January 31, 2014

Digital Learning Options in Missouri

We are pleased to have worked with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation to research existing digital learning options for K-12 students in Missouri, and to make recommendations to expand digital options for all students in the state. The full report, K-12 Digital Learning in Missouri: Creating Virtual Pathways to Success, was released in conjunction with events on January 29 and 30 that included online students, teachers, parents, and online learning experts from around Missouri and the country.

As we have stated for the past few years in Keeping Pace, in most states student access to digital learning options is dependent on zip code. Missouri is no exception.

There are no statewide fully online public schools in Missouri. There are a few district-run virtual schools, but they are limited to serving in-district students because Missouri does not support open enrollment. There are also private options but in most cases families must pay for these online programs as they are not supported by public education funding.

Supplemental online course access is limited to a very small number of students across Missouri. Although there is a state virtual school, the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program, it has lost much of its funding in recent years and seen its enrollments drop as a result. Most students must pay tuition, although some are allowed to take a supplemental online class during a scheduled time period at their local high school.

Pockets of innovation exist across the state, as a growing number of district programs are serving students with supplemental online classes, but most of these are serving a small number of students.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Allow statewide, fully online public schools.
  • Allow schools to receive 100% funding for students taking online courses without requiring seat time.
  • Allow schools to receive funding beyond one FTE for students seeking to take online courses beyond the school day.
  • Increase opportunities for rural students by offering fully funded courses through MoVIP and other state-approved providers, 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 in order 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 classes from MoVIP or other approved providers
  • Identify state resources for schools and districts that wish to expand online and blended learning opportunities for students.

On the first evening of the release, the online student, parent, and teacher made a compelling case for why online learning is such an important option for students. Their comments were captured in videos that are available on the Missouri Chamber of Commerce website.

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