Idaho high schoolers to take 20 percent of classes online

Liz Goodwin

Idaho's education chief wants high schoolers to take nearly 20 percent of their courses online by 2016, the Idaho Statesman's Kristin Rodine reports. The move is part of Superintendent Tom Luna's $68 million, five-year school reform plan that includes cutting 700 teachers, eliminating teacher tenure, and equipping every 9th-grade student with a laptop.

State education funding dropped 10 percent this year, according to the Teton Valley News.

Luna has not yet said exactly what the classes will be like, and the legislature would have to pass his proposal before it became law. The state's education system already relies heavily on virtual learning as one way to make sure students in rural areas have access to every course they need. A state-funded agency provides real-time online classes to students, and Idaho also has a charter-school network taught entirely online.

A study of students in virtual charter schools in the state showed that they did not keep pace with the performance of students in actual classrooms, the Statesman notes.

Michigan, Alabama, and Tennessee all require students to take online courses in order to graduate. About 7,000 Florida students were put in virtual classrooms, with no notice this year in Miami after district officials said they could not afford to hire enough teachers to keep the student-teacher ratio low enough.

According to a Department of Education study, about 1 million K-12 students were enrolled in an online learning course in 2008, and the number is growing. So far, there aren't many good studies on the effectiveness of virtual learning, but preliminary research indicates that the classes that blend in-person instruction with virtual lessons do the most to boost student achievement, the DOE study notes.

(Stock image: Getty)