Arizona students are taking online classes by the thousands, and with a change in state law, they have more options to do so.
Publicly funded online classes for K-12 students have been around since 1998, and in 2010, state lawmakers approved expansion of the program, now named Arizona Online Instruction schools. Today, 28 school districts have received approval for online programs, as well as at least 14 charter schools.
Last school year, more than 31,000 students were taking classes from these programs, mostly part-time. Enrollment was just half that four years ago, according to a report by the Arizona Auditor General’s office.
Doug Barnard, director of the Mesa Distance Learning Program since 1999 and a program evaluator for the state, said he expects web-based education to continue growing.
It appears to be a popular option for students: More than 10,000 students took classes last year through Mesa’s program.
As long as they are Arizona students, they do not pay tuition.
Scott Lymer is coordinator for Gilbert’s Global Academy, a seventh- through 12th-grade online initiative that will begin accepting students this summer for fall enrollment.
The program will offer everything from honors and Advanced Placement courses to science, English and foreign language so a student could enroll full-time and receive a diploma completely through online efforts.
“We want to create a program kids feel excited about,” Lymer said. “There are 36,000 students in Gilbert schools. Probably there are 10 percent to 20 percent of students in classrooms who would thrive in an online program.”
Chandler Unified began its online high school program in April, said Lorah Neville, the district’s director of curriculum.
“We want it to be as good if not better than what (students) would get in a brick and mortar building,” Neville said.
Derek Hoffland, director of curriculum instruction and assessment for the Tempe Union High School District, said the district now offers about 40 classes online, with all of them aligning with state standards. “What most of the students are using online education for is to fill in holes where they can’t work it into a schedule or to work ahead,” he said.
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