Alabama Passes Online Learning Access Bill

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Alabama has passed a virtual school bill passed that requires all schools to offer high school students the opportunity of online learning by the 2016-17 school year.

WHNT reports that Alabama’s ACCESS is an existing distance learning program that enables students to take classes not available presently in their schools including electives and more advanced courses. The program consists of teacher live video feeds as well as web-based learning. By the end of April, over 27,000 students were enrolled in ACCESS.

With the new bill, local schools can choose how to execute their virtual learning policy; they can use ACCESS, get a contract with a university or another school, or hire a vendor, Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle say. The idea is to respect each school’s specific community needs.

The recently passed virtual school systems bill will see the creation of a task force that will examine and suggest improvements on ACCESS, especially since many school superintendents have been complaining over the course quality, Mike Cason of AL.com writes.

As a response to the bill, the Montgomery County Board of Education approved a pilot online learning program set to start in the fall. A total of 20 students grades 10 and 11 will participate in the program and will have the opportunity to learn on their computers anytime and anywhere.

The students will have online classes in English, science, math and history and they will report to the MPS Professional Services Center for their tests. Any 10th and 11th grader that meets the prerequisites can apply for the pilot program.

Montgomery Public School Officials have been observing virtual school practices in other counties in order to create their own online curriculum, WSFA reports.

“Sometimes students don’t always flourish in the traditional classroom setting and cyber coursework give them an alternative. The textbooks will be online on the laptops so they can do this anywhere they have wi-fi connection so then they will come to us to take their tests or if they need tutoring,” MPS District Technology Coordinator, Steve Blair says.

Florence City School Superintendent Margaret Allen says the pilot program is the perfect opportunity to test the waters and gather knowledge necessary for when the schools have to put their online courses policy on paper.

Virtual learning programs have been piloted in several schools in recent years. Florence City School’s traditional classrooms are shrinking in number as they offer effective virtual high school programs to their students, WHNT reports. Superintendent Janet Womack whose school successfully piloted a virtual learning program says now the school plans to expand the program to its 7th and 8th grade students this fall.

“Students could still be a part of Florence City Schools but not necessarily live in Florence all throughout the year or anytime throughout the year,” Womack says.

The virtual program is for students with at least a B- average, and Womack hopes that the virtual program will appeal to homeschooled students that were previously enrolled at school.

Virtual learning students are to take the same standardized exams as everyone else.