'Virtual High School' leaders to meet at UC Santa Cruz

Leaders of "virtual high schools" in more than 25 states are gathering at UC Santa Cruz from August 15 to 17 to discuss common issues and consider forming a national organization.

Representatives of pioneers in the field, including the Florida Virtual School, Illinois Virtual High School, Michigan Virtual High School, and Kentucky Virtual High School, will be among those meeting at the UCSC Inn to talk about such issues as student assessment, online curricula, and research collaborations.

Virtual classes are available online, and generally offer specialized courses not available at a student's own school. Other participants at the UCSC institute include representatives from the new Los Angeles Virtual Academy, the UC Office of the President, and the California Department of Education.

The UCSC gathering--called Virtual High School Summer Institute 2002--is a first for the fast-growing field. It was organized by the University of California College Prep Initiative (uccp.org) and is co-sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET).

The UC College Prep Initiative, founded by UCSC Vice chancellor of Student Affairs Francisco.Hernandez in 1998 with funding from the UC Office of the President, is designed to broaden equity of access to the University of California by offering online Advanced Placement and honors courses to high school students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to take them.

"There has been a rapid and significant growth in high school virtual online learning over the last five years," said Hernandez. "We expect at least 2,000 enrollments this fall for the UCCP course offerings."

In addition to discussions at the institute, two new courses, in biology and physics, will be unveiled.

The full agenda and other information about the institute is available at oasas2.ucsc.edu/vhsconf.