Kentucky losing digital learning option but may get more varied replacements

WFPL reports that after 12 years of operation, the Kentucky Virtual High School (KVHS) program is shutting down.

The Kentucky Department of Education operated KVHS offered a variety of on-line study options from high level Advanced Placement courses to standard high school courses and even remedial options.

As I discussed several years ago, KVHS turned out some very impressive results for its math and science AP courses, where final test averages for the virtual students exceeded the averages for students receiving traditional classroom presentations. However, deficiencies in the statewide testing program precluded gathering accurate information on the relative course performance of the standard high school courses and the remedial courses.

I think at least in the short term, this program will be missed. As former KVHS consultant Bob Fortney points out, KVHS has served a fairly consistent 700 students each year. The education department says it will now help those students find private providers of digital learning courses, but there is no indication in the WFPL article about how that will be funded. KVHS was funded at about $800,000 annually from state funds and charged tuition fees to local school districts for students who enrolled from those districts.

The Kentucky Department of Education will in the future act as a ‘gatekeeper’ for digital learning offerings from other sources such as private companies. In time, this may more than take up the slack left by the KVHS departure, but there may be a growing curve issue.

As Fortney points out, and as we have discussed in other Bluegrass Institute publications, there currently are not many digital learning programs around the state, and quality varies considerably among those that do exist.

One program that does have potential to help with this developing situation is the Barren Academy of Virtual and Expanded Learning (BAVEL). BAVEL will accept a transfer student from anywhere in the state so long as the student’s home district agrees to the transfer so that state and federal funding can follow the student.

We’ll be asking questions as the Kentucky Department of Education shifts its role from course provider to course monitor. Hopefully, there will be lots of student learning to monitor, provided those alternate digital learning courses are worthwhile and get approval for use in Kentucky.