department has the power to give districts flexibility, the legislature would need to act to completely remove restrictions. “We agree with the governor that this is a good thing for students,” says Barb Fardell, a manager in the state Office of Educational Improvement and Innovation.

Online education already is big in the state. The Michigan Virtual High School expanded to nearly 15,000 courses taken from 100 a decade ago.

Kimberley McLaren-Kennedy, 17, of West Bloomfield, began taking all online classes during the 2010-11 school year at Avondale Academy in Auburn Hills. She has become a believer in online education.

“It’ll work for students who have the motivation in themselves and the discipline,” she says. “But if they’re lazy, I don’t think it will work for them.”

The 3,750-student Avondale district is one of 171—out of the 800 districts and charter schools in the state—that already provide expanded options for middle and high school students to take many or all classes online.

New guidelines are going to make it easier for far more Michigan students to take all or most of their classes online.

State law limits students to two online classes a semester, and the districts and charter schools that allow students to take more operate under special waivers from the Michigan Department of Education. But those waivers are limited, in most cases only allowing 25 percent of a school’s population to take all or most classes online.

The new guidelines allow districts to apply for new waivers that are intended to be more flexible, and for the state’s 57 intermediate school districts to apply to create virtual charter schools for up to 10 percent of students who reside in their geographic boundaries.

Vol. 05, Issue 01, Page 8

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