Friday, September 2, 2011

Guthrie CSD Enters the Online Education Marketplace


The state legislature of Texas, several years ago, saw the need to begin a process of offering public school coursework in an online environment.  Thus, they created the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN).  TxVSN is funded by the state of Texas and serves three primary purposes:  1) to review courses submitted by potential course providers in the network to ensure quality and rigor, 2) to serve as a “warehouse” of approved courses, which any student in Texas is entitled to take, and 3) to serve as the “cashier” between schools that provide the courses and receiving schools.

At this time, there are only 25 school districts in Texas who are “providers” of courses in the TxVSN.  The list includes behemoth districts like El Paso ISD, Amarillo ISD, Pasadena ISD, Plano ISD, and Spring Branch ISD; also included are universities and some large cooperatives like the SUPERNET Consortium in east Texas.  And then there is little ole’ Guthrie CSD.  If you would like to know more about the TxVSN, go to their website:  www.txvsn.org. 

Courses in the TxVSN are available to public school students, to homeschooled students, and to students of private schools.  The cost for courses taken by public school students is paid by their home districts.  Their home district must approve of the coursework, and must assign a local facilitator/mentor to help the student navigate the process.  The money for courses taken by homeschooled students comes from their own pockets (or rather, the pockets of their parents).  Finally, private school students taking TxVSN courses are funded either by their school, or by their parents.

So, what is the Guthrie Virtual School?  Currently, Guthrie CSD offers Spanish I and Spanish II courses in the TxVSN.  Through a partnership forged with Rosetta Stone (yes, that’s the international language software giant), we have taken their software and crafted high-quality coursework that requires students to listen to, understand, and speak Spanish; moreover, the students learn about the culture, music, history, and art of Spanish speaking communities and countries.  Guthrie Virtual School currently has one full-time teacher (who lives in Jayton) and two part-time teachers (one lives in Guatemala and one in Irving, Texas).  These excellent educators currently serve a total of around 325 students from around the state (that is over three times the number of students that actually attend the school in Guthrie!).  Students taking our courses range from those in our “neighborhood” of districts, like Paducah, Patton Springs, Jayton, and Motley County; we also serve students from Houston, Dallas, Temple and many other points around the state.  We are making preparation to offer a fourth year math course called “Advanced Qualitative Reasoning.”  And, we are in the exploratory stages of crafting a “Web Design” class.  Please visit http://www.guthrievirtualschool.net/ to learn more about the Guthrie Virtual School. 

Finally, WHY would Guthrie CSD enter the online education market?  We are convinced that the future of our students (regardless of the educational or work pathways they choose) will require their nimbleness and proficiency in the use of 21st century tools. Researchers tell us that we are educating our students now for jobs that don’t even exist today.  As well, demographic research data suggests that students who are currently enrolled in public schools will hold more than 10 jobs/careers in their lifetimes.  Our students simply must be able to learn, unlearn, and relearn on a continual basis; and, they must be very independent and self-motivated learners in that process. It is their future; it is our future. The better question might be "Why Not"?

The future looks very bright for Guthrie CSD (and, the Guthrie Virtual School).