Pilot electronic education projects debut here
HISD planning to launch program for 200 students in coming months
— reported by the Houston Chronicle
For the Reynolds family, a new state-approved “virtual school” offered through a Houston charter school was a perfect match. Brian’s parents pulled him out of the gifted-and-talented program at the Houston school district’s Briargrove Elementary this year to enroll him in the Southwest School’s Texas Virtual Academy.
Brian must spend 30 hours a week on schoolwork, but is required to show up in person only to take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, freeing up his schedule to travel and participate in junior golf tournaments.
The Southwest School is the first of five programs in Texas to launch under a pilot approved by state lawmakers in 2003. The Houston, Coleman, Fort Davis and Iraan-Sheffield school districts also are developing “electronic course pilots” that are expected to begin soon.
HISD officials hope to launch their program for 200 students in the next few months. While the details are not final, the program is expected to offer a broad range of math, science, language and other classes to middle- and high-school students, district spokesman Terry Abbott said.
Some critics worry that virtual schools — piloted twice before in Texas — are just a way to filter tax dollars to private companies and families that otherwise would home school their children. They’ve dubbed them “virtual vouchers” and say they drain resources from traditional brick-and-mortar campuses.