Graduating At-Risk Students With Online Education
Online education, generally used for the promotion of accelerated learning, is beginning to gain traction as a widespread alternative to traditional school settings. According to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), 82% of U.S. school districts had students enrolled in online classes in 2010. Most recently, online learning has been acknowledged as a useful tool for supporting at-risk and off track students. Supporters of online learning have called on the government to provide additional funding for online classrooms, teacher development and digital infrastructure required to support online education settings.
Recently, the Alliance for Excellent Education has argued that online learning's flexibility makes it a great tool for preventing high school dropout and narrowing the achievement gap. They have noted that online forms of education are more easily matched to fit students abilities, interests and their needs. They specifically point to the success of projects like Alabama's ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators, and Students Statewide) program, which had enrolled over 26,000 students in classes that counted towards graduation requirements in 2009. The iNACOL notes that this type of individualization additionally makes online education an ideal fit for credit recovery due to its ability to identify and focus on the areas that students have the most difficulty with.
In Virginia, Performance Learning Centers (PLCs) use teacher supervised online learning, also referred to as "blended learning", to assist in catching up and graduating at-risk students. These PLCs focus on undercredited and chronically absent students in what may amount to a final effort to get them on track for graduation. With its unique, blended approach to online learning and teaching, the PLCs appear to be successful. Virginia PLCs graduated one third of their 2009 at-risk students by 2010. Also, the PLCs reported high scores for end of course exams, ranging from 90 to 100 percent. Proponents argue that these scores, which are equal to or better than the state averages, disprove arguments that online education leads to lower standards.