Missouri students win right to access virtual education

May 17, 2018

Students across the state got a big win in the final days of the legislative session this week with the passage of HB 1606 and SB 603. (UPDATE 6/1/18: SB 603 has been signed into law).

The new legislation allows any student currently enrolled in a district or charter school to access a wide variety of virtual courses, including choosing to enroll in a full-time virtual school, at no cost to their families.

 

That means that students in small or rural districts, many of which do not have the capacity to offer higher level courses like calculus or Advanced Placement courses, will finally have access to the courses they need to be competitive as they look toward attending college or entering the workforce.

All Missouri students will finally have access to courses that will best meet their individual needs, based on their interests and/or career choices.

Even more importantly, the new legislation will allow any student in the state currently enrolled in a public school to choose instead to enroll in a full-time virtual curriculum. As a result, students who do not do well in a traditional brick-and-mortar school because of health issues, peer pressure or bullying, work or unique circumstances like acting or competing in national sporting events, or a wide variety of other reasons, now have the chance to access a high-quality education from the comfort and safety of their home.

Virtual education offers a variety of benefits
  • Virtual schools allow students to learn at their own pace, advancing through subject matter as quickly or a slowly as their competency over the subject matter allows.
  • Virtual education can provide students in rural or urban areas access to more unique and higher level courses than those offered through their home districts.
  • Digital learning provides parents and teachers immediate, real-time data on how well a student is understanding the subject matter, allowing for quick interventions when a student is struggling.
  • Learning through a digital platform prepares students for online classes in college and the increasingly Internet-based business world.
Summer virtual program may expand to offer full-time state-wide virtual school

The rural Grandview R-2 school district has been providing virtual education to thousands of students across the state in form of summer school for a number of years, through the Missouri Online Summer Institute (MOSI).

MOSI Director Dr. Micheal Brown said this week that the passage of HB 1606 might allow them to expand the program.

“Grandview is exploring their options and hopes to be able to offer something after the governor signs the bill,” he said, noting that the district is just looking at what might be possible after the passage of the bill this week. “What we do know is that this is a great thing for the students of Missouri.”

Click here to learn more about the existing MOSI program, enroll in a summer class or see the entire list of course offerings.

Legislation opens door to better CTE

Establishing a statewide virtual and course access program at no cost to families could have long-ranging positive impacts on Missouri’s workforce as well.

K12, a national provider of virtual education, and Missouri school district Grandview R-2 have been exploring how virtual courses can help to expand virtual Career and Technical Education (CTE) across the state.

“Across the broad range of our curricula, which includes 124 CTE courses, we are serving about 65 school districts across the state,” Sean Ryan, Sr. Vice President and General Manager of Fuel Education, a segment of the K12 program, said last fall. “We cluster the CTE courses into six career clusters that include agriculture, business management and administration, health sciences, hospitality and tourism, information technology, and manufacturing. These courses can prepare students much more effectively for either going directly into the workforce or being a more attractive candidate for post-secondary experiences.”

“Right now CTE is an area that a lot of districts want to embrace,” said K12 Vice President of School Development Chuck Wolfe, noting that the new program offers a way to increase CTE offerings in a cost-effective manner. “Industries are saying they need skilled workers and they have a shortage of those. The challenge is that the historical model for CTE was very equipment intensive and very localized. Many districts do not have the staff that is required and there are limited resources. But, a virtual model of CTE addresses the needs and gives more students access at a lower cost.”

“Good Cause” provision gives parents control

A key part of HB 1606 is the “Good Case” provision which prohibits school administrators from denying families access to virtual courses, even full-time programs unless they can prove that is not in the best educational interest of the student.

Some examples of “good cause” justification denials include:

  • The student may not have completed one or more prerequisite courses that is required, prior to enrolling in an advanced course;
  • Enrolling in the course may prevent the student from graduating on time;
  • The student may have a low GPA and has not demonstrated that he/she can successfully complete an advanced course;
  • The student may have a poor attendance record and may not be disciplined enough to complete an online course without direct supervision.

Additionally, if the parent/guardian and the student believes the denial is not justified, then the parent/guardian and student can appeal the decision to the local school board. Both the parent/guardian and the school administration must submit a written document to the school board to support their case.  The local school board must enter the written documentation into the official board minutes and provide their decision within 30 days to both parties in writing.  If the local school board supports the denial to enroll in the course(s) or the virtual school, then the parent/guardian can appeal to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).  DESE must respond in writing with their decision within seven days of receiving the written appeal.  If the parent/guardian still believes the denial does not meet the “Good Cause” justification expectations, then the parent/guardian can go to court for a final decision.  If the parent/guardian decides to take the case to court, having everything in writing throughout the appeal process and entered into the official board minutes will be important.

Click here to learn more about virtual education in Missouri.