Virtual School

What if you could go to school just by logging onto your PC?

This is the premise behind Virtual School.

The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1788 in 2007 authorizing the creation of a state virtual school network. Senate Bill 1788 charges the State Board of Education with establishing standards for courses on the network. Providers must be public school districts, and teachers of electronic courses must be certified. These electronic courses may be accessed by students in Texas public schools, students who live outside of the state due to military deployment, or non-public school students. All students must access the network through a public school. (See Senator Florence Shapiro's press release.)

Houston ISD Virtual School has accepted students not only within the boundaries of HISD but also students from other school districts, students from private or parochial schools, and homeschooled students since April 2000. There is a tuition fee (with a price break for HISD students) and students are expected to provide their own PCs (with Internet access). Students must register in person, take an orientation in person, and take their final exams in person at the school.

Classes are offered for grades 9-12. (Middle school classes will be offered again as soon as the curriculum has been updated.) Houston ISD Virtual School offers "over 50 different courses in the areas of Advanced Placement (AP), Regular High School, Foreign Language and Test Preparation resources". Students who wanted to take electives during the school year previously had to take their basic courses by correspondence courses. The Internet courses are similar to taking a course by correspondence but all textbooks (if any) are provided,as well as any necessary software plug-ins or CD-ROMs. Plus the course is much more interactive since it uses online classroom environment software, like Blackboard.

Spring ISD plans to begin offering a virtual school program in the "summer of 2008. A virtual high school will be the first program implemented, most likely followed by a virtual middle school. The program will be optional, and the virtual high school will work in conjunction with the students' physical high schools." The Spring ISD program will be modeled after successful programs such as Plano ISD's eSchool. (Spring Observer West, 7/12/2007, p.1)

Another virtual school, Advanced Academics (for grades 7-12), is currently offered in conjunction with the Harris County Dept. of Education.

For students already in college, the online classroom environment allows students to conduct chat-like class discussions over the Internet. The class meets at specified times (just like in-person classes) but at many places instead of in the one classroom (because the students can log in from anywhere). Students still do research (or opinion) papers and submit them online, instead of handing them in to a teacher in person during class.

One can also receive graduate degrees online, such as a master's of library & information science.

Just like correspondence course students, online students can also come to the library to have their exams proctored. We now are having teachers email us passwords so that the librarian can then log in the student to take his or her exam online at the public library. (Public libraries have been proctoring exams for correspondence students as a free public service for years.)

For more information see:

  • Houston ISD Virtual School
  • Texas Legislature Online
  • State Senator Shapiro's press release
  • Blackboard
  • Spring ISD
  • eSchool (Plano ISD)
  • Advanced Academics (with Harris County Dept. of Education)
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    Last Modified: 8/1/2007