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Aurora Institute

U.S. Department of Education Reports Rapid Growth in K-12 Online Learning

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Issues in Practice

A report released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education offered up new data from the 2009-2010 public school year, revealing rapid growth in K-12 online and blended learning.

Surveying over 2,300 public school districts throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the NCES report found that K-12 enrollments into online courses soared to 1.8 million during the 2009-10 school year, marking it as more than three times the amount reported during the 2004-2005 school year.

And while innovation in technology continues to pave the way for next generation learning — providing more K-12 students with access to a quality education — it may come as no surprise that nearly three quarters of the school districts surveyed are planning to expand their online learning programs over the next three years. Other key findings from the report revealed:

  • Online learning is for all students: Fifty-five percent of the public school districts polled reported having students enrolled in online courses, including both rural and urban school districts, with opportunities for both gifted and struggling students.
  • Southern states are providing more opportunities online: While southeast schools reported having 518,800 students enrolled in online courses, northeast schools reported having about 40 percent less, with 77,700 students enrolled in online courses.
  • High schoolers have greater access to online learning: Ninety-six percent of the schools reporting having students enrolled at the high school level, 19 percent at the middle or junior high school level, 6 percent at the elementary school level.
  • The largest providers of online courses are colleges and universities.

In many ways, this report echoes findings of the 2011 report Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning by the Evergreen Education Group, which also found significant growth in K-12 online learning in the last year. But Keeping Pace also reports that this growth has been uneven, and that a number of important policy barriers exist in many states that are blocking educators from implementing innovative programs. iNACOL will be holding a free webinar on the Keeping Pace report on Wednesday, December 14 – plan to join us. You can register at: