Single-District Virtual Programs

Although MVS provides more virtual courses than any other program in the state, virtual programs operated by individual school districts are growing at a fast pace. District-based virtual programs are maintained by individual school districts, which provide access to district-approved online courses. The programs are available only to students residing in that district. For this reason, they are called “single-district” virtual programs.[45]

Single-district virtual programs use a variety of instructional approaches, including computer-based, Internet-based, remote teacher online, blended learning, facilitated virtual learning, or some combination of these. Since the programs are serving students already in the district, funding comes mainly from enrollment-based money the districts already receive.

Some district-based virtual programs are used to supplement the curriculum already offered in the district. These programs aid students who need remedial work or want to move more quickly through the district’s curriculum. Often, these programs operate outside of the normal school day or year. For instance, Grand Rapids, Jackson and Allendale have been purchasing services from MVS and for-profit education companies like Education 2020 and NovaNet (a subsidiary of Pearson Education) in an effort to help struggling students earn “recovery credits.”[46] These programs most often involve computer-based, Internet-based or facilitated virtual learning.

Other districts create and manage virtual programs that work more like a separate school within the districts. These programs essentially provide alternative education to students who have dropped out, been expelled or fallen significantly behind their grade level. The programs may also serve homebound students, exceptional athletes, performing artists and others whose circumstances make regular attendance in conventional classrooms difficult. Course schedules are flexible, and students may take the classes outside regular school hours.

In creating these single-district virtual schools, districts might use courses provided by MVS or another online learning providers, though some also use their own teachers and district resources to provide blended learning, facilitated virtual learning and other support services. Such programs are provided by a number of school districts in Michigan, including Hale, Swartz Creek, Highland Park and Chippewa Hills. These districts increase their enrollments (and their state revenues) by serving students they would have otherwise lost as dropouts. In the 2008-2009 school year, for instance, Highland Park’s Career Academy grew from 141 students to 229.[47]

Near Flint, the Clio Global Academy program also serves dropouts and students at risk of dropping out. Students are matched with certified teachers who act primarily as mentors, not as actual instructors. In this format of facilitated virtual learning, the program’s teacher-mentors focus on providing the extra support students need in order to master the course material. The school’s enrollment was originally limited to 60 students,[48] but has expanded to serve 240 students in the 2010-2011 school year.[49]

[45] John Watson et al., “Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning: An Annual Review of State-Level Policy and Practice” (Evergreen Education Group, 2009), 5, (accessed Jan. 11, 2011).

[46] Jon E. Carlisle, “Jackson-Area Students Get Second Try Via Internet,” Jackson Citizen Patriot, Feb. 22, 2009, (accessed July 2, 2010). Kym Reinstadler, “Grand Rapids Students Can Make up Failed Credits,” Grand Rapids Press, Nov. 18, 2009, (accessed July 2, 2010); Matthew S. Russell, “New Program Helps Allendale Students with Credit ‘Recovery,’” Grand Valley Advance, May 12, 2009, (accessed July 2, 2010).

[47] Marisa Schultz, “At-Risk Students Embrace Online Learning at Metro Detroit Cyber School,” The Detroit News, Jan. 20, 2010, (accessed Jan. 20, 2010).

[48] Assistant Superintendent Bethany Rayl, Clio Area Schools, telephone correspondence with Michael Van Beek, Feb. 2, 2010; Jean Johnson, “Clio Global Academy Taking Applications,” The Flint Journal, Jan. 10, 2010, (accessed Jan. 11, 2011).

[49] Khalil AlHajal, “Enrollment Quadruples in Clio School District’s Countywide Online High School,” The Flint Journal, Sept. 12, 2010, (accessed Jan. 10, 2011).