Enrollment in purely online schools is dropping in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Education, but local districts are offering more online education within their schools, as laptop computers and iPads become the norm. Sometimes that’s just a single math lesson, and other times it’s a formal online curriculum.
Kettering City Schools has about 80 students in its Kettering Virtual Learning Academy. Spokeswoman Kari Basson said for some students, it’s a total online school approach, while others take individual courses for “credit recovery” if they’ve fallen behind.
Those programs are common, with 115 students doing online credit recovery in Huber Heights schools last year, 80 participating in Tecumseh’s Arrows’ School of Advancement, and several Lebanon students taking online classes through the Warren County Educational Service Center.
Of 25 local districts that responded to a question about online school options, only Beavercreek, Oakwood, Piqua and Miami East said they had no such program. Dayton Public Schools just launched its online school in 2017, trying to draw back some of the 900-plus students who left the district for online options.
Mad River Superintendent Chad Wyen said his district serves more than 250 students in a blended online-traditional program. He said students struggled with an earlier online model where they did all of the work at home, so now there is a heavily online curriculum with in-school support from teachers.
“The big thing is it offers them a setting where they can process individually,” Wyen said. “Maybe a class of 25-27 students just doesn’t work for them. They’re distracted in there and can’t focus. In the electronic classroom, they have their machine, working through their content, and they can put headphones on and listen to music and work through it.”
The Northmont and West Carrollton districts both sponsored their own charter schools with online components in recent years, but both districts closed them this summer, citing the new sponsor evaluation requirements from the state.
“The amount of resources needed to run the program just to meet a favorable rating within the state evaluation system for the 35 students was not cost-effective,” Northmont Superintendent Tony Thomas said.
The district is now starting a small Career Credit Lab giving some middle school students access to an online curriculum for core subject areas, career connections, and employment skills.
State Senate Education Committee Chair Peggy Lehner acknowledged that the charter school reforms mandated by House Bill 2 hurt some “pretty effective online schools sponsored by districts,” and thinks that should be addressed.
Mad River’s Wyen said constant re-evaluation is needed.
“It’s not a one size fits all model,” he said. “It never really was, but we forced people into a model that wasn’t that successful. That’s why graduation rates were (low). We have to approach things differently.”
He added: “Every generation is different and they engage differently. It’s a process.”