January 19, 2011

New Jersey fights for its students

While online and blended learning have become increasingly common across most of the United States, the middle Atlantic and northeastern states have been somewhat of an exception. Although a few online programs, such as Virtual High School Global Consortium, serve students in these states, there are not as many online options as in other parts of the country. We were pleased to see that among the 23 new charter school applications that the New Jersey Department of Education approved are five schools that plan to use online and blended learning educational models. There will be 97 charter schools in New Jersey serving 25,000 students by fall 2011, and we expect that the number of schools offering blended and online options will grow as more details about each model are released. Governor Chris Christie noted “charter schools give parents and children a choice and provide a much-needed alternative to help ensure every child in New Jersey receives a quality education.”

The five schools that specifically mention using online and blended learning are listed below; grades and number of students to be served are listed (details taken directly from press release):

Atlantic Preparatory Charter School: 9-12 (552) Atlantic City – Atlantic County: Application presents a sound plan for a blended learning school program. The blended learning would incorporate online learning into the regular school day as well as provide increased access to schoolwork for students and families while not in school.

New Jersey Virtual Academy: K-12 (1200) Newark – Essex County: New Jersey Virtual Academy will offer a virtual learning program for students in Newark.

New Jersey Virtual: 10-12 (300) Camden, Perth Amboy, Neptune Township, Paterson: New Jersey Virtual will offer a blended learning program for high school students who have dropped out of school.

Spirit Prep: 9-12 (600) East Orange, Irvington, Newark – Essex County: Spirit Prep will offer a blended learning model of project-based learning, face-to-face learning, and online instruction integrated with instrumental music.

Vailsburg Prep: 9-12 (600) Newark – Essex County: Vailsburg Prep proposes to open a high school that will serve students using a research-based, blended learning curriculum. In this model, traditional classroom instruction will be supplemented with online learning

Blended learning is one of the emerging trends identified in Keeping Pace 2010 (beginning on p. 40). There are a handful of schools around the country using blended learning as their primary educational model, including San Francisco Flex Academy, Rocketship Education in San Jose, and VOISE Academy in Chicago. These schools, among others, demonstrate viable approaches from which new blended schools may adapt and improvise.

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