Washington state rolled out an Internet high school today, with the Insight School of Washington, the first that will enable students to graduate without attending a physical school, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported
"We do not want our geography to determine our educational and economic destiny," said Quillayute Valley School District Superintendent Frank Walter, whose district in Forks on the Olympic Peninsula will oversee the program and issue diplomas. "This is a new world -- youngsters today are digital natives, and there are students who thrive in that type of environment."
Critics like the teachers' union criticized the move as a stealth charter schools, which voters have rejected three times. "A large part of learning is working face-to-face with a teacher and other students -- and online-only schools don't allow that to happen," said Rich Wood, a spokesman for the Washington Education Association, the state teachers' union. "There's great potential there, but it really should be to supplement traditional education."
The promise, former Gov. Gary Locke said, is to lure back students who dropped out, by making education more flexible. "It's a great way to complement our public school system and our private schools," Locke said. "It's a way to reach out to the large group of students who are not in education now."
Two hundred students will receive a free laptop and printer, and a stipend to pay for Internet access. There is no tutition.
Students will choose one of six academic "tracks," including paths for those who want to take advanced placement courses, those interested in vocational-technical education and those who need a yearlong English-as-a-second-language course.
Like traditional schools, the curriculum will be required to meet state standards, and students will be required to take the Washington Assessment of Student Learning and fulfill state graduation requirements.
Curriculum will be licensed from companies such as Paul Allen's Apex Learning, and will take advantage of the multimedia format. Texts are often written in a casual style to help kids connect with the material, said Rebekah Richards, the school's director of curriculum and instruction.