Mark Warner’s comments last night about connecting education to the needs of today’s economy, made me wonder how, as a nation, we can ensure that “every kid will be trained for the jobs of the 21st Century.” This is a hard task, but technology is one clear catalyst. John McCain is committed to providing more high quality educational options for students and parents by expanding support for virtual learning. As opposed to the normal school day, virtual learning makes education available all day, every day, and provides the opportunity for instruction tailored to each individual student’s needs. Students can keep learning as long as they want and even on the weekends and throughout the summer. When one of my children fell behind in school because of a prolonged illness, he was able to take online courses in the summer which kept him on target with his classes when school began that fall. According to recent survey data, 47 percent of high school students want to take an online course. And, K-12 online learning enrollments are growing 30 percent annually nationwide. Senator McCain recognizes the importance of meeting this demand and encouraging its growth.
John McCain will target $500 million in current federal funds to build new virtual schools and support the development of online course offerings for students. These courses may be for regular coursework, for educational enhancement and support, or for dual enrollment into college. He will allocate $250 Million through a Competitive Grant Program to support states that commit to expanding online education opportunities (such as virtual math and science academies to help expand the availability of AP Math, Science, and Computer Sciences courses, online tutoring support for students in traditional schools, and foreign language courses). And, he will offer $250 Million for Digital Passport Scholarships to help students pay for online tutors or enroll in virtual schools. This investment provides opportunities for every student–those that don’t have access to a highly qualified teacher; those who may be falling behind academically, or those who want to get ahead.
Using technology as a delivery platform provides a cutting edge experience to students. It provides for unlimited learning, promotes student ownership of their learning and allows for more customization of the learning experience. Unfortunately, Senator Obama does not say a word about online learning in his expansive (and expensive) platform.
Today, over 85 percent of young children (and 94% of teenagers) with home computers use them for educational purposes, typing reports or surfing the Internet to do research. Enhancing our schools’ and families’ ability to use technology for learning is one way to ensure that more of our students are ready for the jobs of the 21st Century. – And, it’s a necessary one in this high tech world.
– Guestblogger Virginia Walden Ford, Education Policy Adviser, McCain08