WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 14, 2013 -
As a father of two young boys, I know today’s kids learn differently than previous generations. They are more adept at effortlessly figuring out new technology and seamlessly incorporating it into their daily lives.
Recognizing the wealth of technology now at our fingertips, several states are working to alter the way education is delivered to students. In Utah and Georgia, for example, state leaders have approved extensive online learning programs with coursework that can be used in addition to the education a child receives in the traditional classroom. This blended learning model provides students face-to-face interaction with a teacher while supplementing their education with online instruction.
Online coursework has also become increasingly popular for students who are interested in classes that may not be offered at their current school, or who need additional assistance in certain subject areas. As online coursework becomes accepted in more states, additional families across the country will be able to use these digital classes to customize their child’s education.
Virtual schools, which are currently offered in twenty-eight states, provide another option for families seeking additional choices in education. In the 2011-2012 school year, more than half a million students were enrolled in virtual schools either part-time or full-time, a 16 percent increase from the previous school year. For children in rural areas, or whose schools otherwise aren’t able to fully support their education needs, virtual schools provide a critical opportunity to keep learning and stay on track for graduating fully prepared for college or the workforce.
In my home state of Indiana, leaders have taken steps to expand access to blended learning programs and virtual schools, including virtual charter schools. In 2011, Indiana legislators took action to allow more of these innovative online institutions to seek sponsors and districts throughout Indiana to start their own public programs. With 610,000 students currently on charter school wait lists, virtual charter schools can provide a lifeline to children who are desperate to escape an underperforming school but cannot access a brick-and-mortar charter school.
As we have said many times in this committee, helping ensure families can make choices about their children’s education is key to strengthening our education system as a whole. I applaud the state and local education leaders who have embraced digital learning policies, and hope more states and school districts will pursue these education options in the near future.
In the past, my colleagues and I have supported policies to provide states and school districts additional flexibility to allocate funds to help support education innovation. I look forward to exploring similar proposals in the 113th Congress, and to a productive conversation this morning about the impact of blended learning and other digital education technologies on student achievement.
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