01.19.12 R.I. Legislator to Introduces Virtual Education Bill
Rep. Joseph McNamara, chairman of the Rhode Island House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, introduced new legislation to establish the "Statewide Virtual Education Act," aimed at promoting the use of virtual courses as part of public education.
McNamara believes it's very important to make sure students, from kindergarten to college, are able to extend their learning via technology.
"We need to be ready to ride the wave of virtual learning," said McNamara in a news release. "We need to be moving forward with the way we educate our students, or we and those students will be left behind. As is happening all around the country, we need to utilize the power of technology to remove the constraints of traditional classroom learning and allow students to learn any time, any place and any way they are able."
The bill, H7126, would issue guidelines for virtual courses, as well as develop a plan for students of all ages to have access to virtual courses.
Rhode Island lags behind most other states in establishing statewide virtual learning opportunities, according to a report by Johnson & Wakes University.
Researchers found that while school Rhode Island educators said online learning was important, and wanted to expand online programs, they "perceived barriers to expansion include course development and/or purchasing costs, the lack of other sources of funding, and the lack of grants."
McNamara wants to change that perception.
"Schools and school districts should have the freedom to work with teachers, families and students to create customizable learning opportunities that incorporate today's technology," said McNamara. "But the freedom that comes from this type of learning must be accompanied by a clear responsibility to ensure that such opportunities are of high quality and consistent with state standards. This legislation sets that groundwork."
01.04.11 Rhode Island Schools Chief Says Virtual Learning Part of State's Education Reform Package
Speaking before a packed community forum in Bristol, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist said that her plans to transform the state's education
system includes virtual learning.
In its application for federal money through the Race To The Top competition, Rhode Island stated it plans to build an online instructional-improvement
system for teachers. This would also lead to the construction a virtual learning network for students. The state is also reviewing providers for a state-led virtual high school, according to the report.
In a dissertation on virtual education in Rhode Island, Barbara C. Morse of Johnson & Wales University reported that the sate "lags behind most other states in establishing statewide virtual learning opportunities.
According to Morse, "The most common forms of fully online courses currently offered in Rhode Island school districts are for remediation or credit
recovery (45%), elective courses (38%), required courses (21%) and Advanced Placement and/or college-credit courses (21%). Remediation and credit recovery are also the most common forms of blended/hybrid course offered in Rhode Island (21%).
"Survey and interview results found administrators' perceived importance for these courses is higher than the current level of implementation. Open-ended and interview responses further indicated that administrators are seeking to expand online-learning programs in their districts, while
perceived barriers to expansion include course development and/or purchasing costs, the lack of other sources of funding, and the lack of grants. This study provides information for district and state educational leaders who are seeking baseline data and other information which may be useful in efforts to establish distance education programs," the study added.
6.28.10 First-year assessment: Deborah Gist, Rhode Island schools chief
Virtual education is on the Rhode Island education radar.
That's what Deborah Gist, state Education Commissioner, told edReformer.com in an interview.
Online learning isn't the only issue facing Gist. In this July 19, 2010 story in the Providence Journal, Gist's first year has been anything but tranquil.
Rhode Island does not have a state-led virtual school.
Rhode Island does not have a virtual charter school that offers courses to students throughout the state,
About 14 percent of the state’s high schools offer online courses through the Virtual High School Global Consortium. According to the draft of the state’s Race to the Top application, “Rhode Island’s high schools have also implemented several innovative e-learning opportunities that enable students to access web-based content and differentiated instructional delivery systems for credit recovery and advancement. Of the high schools that use e-learning, more than 70 percent of high schools use it for credit recovery; almost 40 percent use e-learning for credit advancement; and 25 percent provide opportunities for students to gain college credit through e-learning."
In 2010, Rhode Island ended its reputation as the only state without a statewide school financing formula. The complex formula, which was developed by the state Department of Education and researchers at Brown University and which goes into effect for the 2011-12 school year, is intended to redistribute about $705 million a year in direct aid to school districts and charter and state-operated schools.