Missouri’s only free state-wide virtual education program, the Missouri Online Summer Institute (MOSI), is also one of the state’s fastest growing educational offerings.
Starting with just 300 students from across the state six years ago, MOSI is expected to serve over 2,000 students this summer a 70 percent increase just from last year.
Students in the program can take up to two full credits of coursework ranging from the basics (math, ELA, science, social studies) to foreign languages, AP courses, and arts to a variety of Career and Technical Education courses and the classes cost their parents and home school districts nothing. Click here to learn more about the program, enroll in a summer class or see the entire list of course offerings.
The rapid growth and demand for the program is a good indicator of how important it is that the state is finally expanding access to virtual education to every Missouri student.
A new law passed this year opens the door to students and schools to take advantage of virtual education courses and programs at no cost to the parent as soon as this fall.
This means that students in many smaller and financially strapped districts and charter schools can now take upper-level courses (including Advanced Placement) like physics, calculus, and computer science which they previously had no access to, finally putting every student in the state on a level playing field for access to key courses for academic advancement.
“It really puts the student behind the wheel to make some choices about their education,” said Chuck Wolfe, who is the Vice President of School Development for K12, one of the main providers of virtual education programming in Missouri. “They get to look at what is available in the whole state and say I want to take these courses because I think they would be good for me.”
Under the new legislation, students and families can also elect to take full-time virtual programs, allowing them to access a complete virtual school network from the safety and comfort of their home in synchronous virtual classrooms where they interact with teachers and fellow students.
“We find is that when kids move into an online class they actually become more engaged,” said Wolfe. “Everybody is at a level playing field. There are no cliques, no visible discrimination or bias happening. You find that kids are much more willing to step up and get engaged where in a traditional model they may be shy. For most of the students, it becomes a more engaged environment.”
Under the new legislation students in every district in the state now have access to the same high-level courses including a wide variety of foreign languages, advanced STEM courses, and Advanced Placement courses.
“We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with organizations like the Missouri Association of Rural Educators and charters and districts around the state,” said Wolfe. “Schools who truly want to be innovative and offer additional courses and programs for their students and do it in a collaborative way.”
Wolfe said a new Career and Technical Education program being developed by the same district which offers MOSI is a perfect example of how access to virtual courses can truly transform education throughout the state.
“Grandview, though their Destinations Career Academy is going to be able to provide a solution that will help rural schools provide courses and opportunities for their kids that they could never have done on their own,” said Wolfe. “They don’t have to leave their home district or their friends or their sports but now because the district is partnering with Grandview those kids can pursue career certifications in advanced manufacturing or health sciences or agriculture or STEM or business finance. All of which are things that many of those districts on their own don’t have the resources or the staff or bandwidth to provide for their students.”
Students in the DCA program will also have access to career centered opportunities outside of the virtual classroom like participating in SkillsUSA.
“Through that, they are getting access to the leadership development components they get to participate in state competitions and go to national conferences,” said Wolfe. “All the home district has to do is let them do it.”
Providing access to high-quality CTE programs for every Missouri student could be a game changer as the state struggles to create a workforce for the next century.
Wolfe said the program being offered through K12 and Grandview would work closely with industry leaders and community and technical colleges to ensure the program is offering what is needed to make sure the state retains a competitive workforce.
“This fall they will set up a statewide advisory council that will be composed of individuals from industry from around the state who will be directly speaking into how the CTE program gets structured and the pathways certifications that will be offered,” he said. “They will also help identify and create the field-based experiences for the kids where they can do job shadowing and internships and career apprenticeships.”
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