Hamilton County’s Virtual School Featured In Education Week

Monday, June 27, 2005

Hamilton County’s two-year old Virtual School Initiative is featured on the front page of the June 15 edition of Education Week. Under the headline “Districts Add Web Courses for Summer,” reporter Rhea R. Borja examines online learning opportunities for students in several school systems across the country, leading with Hamilton County’s Virtual School Initiative.

“This effort to utilize technology to increase academic results has been recognized by the state of Tennessee and now in a national publication,” said Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Jesse Register. “It is positive and reflects well on the school system.”

Hamilton County developed its Virtual School program in an effort to replace summer school, which was eliminated after the state reduced Career Ladder funds for teachers. The online program initially focused on helping students pass state-mandated tests in English, algebra and biology.

“The Virtual School program provides students with a personalized, interactive online learning environment that also offers direct access to teachers during set office,” said Wendy Hermann, coordinator of curriculum development for Hamilton County’s Virtual School program. “These teachers are available to answer student questions within 24 hours and contact parents and students on a regular basis to ensure the students’ needs are being meet.”

Hamilton County’s Virtual School continues to expand its program to offer a broader range of online classes for middle and high school students looking to earn graduation credits and recovery credits, as well as preparing for state-mandated exams. This year, we have more than 1,000 enrollments, up from about 800 enrollments last year.

"Our Virtual School Initiative has been very successful due to its flexibility for parents and students. The program has been very successful in keeping students in school and on track to earn a standard diploma rather than a GED," said Dr. Register. “This success has led other school districts in Tennessee to visit Hamilton County as they developed their own online school programs.”

Currently, Hamilton County uses online courses developed by different vendors, such as Class.com, Virtual High School and Brigham Young University, for its Virtual School program. In the future, Hamilton County will use courses developed by Tennessee teachers for Tennessee students.

“As our program continues to grow, we have stated to work with local teachers to develop original courses based on local and Tennessee standards,” said Stacy Schaudel, coordinator of curriculum development for Hamilton County’s Virtual School program. “We expect to have six courses – physical science, geometry, English 12, American government, U.S. history, and global studies – ready for a pilot program in the fall.”

The convenience and flexibility of Hamilton County’s Virtual School program has made the program very attractive to students outside of Hamilton County Schools. Each year, the program continues to see an increase in enrollments by students from other public school systems in Tennessee, as well as private school students and home school students.

“The original intent was to provide quality instruction for remediation, but it has grown to be so much more over the past three years, and is limited only by our capacity to grow the program,” said Dr. Register.

Please visit www.edweek.org for more information on the Education Week article.

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