While public education experts debated which priorities weighed most heavily in the second round of the federal Race to the Top grant competition applications, a review by an online education organization shows most of the 10 winners submitted strong online-learning proposals.
Susan D. Patrick, the president of the Vienna, Va.-based International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, says a wiki document released by the organization highlighting the virtual-learning components in all 19 finalists’ applications shows the winning states were ready to use RTT funds to offer more online opportunities and make needed state-policy revisions.
Further, she says, those changes are happening in regions that have been traditionally hesitant to embrace online learning. While all 16 state members of the Southern Regional Education Board, which has succeeded in encouraging its members to embrace online learning, make up more than half the 27 states with statewide virtual schools, Patrick says she was more encouraged by the applications of states outside that region.
“Florida certainly has been a leader [in online education] for a long time,” Patrick says. “But that’s not new information. So it was really nice to see Massachusetts, New York, and some others move not only in the direction of online learning, but to considering the policy shifts.”
Many of those shifts involve replacing traditional seat-time requirements—which mandate the hours a student must spend in class to gain credit for a course—with competency-based requirements that allow students to progress at varying paces through a course depending on their mastery of the subject.
A version of this article appeared in the October 20, 2010 edition of Digital Directions as Analysis Highlights Virtual Ed. Priorities Among RTT Winners