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Alaska contracts with online instruction provider; teachers’ union objects

Education officials in Alaska announced this week that the state is contracting with a Florida outfit which provides online instruction for K-12 students sequestered by the coronavirus.

The National Education Association-Alaska has objected, however; its president wonders if the contracted provider would be “a good fit” for Alaska students.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, the Florida Virtual School got $525,000 to offer courses “ranging from kindergarten social studies to high school computer programming.” The FVS is considered a “pioneer in online education,” but recently has dealt with a management scandal.

The instruction will be optional, as districts are not required to make use of FVS courses.

Teacher’s union head Tim Parker said Alaska teachers were “blindsided” by the contract with FVS, claiming they (along with some superintendents) learned of the move via a state Department of Education press release.

“I’m disappointed that there was no effort to collaborate with Alaska teachers prior to this rollout,” Parker said. “I can’t imagine a Florida teacher will be able to connect and understand the unique needs of Alaska kids.”

From the story:

The virtual school sends state money to Florida, instead of to teachers here, Parker said.

“All educators want what’s best for students, but at this time I cannot, and will not, endorse a plan which sends $500,000 to Florida and has no vetting and no input from Alaska education professionals.”

Teachers are also worried that the online school could suck resources away from public education in Alaska communities after the pandemic ends. The state says it plans to keep the online courses available even after physical school resumes. …

The Florida curriculum is “pretty standard online curriculum” used by many states, and especially helpful for rural communities having difficulty transitioning in-classroom lessons to online learning, said Doug Gray, the principal of PAIDEA Cooperative School, an Anchorage distance learning school.

The plan to establish a statewide online school was in the works before the pandemic.

“This is a conversation the state has been having for some time,” commissioner [Michael] Johnson said Wednesday.

A year ago, Florida took control of Florida Virtual School after an Orlando Sentinel investigation revealed “improper spending and bad behavior.” It has since gotten “a new board, ethics standards for staff, and an internal auditor.”

Read the article.

h/t: Corey DeAngelis

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