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America has long been regarded as a center of innovation and creativity. In the last 50 years, American ingenuity has pioneered space exploration, developed life-saving medicines, and launched the World Wide Web. Harnessing this power of innovation for the benefit of American schools is fast becoming an education imperative.
Our country's productivity and prosperity depend on our education system's ability to meet the challenges of the 21st century. This guide highlights six providers of academic course work that are going beyond the convention of brick-and-mortar schools by delivering rigorous curricula to students through Internet technology. These providers, along with the schools and districts they serve, recognize that American students must master advanced technical skills and solve complex problems to prepare for demanding higher education and workforce environments.
Education is not a "one-size-fits-all" endeavor, and advances in technology provide an opportunity to personalize education, use time more efficiently, and tailor instruction in innovative ways. Online course work enables students to attend class inside or outside of school, learn concepts at their own pace, and receive extra help or more challenging assignments.
We know that rigorous course work is one of the best ways to improve student achievement. Yet too few high schools—especially those serving low-income and minority populations—offer challenging courses. The providers profiled in the following pages demonstrate how implementing online classes can enrich curricula and enable a greater number of students to challenge themselves.
This guide is one in a series of Innovations in Education publications produced by the U.S. department of Education that highlights promising practices like strategies to engage parents in their child's education. We know that if we want our students to become the world's innovators, we must be innovators ourselves. I hope that the information in this guide will be useful to schools in their efforts to challenge students and help them realize the opportunities of the 21st century.
Margaret Spellings, Secretary
U.S. Department of Education