Ala. Students Must Take Virtual Class to Graduate

Published March 1, 2009

Alabama has a new requirement for graduating seniors: Take an online distance-learning course.

The requirement, passed last spring and scheduled to take effect this fall, means every high school freshman statewide will be enrolled in an advanced academic diploma option, which automatically enters them into a graduation program that includes the online requirements, said Mitch Edwards, the Alabama Department of Education’s communications director.

“Through the distance-learning initiative, since we are such a rural state, we are able to give all students equal access that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to attain,” Edwards said. “It also allows us to offer classes as far-reaching as Mandarin Chinese [and] classes as germane as English.”

Equal Effectiveness

Alan Richard, director of communication for the nonprofit Southern Regional Education Board, said an alternative learning environment is just as effective as traditional bricks-and-mortar schools.

“I believe this [initiative] is an attempt to encourage people to take online courses,” Richard said. “Online courses are convenient and just as good.”

Edwards said Alabama has been offering online courses “in some shape or form since 2003,” which he said aids the rural schools across the state that don’t have access to different teachers or curricula.

Equal Opportunity

On January 23, correspondents for The Fox Report on the Fox News Channel hailed Alabama as a “trailblazer in the future of distance learning,” according to a release from the Alabama Department of Education. The segment also “touted Alabama’s use of technology as [an] efficient means to deliver quality instruction in lean fiscal times,” according to the release.

“By this fall, every high school in Alabama will be equipped with the ability to provide virtual instruction regardless of how rural the school system might be,” State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton told Fox News. “The Internet is the great ‘equalizer’ in that regard, as it gives students from all different walks of life an even playing field on which to learn, grow, and discover.”

Elisha Maldonado ([email protected]) writes from California.