Online report card incomplete yet

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 19 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:50 am in
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Gazette Editorial Board

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Iowa’s first two public

online schools are off

and running. Already, some legislators are pushing for more access for more companies who want to run online schools or charter schools in Iowa. They say if the Legislature doesn’t move now, the online movement will fizzle out.

Not so fast.

We think online schools definitely have a place in this state’s future.

But we need more assurance that the online model that advances is in the best interests of the students and families who choose that

option.

The two schools authorized are Iowa Connections Academy of Anita, with 330 K-12 students enrolled, and Iowa Virtual Academy, with 190 students and based in Guttenberg. Both are run by corporations with headquarters in other states. They tout flexibility for families and rigorous academic opportunities with more direct contact with teachers than in traditional classrooms. One of the downsides is less direct interaction with peers.

What are the results so far?

With one year’s worth of standardized test results in, they are mixed. Iowa Connections Academy, on average, outperformed all Iowa students on state tests; at Iowa Virtual Academy, they did slightly worse.

None of which means a lot. One year in a brand-new educational environment does not provide a valid test. Lawmakers appropriately established the initial program as a three-year pilot.

Gov. Terry Branstad plugged online schools as part of its education reform initiative. But he and his administration think it’s best to let the pilot period play out and then assess what changes might be made.

We agree. Three years’ worth of experience and measurements should be a lot more telling than one. Before turning over a segment of Iowa education to private, for-profit companies, let’s be sure there are adequate safeguards and standards in place to ensure that students get a quality education

opportunity.

l Comments: editorial@thegazette.com or (319) 398-8262

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