Spending more time in front of the computer could soon be the path to a high school diploma for Minnesota students, now that the Brooklyn Center school board has approved a contract to offer an online high school.
The board approved the deal with Insight Schools Inc., a national network of online high schools. The Apollo Group, the for-profit company that runs the University of Phoenix online college, owns Insight.
Insight Schools are usually based in small, rural districts. The Brooklyn Center contract, approved Tuesday, is the first time the Portland, Ore. based company has joined with an urban district.
"We're excited about learning some things from our district partner in Minnesota, working with kids in an urban core," said Keith Oelrich, founder and CEO of Insight Schools. "We get a lot of those kids around the country, but none of our districts have been urban core districts."
“In an online program they can go to school from midnight to 5 a.m. if they want to.”Keith Lester, Superintendent
There are at least 21 certified online schools already offering supplemental and comprehensive K-12 education in Minnesota. All have to adhere to curriculum that meets or exceeds state academic standards.
Brooklyn Center Superintendent Keith Lester does not expect to see any revenue from the deal for four or five years. Instead, he said, the deal is good for the district because it gives students more flexibility than traditional or alternative schools.
"It's another step in closing the achievement gap, offering students another alternative, getting students back in school and providing flexibility for students that even an alternative program can't because you have to be there," he said. "In an online program they can go to school from midnight to 5 a.m. if they want to."
Insight will provide students with computers, a dedicated staff and curriculum. Because the program is connected to a public school district, the state will pay for the student's education without extra money from the district or students.
Insight will help pay for setup cost, but the actual cost of the program will depend on how many students enroll.
The next step of the process is for Brooklyn Center and Insight to mesh the company's curriculum with Minnesota standards and hire state-certified teachers.
In other states, Insight instructors have often been teachers who had recently retired or who had young families. The company said it pays teachers about what local school districts pay their teachers.