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Thursday, April 24, 2014

PSS distance education program expanded
BOE endorses $800K budget for online courses

After careful review and assessment of its distance education program, the Board of Education has decided not only to continue but also expand the program’s coverage and endorsed additional funding for it for next school year.

From $503,895 this school year, the Public School System wants to increase the distance education program’s budget by $300,000, using the system’s consolidated grant for fiscal year 2014. Once the federal agency approves PSS’ request, funding for the online program will total $800,000.

“We will continue our distance education courses offering between 36 to 48 online courses to our high school and junior high school students,” according to the PSS grant application approved by the board.

Courses include but are not limited to biology, chemistry, a suite of Advanced Placement courses, real world design, financial literacy, SAT prep, and several math, history and literature courses.

According to PSS federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh, they expect at least 1,600 students to take advantage of these online courses that enable students to graduate early or to take additional courses as they prepare for college and/or careers.

The anticipated manpower shortfall in public schools this coming school year has prompted some concerns that the money that goes to funding the distance education program could be better used to hire needed classroom teachers. It was also learned that many students drop the online courses by the end of the school year.

For school year 2012-2013, it was disclosed that PSS offered 48 online classes in the first semester of the school year to approximately 1,800 students. On the second semester, the online classes were reduced to 36 and were availed by about 1,500 high school students. The program has also been criticized by some students who say they are no learning a lot due to non-person instruction they are getting from afar.

Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D., believes, however, that the program is all about 21st century education and is a proven effective tool and must continue. Since the program started at PSS, over a hundred students have graduated early by availing of the online program, she said.

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