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For a Colorado public school system bursting at the seams during a crippling economy, online education has been key.

“We are a very crowded school district struggling to pass bonds,” said David Knoche, principal of Falcon Virtual Academy in Colorado Springs. “Falcon Virtual has provided us some real options to deal with outgrowing our buildings while keeping students moving forward academically.”

Nearly half the 31,000 students in Tennessee’s Clarksville-Montgomery County School System live in poverty. Nearly a fourth are military dependents, given the close proximity to Fort Campbell. Together, these factors present a big challenge for educators.

The district’s 39 percent mobility rate means a regular stream of new students, many of whom arrive with incomplete courses, learning issues or achievement gaps.

Whether a student has just moved into town with his military family or is finding her way after a misstep in school, Aventa Learning by K12 products are easing the way in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

It’s not unusual for parents to call Laura Belnap in tears over the Utah-based virtual school she oversees. And that’s a good thing.

“Parents are constantly emailing or calling us crying, thanking us for the support, and sharing stories of their children’s educational growth,” said Belnap, director of Washington Online School Utah.

Distance learning has come a long way from sending coursework back and forth through the mail. Leading the way is K12, Inc., whose innovative online learning programs are helping school districts meet the challenges of 21st-century education with 21st-century tools.

For instance, home-schooled students at Washington Online School Utah use K12 products to attend elementary, middle and high school classes without interrupting their sports training or other responsibilities.

Clintondale (Mich.) Community Schools’ high school has turned the traditional school day upside-down by asking teachers to assign short video lectures as homework and have students do activities, participate in discussions and complete assignments in class, with their teacher at hand to answer questions.

SEAS

In the 1990s, school districts invested all they could in desktop computers that had plenty of horsepower, since applications and data were all stored locally on individual machines. By the 2000s, the individual machines had become less critical as districts moved to server-based networks.

Mobile learning is on the rise, and consequently, so is the need for mobile connectivity. According to a 2010 survey of E-rate consumers, including public schools and libraries, conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 50 percent of respondents said they plan to implement or expand the use of digital textbooks and other wireless devices.

In August, as the back-to-school clothing and supplies were hitting the stores, Miami-Dade County (Fla.) Public Schools launched its own new "product line of services" to its student clientele, including additional magnet schools, a conservatory for the arts, salad bars, and new technology and online digital tools for students. This "ritual of reinvention" is a signature program of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, as he's unveiled similar plans each year since joining the district in fall 2008.

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