The virtual school world has been buzzing with activity in recent months.
Massachusetts announced it was opening its first state-sponsored K-12 online school, Pennsylvania’s popular cyber schools are under greater scrutiny for largely failing to meet state standards, and a recent analysis of federal Race to the Top finalists shows that most of the 10 round-two winners submitted strong online-learning proposals.
The Chicago public school system recently announced a pilot program to add learning time at 15 elementary schools by replacing licensed teachers with online courses, adding to a roster of other virtual-learning opportunities offered by the district. Meanwhile, the Oregon legislature tackled one of the more controversial e-learning issues, regarding who decides whether a student can attend a virtual school.
All this activity in the virtual world raises important questions about e-educators that are just beginning to be addressed. For instance, what quality standards exist for online teachers? How should they be compensated and evaluated? And what is being done to prepare new educators for virtual teaching jobs or help experienced educators make the transition from face-to-face to online-only instruction?
This special report, the second in a three-part series on e-learning, aims to answer those and other questions related to the growing role of e-educators in K-12 education. It provides perspectives and advice from state policymakers and virtual school providers navigating through the new and often murky policy waters of online-only education, and features insights from e-educators in the trenches of virtual schooling.
As the opening story in this report points out, the reality is that many states and national education groups still have not addressed the issue of teacher quality for the online classroom. Many states do require a virtual instructor to be a state-certified teacher, but a majority of states have no endorsement to label an instructor competent in the skills necessary to work in a fully virtual environment. Those that do, or are considering such endorsements, often bill them as a desirable portfolio-builder rather than a required credential.
Sorting through these issues will not be easy. But the K-12 community is finally beginning to address them. And that is a step in the right direction.
A version of this article appeared in the September 22, 2010 edition of Education Week as About This Report: E-Educators Evolving