What is a digital public school?

School districts across the state employ Washington certified teachers to deliver basic education in state-approved part-time and full-time online programs. Digital public schools can offer:

* broad curriculum allowing for different learning styles

* flexibility in scheduling the pace that individual students learn

* performance-based assessments measuring progress as students advance

Who are the students?

Digital pubic schools are a good fit for thousands of elementary, middle and high school students with a diversity of educational needs: medical, special education, credit recovery plus students desiring a more individualized education; and even a few homeless students. The students can be assessed individually in each subject before being assigned a matching curriculum. Assessments can be embedded in the lessons and students take the state mandated assessments, as well.

How are digital public schools accountable to the Legislature?

In Washington state there is a strong linkage between funding and accountability for individual students, teachers, schools and school districts in digital public schools. Districts don’t receive funding for their online students unless their digital school is evaluated and approved by the Digital Learning Department that was established by the Legislature solely to govern digital programs. Funding for individual students is cut back or eliminated if a student doesn’t demonstrate adequate progress monthly.

Clearly NOT “homeschooling”!

Certified teachers deliver individualized state-approved curriculum and student-teacher contact with support from the student’s learning coach. “Homeschoolers” don’t use approved curriculum or certified teachers. Teachers in digital public schools can monitor their student’s progress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Since these schools were first authorized by the Legislature, state law has required personal student-teacher contact.  Each of the digital public school students also take the same state and federal tests as their classroom peers.  So, their progress is measured the same way other public school students is.

How does the funding work for these students?

The school districts in our state receive exactly the same Basic Education Allocation for each of its Kindergarten through 12th grade students - both in traditional or online public schools. School districts typically use the BEA for the costs of teachers, counselors, teaching materials, administrators and staff in both online and traditional programs which have comparable costs for the million students in our state. 

Students in digital public schools typically don’t use the same buildings and buses as students in traditional settings. That’s where taxpayers and the state save tens of millions because transportation and capital costs are budgeted separately in our state. 

Of course, real costs of educating a student depend on the students enrolled. It costs much more to serve under-credited youth with multiple risk factors than it does to serve motivated, well-supported students. Getting students who have left the traditional setting to engage in their new educational setting often requires their teachers to develop personal relationships that will inspire those students to fully tackle their new challenges. 

Once students are engaged, technology can take away some of the drudgery of lesson planning and grading. This allows teachers to spend more time with students who are struggling and on higher order skills. Online learning is giving students a head start in college and careers as they are likely to be living and learning online for the rest of their lives.

More info is available at http://digitallearning.k12.wa.us/