State Legislature passes new online graduation requirements

The Virginia state governor passed a law Thursday, April 12 requiring all high school students to take one online course in order to receive a high school diploma. The changes go into effect for all incoming freshmen during the 2012-2013 school year, and all subsequent incoming grades.

State Governor Bob McDonnell pushed the law as a part of his emphasis on virtual education since he took office in 2010. McDonnell said in a statement that integrating online technology into education and making students more comfortable with gaining information online is important to prepare students for the twenty-first century job market. Similar requirements were first passed in Idaho, and similar requirements have been passed since in several other states, including Alabama, Florida and Michigan under great controversy. Opponents claim the online classes will decrease teacher interaction with students and worry taxpayer dollars are shifted away from teacher salaries to outside private companies providing the online courses. Teacher unions especially have spoken out about the threat the online classes pose to their job security. Still, proponents argue it could save money in schools, and will give students crucial online skills for both college and the current job market.

“Certain content cannot be delivered over the internet, you can give quizzes and drill material but it is hard to develop high level topics” said government and psychology teacher Will Crawford. “I have a hard enough time keeping some of the kids in my class focused, for those who aren’t motivated it’s going to be even hard without a teacher present.”

“It’s not an easy style of learning, it’s much harder to focus and learn certain topics without a teacher face to face,” said Anna Otto, a sophomore who took geometry online last summer. Still other students disagree, “The classes go at your speed, I learned more in my online classes than I did in some of my live classes,” said Junior Nick Western who has taken four online classes, including an AP class.

Just a few days earlier, the Virginia Department of Education approved six new online education providers, all private companies. Patricia Wright, Virginia Superintendant of Public Instruction, in a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch said, “By contracting with virtual schools or online providers, Virginia’s school divisions can broaden the array of courses they offer, reach out to more nontraditional students and provide more educational options for families.”

The new law also contained a clause requiring standard diploma candidates to earn a credential in career and technical education, including credentials such as a state license or an industry certification.