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Lawmakers Move Forward With Online Learning Revamp

Lucélia Ribeiro via Flickr Creative Commons

A legislative committee voted Tuesday to draft legislation that would change the way virtual education works in Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Education’s Distance Education Task Force met last year and came up with recommendations to expand and improve virtual or online learning in the state. The Joint Education Interim Committee voted to support those recommendations, specifically addressing those that require a change in state law.

Green River Representative John Freeman served on the task force. He says there’s a definite need for classes to be available online.

"Wyoming’s decades behind, to be very honest, and we need to catch up,” says Freeman. “With declining enrollments and smaller schools, to offer the same kind of opportunities that larger schools and larger cities have, they have to have other resources. Distance education provides that ability for those students.”

The task force’s recommendations included fixing accountability issues so that parents could see test scores and graduation rates for students at Wyoming two statewide virtual schools.

“Right now, parents cannot log in to the Department of Education website and see how students are doing in the Wyoming Virtual Academy, and they have the opportunity to that for all the brick-and-mortar schools in the state,” says Nicole Tiley, head of school for Wyoming Virtual Academy.

The recommendations also aim to make it easier for all students to take one or two online classes, and for full-time virtual students to participate in some classes or activities at brick-and-mortar schools.

Miranda Threewitt just graduated from Wyoming Virtual Academy, but took AP classes and did choir and theatre at a public school in Cheyenne. She showed up at the legislative meeting to support the bill.

“I think there’s a lot of potential in virtual school and in the courses it provides and the opportunities,” says Threewitt. “I think so many students would benefit from those opportunities. I think it’s a really good thing to be expanding upon this.”

The Joint Education Committee will work with the Wyoming Department of Education to draft legislation.

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