Jonathan Butcher

Keeping Up with the Speed of Virtual Education

Posted on March 22, 2012 | Author: Jonathan Butcher
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In 1947, military experts were trying to build an aircraft that wouldn’t lose control at high speeds so a pilot could fly faster than the speed of sound. Pilots were afraid to accelerate beyond the sound barrier for fear they would never recover control of their plane.

Chuck Yeager, then a 24-year-old test pilot, took the challenge in an experimental aircraft and broke the sound barrier on October 14. “There was no buffet, no jolt, no shock. Above all, no brick wall to smash into,” Yeager told Popular Mechanics 40 years later.

Arizona legislators have the opportunity to cross another invisible boundary. SB 1259, sponsored by Sen. Rich Crandall, helps students move as fast as the speed of virtual education. While there is much we do not know about virtual education and we can’t anticipate all possible consequences, online education is a part of the 21st century’s educational landscape. The question is not whether students will take courses online but how they can access classes and how many they can take.

SB 1259 creates a system for Arizona to approve courses, direct funding, and test student mastery.

The bill considers several elements necessary for a sound system of quality online options and parental choice:

  1. Choice: The program allows students in grades 7-12 to take up to 2 courses online in core subjects required for graduation.
  2. Funding: The bill funds schools partly based on student performance. Virtual providers will need to prepare students for end-of-course assessments in order to receive full funding for each student.
  3. Quality: Parents will review their child’s experience, and the reviews will be made public in order to help others consider their options.

Online learning holds the potential to provide new opportunities to all students. SB 1259 begins to create a structure for digital learning, and not a moment too soon.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute: Cane Toads, Virtual Schools, and Unintended Consequences

Arizona State Legislature: SB 1259

Popular Mechanics: Gen. Chuck Yeager Describes How He Broke the Sound Barrier

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