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State Board of Education Approves District 308 Online Learning Initiative

Sep 23, 2014 04:52PM ● Published by Steven Jack

Oswego District 308 Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt presents information to the Illinois State Board of Education last week. (Submitted photo)

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) overwhelmingly supported School District 308’s efforts to broaden its online learning offerings, calling the district’s plan “a model for many other districts,” and then unanimously approved two online learning waivers on Thursday, Sept. 18, in Utica, Ill.
 
District 308 Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt spoke to the ISBE regarding the two waivers that would allow high school students the opportunity to take up to 40 percent of their coursework online. The waivers would also allow the students taking the online coursework to be counted in the average daily attendance, so that the district would not be penalized in General State Aid.
 
“It is very creative,” said State Superintendent Dr. Christopher Koch after hearing about District 308’s plan. “I want to note this is a school district I visited in the spring for an event. They are bursting at the seams. They have a lot of increased enrollment, and this could be a way to address that in a meaningful way. I want to thank you for your creativity and endorse this going on to the assembly.”
 
Under the current school code, the district can only offer students one online course a semester without losing crucial General State Aid funding. It is also governed by the Remote Education Act, which limits the scope of how online learning can be provided.
 
The perspective increased offerings would come in a variety of subjects, and offer students greater scheduling flexibility, while technologically preparing them for the future. ISBE offered full support and approval for School District 308’s efforts to create a virtual education program, which is a departure from its typical process of submitting waiver applications to the state legislature without comment.
 
ISBE Chair Jerry Chico noted the importance of the proposal and stressed the weight that accompanies the district in being a pioneer and potentially changing the way classes are taught in high schools across Illinois.
 
“I personally am in support of what you are asking,” Chico said. “I just ask that you do it well. Going on to the legislature and asking for this change, if you do it well, I think it will be the harbinger of things to come.”
 
ISBE member Curt Bradshaw of Naperville thanked the district for its presentation.

“This is the type of ingenuity and experimentation that we should be encouraging and supporting,” Bradshaw said. “As we have this conversation, the common definition of insanity comes to my mind. Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. This is a case where you are doing something different, and you have a reasonable expectation of a different result. We are counting on you to get this right, because this could be a good model for others. You are proving that there is a different way to do things, and I just want to say thanks.”
 
Increased online courses would allow School District 308 to better prepare students for the future, Wendt said.
 
“Our robust virtual education program would be integrated with the district’s traditional classroom courses, as a cohesive program for our high school students,” Wendt said. “This is not just a supplemental response to credit recovery. This is a fundamental educational restructuring that allows high school students increased choice and flexibility.”
 
Associate Superintendent Dr. Paul O’Malley, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Dr. Judith Minor, and Director of Communications and Public Relations Brian Graves attended the meeting as well to help answer ISBE questions. Over 80 School District 308 teachers have volunteered to provide the online curriculum.
 
If neither the Illinois House nor Senate act to disapprove the requests during the 60-day period after they reconvene in November, the waivers are deemed granted. If the waivers are granted, School District 308 would begin the process of developing a comprehensive policy to implement its virtual education program. 

PROVIDED BY DISTRICT 308

Education, News oswego school district 308 Illinois State Board of Education

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