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RealTime IT News

Virtual High School For Katrina Victims

Katrina took their high school down, and their chemistry teacher left town.

But 28 students at Pass Christian High School will still get a shot at passing chemistry, thanks to an online course administered by Michigan Virtual High School (MIVH).

MIVH spokeswoman Erin Stang wasn't sure how the Mississippi high school administrators found her organization, a non-profit funded by Michigan.

"After the hurricane, we got a call asking for help," she said. "The school was completely gone. That left a number of kids needing the chemistry course, and we're able to provide it right now."

MIVH lined up Accident Fund Insurance Company of America to provide scholarships, so neither the students nor the school district would have to pay the $275 per-student fee for the class. Accident Fund is a national workers' compensation insurer.

"Virtual learning over the Internet is one way that students can continue their educational progress in the aftermath of a natural disaster, and we are grateful for Accident Fund's support," Jamey Fitzpatrick, CEO of Michigan Virtual University, said in a statement.

Michigan Virtual University (MVU) is the private nonprofit corporation that operates the MVHS.

Students from public or private high schools are eligible to take the online classes. Those who make use of the service include gifted or other special needs students, those who need to make up credits and kids who are home-schooled.

The service also includes tools for preparing for common achievement tests, as well as career-development tools.

Some schools purchase access to classes or tools on behalf of students; individuals also can pay to take courses. Except for home-schoolers, classes and credit are managed by the child's school.

MVU paid Wayne State University to conduct a study of the benefits of online learning. The findings, published in September, included 20 recommendations on expanding Michigan's e-learning activities. Among the findings:

  • Michigan should mandate that every high school student take at least one e-learning course as a graduation requirement.
  • A technology impact statement should be written providing a thorough assessment of how technology may reduce the need for bricks and mortar prior to new school building construction.
  • If a high school fails to meet Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act, they must, as part of their school-improvement plan, conduct an analysis to examine the uses of e-learning and consider converting partially or entirely to a virtual school using e-learning as a centerpiece for school reform.
  • The legislature should require teachers to pass an "integrating technology skills" assessment for licensure.