Michael Thompson


One of the best conversations I had at NCCE was about the new virtual high schools that are starting up in in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. I have to say I was surprised to learn that Spokane School District had started a virtual school and it was gaining momentum in Washington.

Spokane School District started the virtual school in 2005 (SVL) as a way for “alternative” students to take course, gain credit and graduate. As of late it looks as though they are changing their focus from not just alternative students….but all students. Not just all the students in their district…but all as in all of Washington.

There are two ways a student can pay for the courses. They can either have their state allocated funds sent to SVL to pay for their course, or they can pay out of pocket. In a down economy there is more than one way to make up fund deficits…and ‘stealing’ FTE funds from other schools is a way to do it.

School is about being Social

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Michael Thompson talk last year in Shanghai and I’m looking forward to his talk this year to teachers and parents in Bangkok. Dr. Thompson tells parents and teachers what we should already know.

Why do students come to school?

  1. It’s where their friends are
  2. Because they have to

and it’s in that order as well. The majority of kids do not come to school to learn….they come because that is where their friends are, that is the ‘hang out’ that has been around for years.

But what happens when those two reason no longer exist? What happens when kids can be social online and do not have to go to a physical location, like school, to ‘hang out’. Then the option to take classes online presents itself whipping out reasons #2.

Why do students go online?

  1. It’s where their friends are
  2. Because they can learn there

Word on the street is that there are some districts big and small who are loosing a significant amount of students, and therefore funds, to this and other online schools.

When the fundamental reasons of why schools exist is all of a sudden replaced, that leaves schools in a difficult position. No longer do students have to come to school to ‘hang out’ and now they don’t have to go there to learn either…where does this leave schools? Where does this leave teachers who do not know, or refuse to learn to teach online?

I have a feeling virtual high schools are going to continue to see growth in America and beyond. If I can take credits ahead of time (paying for them out of pocket, and therefore graduating early), or use my FTE funds to pay for my online learning and not have to wake up until 9am what’s the down side?

Stop for a second and think like a 15 year old. The only downside I see…is you still have to get out of bed…but only far enough to reach the laptop.