State needs to step up digital learning, new Chamber report says

Jan 31, 2014

EEG's John Watson, Mo. Chamber Pres. (left) and CEO Dan Mehan (center), & Mo. Chamber Education VP Brian Crouse (right).
EEG's John Watson, Mo. Chamber Pres. (left) and CEO Dan Mehan (center), & Mo. Chamber Education VP Brian Crouse (right).
Credit Marshall Griffin / St. Louis Public Radio

A study released Thursday by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry states that Missouri is "falling behind" when it comes to providing digital learning for K-12 students. 

The chamber commissioned the study, which was conducted by the Colorado-based Evergreen Education Group.  Chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan says although online learning options are available in the Show-Me State, most require tuition, while those that don’t are limited geographically.

“If we hope to keep pace with the changing landscape in education, we need to start by opening up virtual pathways to give our students more options for learning and success,” Mehan said.

Mehan told reporters in Jefferson City that the state also does not allow open enrollment in virtual schools.

“This limits students that are in rural areas where diverse course offerings are difficult, given a lack of qualified teachers, as well as for students that are attending school districts that are provisionally accredited or on the brink of failure, for whatever reason,” Mehan said.

The study includes several recommendations, including the following:

  • Allow statewide, fully online public schools.
  • Allow schools to receive 100 percent funding for students taking online courses without requiring seat time.
  • Allow schools to receive funding beyond one full-time employee for students seeking to take online courses beyond the school day or school year.
  • Increase opportunities for rural students by offering fully funded courses through MoVIP, the Missouri virtual instruction program, and developing a best practices guide for rural consortia.
  • Support unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts that want to make online options available to their students.
  • Continue to pursue broadband access not just to schools and community centers, but in “the last mile” to homes statewide.
  • Consider developing policy that all students statewide should take one online course to graduate from high school.
  • Require all districts in the state – not just those that are unaccredited or provisionally accredited – to pay for students to take MoVIP classes.
  • Identify state resources for schools and districts that wish to expand online and blended learning opportunities for students.

So far, the only bill filed this year related to digital learning is Senate Bill 522, which would allow students to enroll in a school district for the expressed purpose of taking virtual courses.

The full study from the Missouri Chamber and Evergreen Education Group can be viewed here.

An interactive map from mobroadbandnow.com showing the types of broadband access available across the state can be found here.  A similar interactive map provided by the U.S. Commerce Department can be found here.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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