Georgia virtual learning
The Georgia Department of Education offers these three distinct online programs to help students propel their educations and stay on track.
• GAVS: The Georgia Virtual School program is open to public, private and home-schooled students with courses during the school year and a tuition-based summer school program.
• Credit recovery: Aimed at helping students make up classes they have failed, this program allows students to complete online coursework after school and during the summer.
• ExPreSS: Exam Preparation for Science and Social Studies is a self-paced tutorial that prepares students for the GHSGT.
Last week, the Georgia Department of Education announced that it is expanding its Virtual School course offerings for students in high school and advanced middle school students, but local education officials say they’re not sure the increase is necessary.
“We typically offer everything that the students want, and certainly everything that the state requires,” Bradwell Institute registrar Rose Collins said. “There’s just not that much of a demand for any extras.”
In July, the state board of education increased the number of Georgia Virtual School, or GAVS, units a student is eligible to take per semester from one unit to the possibility of taking an entire course load online, according to a news release from State School Superintendent John Barge’s office.
The move is meant to increase course offerings at low costs to school districts, according to GaDOE spokesman Matt Cardoza.
For example, smaller, rural districts may not have enough students interested in advanced-placement courses to merit hiring a teacher, but the GAVS program allows students to pursue more rigorous classes without districts incurring a major cost, he said.
Liberty education officials say the goal is to keep students in the physical classroom as often as possible, but that students do benefit from online learning in some other situations.
And virtual learning serves students trying to get ahead as well as those who may have fallen behind, Cardoza added.
The Georgia Virtual School is one of three online programs offered by the state, and the other programs that allow students to make up failed classes and prepare for the Georgia High School Graduation Test are much more widely used in the area, Collins said.
Credit recovery courses are offered online every spring and summer. They allow students to retake a failed class at their own pace under supervision of a lab monitor after school, while ExPreSS (Exam Preparation for Science and Social Studies) is an online resource that helps students prepare for the GHSGT.
Collins and Bradwell Institute graduation coach Lea Bailey both tout the benefits of credit recovery — the program not recently increased by the state.
“I think it’s a very positive thing because some kids don’t do well in normal classroom situations,” Bailey said.
“The beauty of that is it is entirely self-paced, so that if a kid finishes early, they can leave and don’t have to come back (until the end-of-course test),” Collins said. It also helps the promotion rate for students who are just one or two classes shy of advancing to the next grade, she added.
“It gives more of a variety,” Bailey added. “And it does give children an opportunity to make up classes they otherwise would have to stay in high school another year to do, or they would have to sit in a summer school class for six weeks of their summer or whatever.”
And ExPreSS is a valuable resource that guidance counselors recommend to students year-round, Bailey said. Students interested in the test-prep resource can visit their counselors and graduation coaches with their Georgia testing IDs to get access information, and they can use the program to study from anywhere.
“As far as the ExPreSS goes, they’re not going to get a lot of fluff on there — it’s the bare bones of whatever they need for the GHSGT,” Bailey said.
Individual schools in the county are in charge of enrollment for the programs, according to Mary Alexander, Liberty County School System assistant superintendent for student services.
Collins said she has not yet had the chance to track Bradwell’s enrollment numbers for the programs but that the project is on her horizon. Liberty County High School registrar Dawn Rowe could not be reached for information about enrollment and the program at her school.
Since 2006, statewide enrollment in the GAVS program has increased from 5,956 students to 13,400, according to statistics on the program’s website.
While local enrollment numbers remains low in GAVS classes, the program is advantageous for transfer students who may not be meeting course load requirements or those whose schedules require different needs, Collins said.
For example, Bailey has a student who currently attends his second block in a computer lab, completing an online math class that is not offered by the school because he transferred from a program with different track requirements, she said.
For more information about Georgia Virtual Learning opportunities, go to www.gavirtuallearning.org.