The growing potential of online public schools to meet the needs of all students has not escaped the notice of many state departments of education.

Growing Potential of Online Public SchoolsIn Alabama, online courses have been offered for a while, but officials say that the potential has been barely tapped. So the Legislature is trying to improve virtual school options.

As a result of a bill passed recently, all Alabama School systems will be required to offer some level of virtual school options for high school students by the start of the 2016-2017 academic year.

“It’s not a solution for everybody,” said Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, sponsor of the bill. “But for a certain population of students, it’s a really good option.”

Alabama currently has the ACCESS distance learning program, which was launched during Govenor Bob Riley’s administration.  ACCESS enables students to take classes that are not available at their local schools.  Advanced courses and electives are then open to all.

Most of the ACCESS courses are taught through web based programs, although some use live video feeds of classroom teachers.  Students communicate with teachers online and turn in assignments.

There are more than 27,000 students enrolled in ACCESS.  It is available in all Alabama high schools and somemiddle schools.

Complains about ACCESS from superintendents include issues with the quality of courses. The legislation is supported by the Alabama Association of School Boards. The legislation has not yet been signed into law.

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Growing Potential of Online Public Schools