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Virtual school in Oklahoma barely obtains accreditation

The virtual school for kindergarten through 8th grade that is run through a rural school district in northeast Oklahoma came under fire Thursday by the state Board of Education.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Modified: August 27, 2010 at 5:46 am •  Published: August 27, 2010

The state Board of Education placed White Oak School District on probation Thursday after raising concerns that of the more than 970 students enrolled in White Oak, only 51 actually attend classes at the rural northeast Oklahoma school.

The rest of the students live throughout the state and have transferred into White Oak's virtual school, which is run by the Virginia-based online education provider K12.

State schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett said her concern was that taxpayer money was going to White Oak for the 920 virtual school students, and she wanted to make certain the students were achieving academically.


"We are trying to develop an oversight process that doesn't interrupt the instructional process, while ensuring to the taxpayer that their money is not going down a rat hole that may or may not be credible," she said.

She said her concerns were satisfied by the presentation from Mary Gifford, K12 senior vice president of the central region. However, not all of the board agreed.

In the first vote, the board denied White Oak accreditation — a decision that would have forced all of the students in White Oak and its virtual school to find another school this year.

Garrett asked the board to reconsider, and at first the board only restored accreditation to the physical building in White Oak, but finally in a vote of 4 to 3 the board approved accreditation with probation.

Voiced concerns

The staunchest critic of the virtual school was board member Tim Gilpin, who said he was concerned students could be sitting at home unsupervised and not learning with the virtual program.

"They should be physically there dealing with them," he said.

Gifford said a thorough enrollment process makes it clear to parents that there must be a caring adult in the home to supervise the student during approximately seven hours daily of instruction.

She said half of that time the student logs onto the computer for direct interaction with teachers employed by K12, while the other half involves work assigned in textbooks or lab work.

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