Utah ranks No. 1 when it comes to state policies dealing with online education, according to a new national study.
The Beehive State was the only state to receive an overall “A” grade, according to the Digital Learning Now Report Card, a pro-digital nonprofit in Washington, D.C.
For the first time this fall, Utah high school students can enroll in up to three, free, online courses. Also, home-school and private-school students will be eligible for the first time.
“A lot of folks are looking to Utah,” John Bailey, executive director of Digital Learning Now, said Monday. “Utah has done well because of very bold leadership over the last couple of years.”
The report highlights lawmakers passing SB65, which allows students to take online courses throughout the state, through the Statewide Online Education Program.
The number of Utah high school students taking online courses continues to increase, more than doubling this school year to 475.
The new digital report gave Utah an overall digital score of 92 percent, surpassing all other states with Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota and Virginia given a “B” grade. All other 44 states received a “C” grade or lower.
The 2012 Digital Learning Report Card measures each state in 10 main areas, such as student access, quality content and funding.
Nationwide, there was more debate and activity at the state level than in previous years: More than 700 bills involving digital learning were considered and more than 152 were signed into law, according to the report.
Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) is one Utah group spearheading online education. In February, PCE officials showcased online education before lawmakers at the Capitol.
Judi Clark of PCE said more students will take advantage of the free, online classes as parents and students learn how to sign up for the courses.
For example, The Juilliard School in New York City announced in March it will offer music education to K-12 students across the nation for the first time — and Utah high-schoolers can take the online courses for free.
Clark said whether students know how to sign up for the online courses depends upon the school.
“It’s nothing they heavily promote,” Clark said. “You don’t see many advocating all the options … but I’m really excited that Utah is doing so well. We’ll continue to see more options.”
High schoolers able to take three free online classes
Utah students enrolled in a public school in grades 9-12, including home-school and private-school students, are eligible for up to three online courses for the 2013-14 school year. The online courses are free for students, who choose both the classes and the providers. The courses are accredited and part of the public-school system, so they all count toward graduation. There are all kinds of courses, including core subjects, electives, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes, along with foreign languages, among others.
Check out the Utah online courses and various providers at choiceineducation.org.