Policy Documents

Online Learning 101: A Guide to Virtual Public Education in Washington

Diana Moore –
July 1, 2011

Fifteen years ago innovators recognized the crisis of America’s failing public education system and began leveraging emerging technology to provide a new, results-based alternative to traditional public schooling. Online public schools sprung up and a small movement and marketplace were built. As they grew, it became necessary to create legislation specifically related to online public schools. Flexibility and customization are crucial components for student success in digital learning. Thus the legislator’s balancing act has been ensuring high standards of accountability without overregulating.

Today, Washington hosts more than 40 online school programs serving more than 16,000 students.1 Success in online learning lies in providing a rigorous  public education that is accessible to every student and customizable to meet unique student needs, many of which couldn’t be met in any other form of public education.

Yet families are in danger of losing their online learning options. The major threats to public online learning are overregulation and elimination due to political pressure or lack of understanding. The opponents of online education tend to be some school districts, bureaucrats, teacher unions and some homeschooling organizations.

To protect online learning, citizens and legislators must develop an accurate understanding of what it is, how it works, what policies allow it to work best and why it is absolutely necessary as an option for our kids.