Give Liberty a Chance!

God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies…

And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgement of faith in God and His works.

- Frederic Bastiat, The Law, 1850

Monday, April 28, 2008

Virtual Schools - An Update

In 2006, the Missouri General Assembly enabled the establishment of virtual schools with the passage of SB912. I argued then that this was one of the most significant innovations that could be made in education.

The Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MoVIP) has nearly completed its first full year of operation and it has been hailed by other states as one of the most innovative models in virtual-technology education. The MoVIP school introduces a virtual-technology alternative to enhance traditional classroom learning for thousands of Missouri students. The program is “state of the art” and is operated by the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education with state-certified teachers and meets our rigorous state standards.

Today, the MoVIP school offers on-line education for elementary (K – 5th grade) students and high school (9th - 12th grade) students, with plans for the middle school to be added in the fiscal year 2009. The program serves over 2,000 full-time and part-time students enrolled in over 11,000 classes.

How does it work?

This program integrates on-line learning, textbooks, hands-on lab work, along with “old-fashioned” paperwork to satisfy the curriculum. The elementary teaching staff is based in Jefferson City and the high school is based at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville. The virtual high school has its teachers and students located throughout the state. All teachers have daily contact with students through voice, text messaging, video, email, and real-time technology. Students are required to meet state standards and recently the MoVIP students completed their state MAP testing.

MoVIP offers education access that is nearly unprecedented.

While many rural school districts are struggling to hire or attract qualified and state-certified science and math teachers, others are taking advantage of the MoVIP school for their students for specific courses. It has also become a tool for struggling inner-city schools.

St. Louis and Kansas City schools have struggled for years to maintain accreditation and provide a quality education for those children. The MoVIP school is available to serve our inner-city students allowing them to overcome large class-room sizes and avoid the violence and pressures facing our inner-city neighborhoods. Students can learn safely from home, at their own pace, and receive that special attention that will give them a true head-start to success.

The MoVIP program is also assisting students around the world. Military families who find themselves stationed anywhere outside of Missouri, but choose to retain their Missouri residency are taking advantage of MoVIP. They are able to give their child a quality education without having to switch schools after each move enabling them to develop a relationship with their teachers and grow as students.

There is even one Missouri family serving in New Guinea as missionaries with children enrolled in the MoVIP giving them an alternative over sending their children to a boarding school. Several students who are home-bound due to a severe disability or illness are also enrolled in the MoVIP school and receiving quality public education.

Is all of this worth it? The cost of educating a full-time student in the MoVIP is less than $5000 per student. This is well below the 2007 state average expenditure of $8687 per student. Once the MAP testing results are available, the state will be able to determine the value of the MoVIP school.

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