There have been growing demands for effective government management at all levels. Successful public administration is hinged on the achievement of efficiency and innovation in providing public goods and services (Hodgkinson et al., 2017). Successful public administration practitioners identify problems facing citizens effectively and provide interesting interventions (Shafritz & Hyde, 2016). This essay explores low graduation and high dropout rates in the United States and examines how Limestone County school district has tried to address this issue by establishing a K-12 online school.
Limestone County School District approved the adoption of Alabama Connections Academy in 2017 to improve graduation rates in the county. Limestone County Virtual School (LCVS) is a tuition-free online public learning institution for grades K-12, which aims to offer at-risk students residing within the school district an alternative to complete their courses (Accardi, 2017). LCVS started operating in the 2017-2018 academic year and offers an innovative, high-quality, and rigorous online curriculum.
Key Stakeholders Involved
The virtual education program brings together several stakeholders within Limestone County and the state of Alabama at large. Some of the primary parties include the Limestone County Board of Education, the Alabama Department of Education, Connections Education LLC, local public schools, parents, and students. These stakeholders play different roles in the delivery of the program. For example, the Alabama Department of Education is responsible for developing courses for the virtual program. The State Board of Education is mandated by accrediting the institution’s online curriculum.
Online education depends heavily on technology than the traditional face-to-face learning approach. In this respect, students hoping to enroll in the program must have an internet connection to access online courses and curriculum. In addition to technological equipment, the program’s successful implementation necessitates certified K-12 instructors, a robust curriculum, and engaging electives. Moreover, partnerships with parents, local organizations, non-profit, and other relevant educational entities provide the support necessary for offering high-quality public education.
The introduction of LCVS helped Limestone County school district to overcome two significant challenges: high dropout rates and limited access to education opportunities. High school dropout and low completion rates are serious public administration problems in the U.S. Recent National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Current Population Survey revealed that about 567,000 students (aged between 15 and 24 years) dropped out of school between October 2013 and October 2014 (McFarland et al., 2018).
In the 2014-2015 school year, the U.S. higher educations, on average, reported a graduation rate of about 35 percent (Ruffin, 2016). Alabama has reports one of the lowest completion rates in the country, with a 78 percent graduation rate (Ruffin, 2016). The large number of students failing to graduate from high school has been attributed to many factors, including rising tuition fees (Klein & Perry-Sizemore, 2017).
Eliminating tuition and material fees is a compelling idea for addressing this public administration problem. From Leonard White’s perspective, the virtual courses can be seen as an effective and interesting solution to the persistent poor completion outcomes. The provision of online education helped students overcome limited access and other barriers associated with traditional bricks-and-mortar schools (Accardi, 2017).
For example, students can access course materials and activities anywhere, including home and remote or rural areas. Therefore, the user-friendly program gives traditionally disadvantaged children a second chance to complete their courses.
Summary of Results
The cost-free online education program has had a significant impact on access to educational opportunities and course completion. The school aimed to enroll 750 students by the first year following the launch of the virtual program. After one month later, a total of 700 students had commenced enrolling in the online courses. This population is spread across Alabama, but the majority of the students reside in major cities such as Huntsville, Montgomery, and Birmingham (Accardi, 2017).
Continued Monitoring or Oversight
Continued monitoring and evaluation play an integral role in the success of any project. In the public administration sector, ongoing oversight can help promote effective and systematic management of the project and efficient utilization of resources (Shafritz & Hyde, 2016). It can also determine whether intended goals are achieved and stakeholder’s understanding and reaction to the project (Hodgkinson et al., 2017). In this respect, there is a need to continually monitor and oversee the virtual school program’s progress to ensure that students are offered a high-quality education.
For example, the Alabama Department of Education should assess the faculty staff to ensure that the school employs experienced, well-trained, and qualified instructors to teach online. The curriculum, courses, instructional activities and materials, and electives should be continuously monitored to align with the school mission and state standards.
Finally, the technological systems and infrastructure should be assessed periodically to ensure they are user-friendly, especially in terms of ease of scheduling lessons and access course, materials, teachers, and grades. These considerations will help minimize the risk of project failure and promote efficient and innovative virtual program management.
In conclusion, there are several useful lessons from the way Limestone County managed the local problem. The primary takeaway from this activity is flexibility towards change. Most of the school districts in Alabama were shifting from the traditional brick-and-mortar classes to a virtual environment.
Adopting online learning enhanced efficiency in providing education services by reducing the higher cost incurred on running conventional schools. Furthermore, prioritizing target users is critical to successful public administration. Increasing access to education through virtual schools evidences the school district’s commitment to its clients’ needs.
Accardi, M. (2017). Statewide virtual school, partnering with Limestone County schools, launches in August. Decatur Daily. Web.
Hodgkinson, I.R., Hannibal, C., Keating, B.W., Chester Buxton, R., & Bateman, N. (2017). Toward a public service management: Past, present, and future directions. Journal of Service Management, 28(5), 998-1023. Web.
Klein, C. C., & Perry-Sizemore, E. A. (2017). Do state funded merit scholarships for higher education improve high school graduation rates? Journal of Education Finance, 43(2), 152-168. Web.
McFarland, J., Cui, J., & Stark, P. (2018). Trends in high school dropout and completion rates in the United States: 2014 . Web.
Ruffin, J. (2016). USA tuition rises, graduation rates remain steady. UWIRE Text. Web.
Shafritz, J. M., & Hyde, A. C. (2016). Classics of public administration (8th ed.). Cengage Learning.