External Author Name: 
Tim Hoffine

School districts and STEM schools should be able to assign online work to students to make up for calamity days, according to legislation introduced earlier this month in the Ohio House of Representatives. 

Under House Bill 407, school boards at Ohio district schools and STEM schools could voluntarily propose a plan to the Ohio Department of Education, detailing how they wish to assign such work (the legislation does not include charter schools because they do not have calamity days). The legislation has received some bipartisan support from sponsors Rep. James J. Zehringer (R-Fort Recovery) and Rep. Mark Okey (D-Carrollton), as well as 2 Democratic and 8 Republican cosponsors.

Some of Ohio’s current efforts to provide alternative, online sources of education have worked well and others haven’t. Plans submitted under this legislation would likely be no exception. Yet the potential for online education clearly exists. Ohio has launched a pilot distance-learning program statewide, and 25 percent of Ohio’s charter school students attend e-schools.

Still, it is unclear how much preparation schools will be expected to undertake if they apply.

Will they need daily, online lesson plans prepared for every course by the August 1 proposal deadline? Would it be enough for teachers to simply send their students an e-mail message asking them to read certain pages from a book? Is the online work supposed to replace the material missed during the calamity day, or does it provide a pathway for teachers to bump their schedule up a day so the missed work can be made up in class?

These questions lead to a central one: how will the Ohio Department of Education evaluate the proposals? Without more guidance on how these plans will be implemented, it is difficult to say whether they will be effective or a waste of precious time and effort.

Used properly, this legislation can demonstrate how, once again, the Internet can overcome impediments (such as fickle Ohio weather) to education. But busy work in the name of using technology and saving schools from a calendar day in class should be avoided.

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