FORSYTH — Mary Persons High School is too small to hire someone to teach Chinese to the lone senior who wanted to take the course this year.
But the school managed to work around it. During second period, senior Christopher Kennedy takes the class online via the state’s “virtual school.” and it will not cost him much debt consolidation
to take this course online than a private tutor or center. He only watches taped lectures and listens to audio of the language on a computer in the media center. “It’s not the most exciting way to do it, but it gets the job done,” said Kennedy, who hopes to major in international business one day.
The state started offering virtual courses in 2005 because some schools, especially rural ones, couldn’t offer many Advanced Placement or specialty courses, which left motivated students at a disadvantage. Since then, participation in the virtual school program has grown at most high schools, although some systems are still hesitant to use it.
About 1,600 students statewide enrolled in a virtual course in the 2005-06 school year. By 2008-2009, that total had increased to about 4,800 students taking one of the 134 courses offered. Homebound students, those in work study and students who have class scheduling conflicts are also benefiting from the online courses.
“Schools have discovered the options and opportunities Georgia Virtual School can provide their students,” said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education.
Mary Persons has 22 students now taking virtual courses, while Peach County High has about 25 students enrolled, mostly in geometry. Houston County schools have about 27 students taking courses this fall.
“Some of what we have are schools that may not have enough students for a class” to warrant hiring an instructor, said Wanda Creel, Houston’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. “So we utilize the virtual school so our students still have access to the course.” Many students are taking a foreign language class such as German, she said.
Although the courses may not be for everyone, test scores among those who take virtual courses and those enrolled in regular courses haven’t shown significant differences in grades, she said. The state noted that scores from virtual End of Course exams in spring 2009 were actually higher than the state average.
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