Saturday, October 25, 2014

North Carolina stands on the virtual school precipice.

The State Board of Education in North Carolina finds itself in a quandary. Only two providers responded to its proposal to open two virtual schools in the state next year: K12 and Connections.

In their neighboring state of Tennessee, the Commissioner of Education has threatened to close Tennessee Virtual Academy due to ongoing poor academic results. In Massachusetts, the K12 virtual academy there has been placed on probation due to academic insufficiency. Georgia Cyber Academy (another K12 school) has recently come under fire from the Department of Education in their state. Similar stories can be found in other states as well. Unfortunately the narrative is similar for Connections Academy.

But, what is the SBE to do? They are working under state legislation that, more than likely, was crafted with the assistance of the providers and they are under obligation to open two virtual school pilot programs. This makes it tough to choose correctly when only two applied -- a true definition of a conundrum.

If they proceed along this path, within a year of opening academic results will be below standards, attrition rates at the schools will be high, and the Department of Education in North Carolina will be on the search for solutions from the providers to turn the schools around and set them on a better path.

There is time though. As of yet, North Carolina has not jumped off the precipice into the chasm. So, now is the best time to alter course and lay a foundation built for success in virtual learning. It cannot replicate other states and hope that minor tweaks will produce different results. Instead, it must be bold and now is the time to set that precedent.

If not, and they go ahead and jump, the story at the bottom of the chasm has already been told.

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