Online Education Programs Booming

ByABC News
December 28, 2000, 9:31 AM

W A S H I N G T O N, Dec. 28 -- A generation growing up on the Internet maynow get their formal educations there from new schools offeringkindergarten through 12th grade online.

Backers of education technology say the Internet can helpchildren isolated from traditional schoolhouses by distance ordisabilities or benefit children already schooled at home by theirparents.

Education is what America cares about the most, and technologyis what we do best, said former Education Secretary WilliamBennett, introducing a new online school today.

The for-profitschool, K12, begins enrollment next fall in kindergarten throughsecond-grade and promises eventually to offer lessons in all gradesfrom math and science to arts and sex education. Costs would rangefrom $25 for skill tests to about $2,000 for full lesson plans andsoftware for a year.

From F- to Passing Grade

As a past critic of education technology, Bennett once gaveschools efforts to increase use of computers in teaching anF-minus. Yet he is joining companies and school districts willing,even eager, to sail into uncharted cyberspace despite skepticalchild development experts and the spiraling business failure ratein the dot-com world.

Theres no exact count of public and private elementary andsecondary schools that have followed the lead of Web-basedcolleges: The nonprofit, Orlando-based Florida Online High Schoolhas offered online courses since 1997 for grades 9 to 12nationwide. Public charter schools from California to Pennsylvaniateach children online. At the state-funded Valley Pathways onlineschool based in Palmer, Alaska, roughly 300 students take one tosix courses a semester on the Web.

We wouldnt do it if we didnt think it could produce an equaleducation or better, said Pathways teacher Kathi Baldwin. Iknow my students online and in detail. They tell you things inwriting they would never tell you face-to-face.