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Digital Learning Now! Grades States on Ed-Tech Policies

While only six states—Utah, Florida, Minnesota, Georgia, Virginia, and Kansas—earned an A or B on the 2012 edition of the Digital Learning Report Card, digital learning continued to be a hot topic in legislatures across the country, says the ed-tech advocacy group Digital Learning Now!, which wrote the report.

States were graded based on 39 metrics that correlate to the organization's 10 essential elements for high-quality digital learning. The elements were crafted during a 2010 digital learning council co-chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, which lead to the formation of the organization shortly afterwards. Digital Learning Now! is currently led by John Bailey, from the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

In 2012, more than 700 bills related to digital learning were debated in state legislatures across the country, according to the report. Out of those, 152 of them were signed into law, allowing students to take classes online, equipping students and teachers with mobile devices, and providing schools the flexibility to embrace blended-learning models.

The report found that many of the laws fell into three basic trends:

An increase in online learning for K-12 students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 55 percent of school districts enrolled students in online classes in 2009-10, with more than 1.8 million STUDENTS? enrollments total. Ten laws passed in 2012 expanded access to online courses and 11 of the laws passed defined students' eligibility to participate in such classes.

Expansion of choice at the course level. Utah, Georgia, and Louisiana enacted laws that allow students flexibility in where they receive their courses (their school district, an online provider, or some other form of the course).

Removing barriers to blended learning. Several states, including Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Ohio, signed laws that removed seat-time or class-size restrictions, which could lead to more online and blended-learning opportunities.

But not every state advanced policies to support digital learning, the report's authors said. In Idaho, for example, voters overturned a package of laws that would have phased in laptops for teachers and students and required high schoolers to earn at least two credits online before graduation. (The law also revised the state's collective bargaining laws and established a merit pay system for teachers.)

Beyond grades for each state, the report also includes a list of how many digital education-related bills were introduced and enacted in both 2011 and 2012, as well as summaries of the digital education-related laws enacted, broken down by state.

The report also outlined recommendations to policymakers on how to support digital learning, such as allowing funding to follow the student and loosening seat-time requirements.

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