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Over 1 million students K-12 nationwide take online courses

The New York Times has a fascinating piece about the explosion in schools permitting their students to take classes online. Here are some of the great statistics about this continuing trend:

In Idaho, the state superintendent of education plans to push a requirement that high-school students take four or more online courses, following a bill that passed the Legislature last week to provide every student with a laptop, paid for from a state fund for educators’ salaries.
Chicago and New York City have introduced pilot online learning programs. In New York, Innovation Zone, or iZone, includes online makeup and Advanced Placement courses at 30 high schools, as well as personalized after-school computer drills in math and English for elementary students.
The virtual high school says its list of client schools has grown to 770, up 34 percent in two years, because of local budget cuts.
Nationwide, an estimated 1.03 million students at the K-12 level took an online course in 2007-8, up 47 percent from two years earlier, according to the Sloan Consortium, an advocacy group for online education. About 200,000 students attend online schools full time, often charter schoolsthat appeal to home-schooling families, according to another report.

Additionally, online courses can expose students to classes that local teachers simply cannot teach:

Reza Namin, superintendent of schools in Westbrook, Me., which faces a $6.5 million budget deficit, said he could not justify continuing to pay a Chinese language teacher for only 10 interested students. But he was able to offer Chinese online through the Virtual High School Global Consortium, a nonprofit school based in Massachusetts.

The Harlan Institute has been at the forefront of the development of free online classes, and looks forward to helping to promote this wonderful educational experience for students across the country.