Half of States Now Offer Online-Learning Programs

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More than half of U.S. states now operate online-learning initiatives for K-12 students, an increase over the 15 states that did so just two years ago, according to a new survey.

Most of the 26 states that have online programs have seen significant growth in enrollments in recent years, with a dozen of them reporting jumps of 25 percent or more since 2007, according to the report, “Online Learning Policy and Practice Survey: A Survey of the States.”

But funding and other issues are still roadblocks to the creation or expansion of such programs in some states, the survey concludes.

“Twenty-seven states indicate that online learning is in their strategy for reform,” the report says. “Within these states, online programs are used to enhance the curriculum offered to students, increase student access, and address teacher shortages or overcrowded classrooms.”

Enrollments in Florida’s online programs, for example, increased by about 24 percent over the two-year period, to 124,000. Mississippi’s enrollments grew from 5,000 students to 7,000 in the 2008-09 school year over the previous year.

Aiming to Expand

The survey was conducted by the Center for Digital Education, a market-research firm in Folsom, Calif., with input from the Vienna, Va.-based International Association for K-12 Online Learning. It was funded by Blackboard Inc., a provider of a popular online learning-management system.

Some states are looking at ways to expand their offerings, including K-20 partnerships spanning different levels of education and licensure reciprocity to allow teachers to work in other state programs. Most of the states with online schools offer classes year-round, according to the report.

States were ranked on their policies and practices for K-12 online learning, with the most credit given to those that have initiatives created and administered at the state level and that offer full-time credit programs. Florida, which has gained a reputation as having a national model in its Florida Virtual School, was ranked first. South Carolina, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Michigan, in that order, rounded out the top five, according to the survey.

Of the states that do not have state-sponsored online programs, seven are planning such initiatives, while six others and the District of Columbia allow online charter schools.

Vol. 29, Issue 13

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