Putting Education Reform To The Test

Virtual Schools Expand Students’ Network

Tim Chapman / Miami Herald

Felicia Brunson, (right), Liason between Florida Virtual School and Miami-Dade County Schools, talks to a group of instructors who will be running the labs along with Jeannine Schloss, a Virtual School instructional leader during an orientation on the virtual classes that will be required of students who enter ninth grade this year to graduate.

When does heading back to class not involve a school? When students tick off Florida’s new graduation requirement for an online course.

Miami Herald reporter Laura Isensee examined the advantages and criticisms of online schooling Sunday.

More than 150,000 Florida students will take virtual courses this year. Students told Isensee they liked the ability to work at their own pace, whenever and wherever they were ready to study.

Advocates note the state can educate students for 23 percent less than in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. State officials say they conduct random exam and phone checks to protect against cheating and ensure students are learning.

Critics caution that online programs do not work for every student, such as the Hialeah Gardens students just learning English who struggled with an online reading course. Teachers said students have reported liking the classes because they are “easy” and “fast.”

Another issue? Thousands of families in Miami-Dade County alone do not have access to a computer or the Internet. School districts say they are working to make sure students have access to computers, the Internet and other resources to complete online courses.


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