Paul Peterson

In the Digital World, Every District Can Compete With Every Other

In Utah, new legislation has given school districts the opportunity to attract high school students from throughout the state to their online course offerings.

Any time a high school student takes a course from a district other than the one where they live, a portion of Utah’s state aid shifts from the home district to the district providing the course online.

A district with a brilliant slate of online suddenly has the chance to solve its fiscal problems the easy way.

I learned about the Utah experiment at a conference held at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and sponsored by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance. While the details of the Utah experiment were not discussed, the basic idea is certainly intriguing.

No longer must students in rural Utah be denied the opportunity to take physics, chemistry, computer science or an esoteric language simply because the local district cannot afford teachers for courses with small enrollments.

No longer must a student in Utah take a social studies course from a teacher the student finds boring and unhelpful.

No longer must a student who cannot attend school on a daily basis—either because he or she is sick, or pregnant, or feels bullied, or wants to train for an Olympic sport—be denied the opportunity to maintain a regular schedule that will lead to a timely graduation.

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