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Lisa McClure: Upholding standards in virtual education
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Our public education system should be designed to meet the needs of all students. For the past few years, online schools have provided an important public school option for many of Wisconsin's families, proving to be a perfect fit for a wide-range of students requiring the freedom and flexibility to set their own pace and learn on their own time.

Unfortunately, the recent State Court of Appeals decision regarding Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WiVA) has created some ambiguity in the law. This has directly affected WiVA and some have suggested it has broader implications for all virtual education. However, we don't believe the ruling affects iQ Academy and other schools that operate like us.

iQ Academy and other similar virtual schools operate in a fundamentally different way than WiVA. Nevertheless, as a strong advocate of online education options, I urge our government officials to clarify any ambiguity and set virtual education on a firm footing.

If there is a positive from this ruling, it is the additional attention focused on online education. Many, who may not have been aware of the high quality of education being provided online, are beginning to take a closer look. We welcome that. By providing our students with the one-on-one attention of public school teachers, iQ Academy Wisconsin's students score above average on standardized tests, pass Advanced Placement tests at statewide leading rates, and enjoy the quality education and unique courses a virtual education provides. For example, iQ Academy Wisconsin students performed better on every aspect of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE) standardized test last year, scoring approximately 10 percent higher overall than peers in traditional public schools. iQ Academy students also earned ACT scores 3 percent higher than other Wisconsin public school students.

While students work from home on a school-supplied laptop, they must meet the same curricular standards and take the same standardized tests as students in traditional schools. And contrary to conventional wisdom, student contact with teachers may actually be greater than in a traditional school. Many students that would be uncomfortable raising their hand to ask a question in a traditional classroom find themselves more engaged through online discussions, e-mail and real-time tutoring sessions. The help of a certified teacher is never more than a click away.

In the same way brick-and-mortar schools encourage parental involvement with their students, iQ Academy also encourages the active role of parents in helping to keep their kids on track, meet deadlines, and strive for excellence. Parents are not, however, expected to teach any courses.

Given the success rates and test scores, it's no surprise that virtual learning is growing rapidly in Wisconsin and across the nation. It provides a unique opportunity to achieve academic excellence while pursuing other interests outside the classroom.

Providing a first-class curriculum with individualized attention from experienced teachers, iQ Academy offers one of the widest ranges of Honors and Advanced Placement courses, including extensive science and foreign language options. The school also offers a wide-range of extracurricular activities, including student government, National Honor Society, Newspaper/Yearbook, and music groups, as well as social events such as dances, prom, and group outings.

The open enrollment period for charter schools in Wisconsin, which includes virtual schools, is Feb. 4 through Feb. 22. Additional details on these educational opportunities are available through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction at

- Lisa McClure is director of iQ Academy Wisconsin, an online public charter school in its fourth year of operation.