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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Advisory Committee on Online Learning/Virtual Schools

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:April 21, 2010

In my April 16, 2010 memo to you in connection with the initial discussion of the proposed regulations on innovation schools, I noted that in drafting the provisions relating to virtual schools, the Department has been aided by the advice and counsel of an advisory committee that I appointed in October 2009. This memo provides some additional information about the advisory committee, which has met four times between October 2009 and April 2010. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Nellhaus chairs the meetings and is assisted by Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and by Connie Louie, our administrator for instructional technology. The advisory committee members and their affiliations are listed on page 2.

Online learning is a growing trend in the Commonwealth's public schools and colleges. It can provide students with increased access to more diverse and challenging coursework, flexibility and efficiency in managing the use of their time, and opportunities to become facile with a wide array of technology-based tools. The Department has taken some initial steps to support online learning through the development of criteria for designing and implementing online courses. We also manage grant programs to support the creation of new online courses, especially for students whose access to traditional coursework is limited, such as those in alternative schools, in hospitals or at home for medical reasons, or in correctional facilities. In addition, some local school officials and vendors have proposed establishing online schools for elementary and secondary school students.

I have asked the committee to assist the Department in developing policies, practices, and programs that promote the most equitable and effective uses of online learning by identifying:

  • the needs that online learning could meet;
  • promising practices in Massachusetts, other states and nations;
  • various educational, financial, and practical issues; and
  • the potential roles of state and local educational agencies in this arena.

We appreciate the assistance that the committee has provided and look forward to their further input as this initiative proceeds.

Senator Stanley Rosenberg Massachusetts Legislature
Representative William Brownsberger Massachusetts Legislature
Representative Christopher Donelan Massachusetts Legislature
Dr. David WhittierEducational Technology Advisory Council (ETAC)
Superintendent Nicholas YoungMassachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS)
Michael GilbertMassachusetts Association of School Committee (MASC)
Principal Peter LightMassachusetts Secondary School Administrators' Association (MSSAA)
Superintendent Susan HollinsGreenfield Public Schools
Superintendent Christopher MartesFoxborough Public Schools
Superintendent John E PhelanHopkinton Public Schools
Dr. Martha Stone Wiske Harvard School of Education
Executive Director Dorsey YearleyEDCO
Shelley ChamberlainNewton Public Schools

Last Updated: April 26, 2010
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