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Is online schooling a viable option for K-12 schools in Iowa?

BY DI STAFF | MARCH 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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Yes

Iowa families should welcome online public K-12 schooling as it becomes more available throughout the state. Homeschooling families should pay special attention to this option, because it could be a strong supplement to their children's fundamental education.

The Iowa City Press Citizen reported on March 14 that there are at least five local families who have enrolled their children in online programs for the fall 2012 session. These programs are administered by state education officials and are held to the same standards as traditional public schools.

They can even offer things that some school districts cannot, such as Advanced Placement courses and college-preparatory classes. A study by the Sloan Consortium suggests online education can provide not only the essential curriculum to rural school districts that are not meeting basic requirements but advanced courses as well.

There are many negative perceptions of online schools — such as the University of Phoenix or DeVry University — that don't apply to the K-12 level, and they are generally the same misconceptions that people have of homeschooling. While these programs provide students more freedom to individualize their education experience, it doesn't give them the opportunity to fall behind or neglect what students learn in traditional schools.

Programs such as Connections Academy stress student accountability with more frequent assessments and report cards that "go beyond simple letter grades." Attendance is taken through the completion of assignments submitted online, while students can also take part in group discussions — a Skype-like program that provides a more social, face-to-face experience. Also, the programs provide students an opportunity to become more familiar with technologies that they will need to use later in life in the workplace.

Even a study released by the Education Department in January found online K-12 education broadens access, individualizes a student's learning experience, increases the rate of learning, and reduces costs. This is why online education is something to seriously consider as an alternative to our current system, which has not lived up to what it promised to be. Our public schools were weak compared with those of other nations even before No Child Left Behind became law. The system is based on an antiquated one-size-fits-all approach that cannot work any longer.

But don't be mistaken — we shouldn't dive headfirst into this shallow pool. This system could be abused easily, where teachers are replaced with computers solely to save money or reduce class sizes. Let's take a good, hard look at online education and make the best of it.

— Joe Schueller

No

I think it's great the Iowa Legislature is looking into online schooling. I think it's a terrible idea to start implementing it next year.

This is exactly what two out-of-state companies are going to do in two separate Iowa school districts.

Next fall, ladies and gentlemen, online schooling will come to a computer near you. And the beautiful thing is, anyone can open-enroll from any school district, making it available to even you.

The only problem is that it's too idealistic to work. The program will be abused by adolescent students and teachers alike. Parents will do homework so their kids can slide by, and the managers of the programs won't be any the wiser.    

And it's a computer — and it's the Internet.

My question is, what do you do on your computer? You write papers, you research projects, you do spreadsheets, right?

Sure, you do — but at the same time you are stalking that cute guy on Facebook, while simultaneously pinning to your "Style" board on Pinterest. Two hours of homework takes all night because you stumbled upon a new UI Meme page. I'm with you — I spent all night on that page before it was canceled, and I had a test the next day.

Now, imagine a lone senior in high school given a computer and told to follow a curriculum set up by an administrator in a far-off district. Yeah, right. Can you say Maxim?   

Which brings up another problem: the socialization of American teenagers. Giving young minds a computer as their primary means of connecting to society will only further isolate and confuse them when the real world comes knocking.

Dealing with bullies and those stereotypical cliques is never fun, but no computer program will stop that. The sad truth is bullies and cliques don't stop at high school, they extend into every social facet in life. Dealing with stupid people in high school provided us with social skills to deal with stupid people later in life. And this is exactly what real high school teaches kids: how to survive and thrive in a cut-throat world.

Giving a teenager a screen and calling it "school" only teaches the next generation to look at a computer and call it "life."

— Benjamin Evans


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