COLUMBUS, Ohio--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--The nation’s largest online public school with over 10,000 students, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, (ECOT) will celebrate a decade of online learning in Ohio with its 10th annual commencement on Saturday, June 12 on the campus of Ohio State University.
“The success of our students has been amazing to witness for all teachers and staff of ECOT, and we see it on display every year at commencement time”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a national leader in education reform, will be commencement speaker as he helps to recognize ECOT’s Class of 2010, the largest in the school’s history with nearly 2000 eligible students. Mr. Bush is founder and president of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and served as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.
“As ECOT celebrates its first 10 years as the leader in online learning, I am extremely proud of our students for their unprecedented academic progress and their personal achievements, often in the face of great adversity,” said ECOT Founder William Lager of Columbus.
Mr. Lager founded ECOT in the fall of 2000 with the dream that technology could bring education to children who were not succeeding in traditional “brick and mortar” public schools. Today, ECOT has the largest fulltime e-school enrollment in the nation with more than 10,000 fulltime students. More than 600 teachers and staff work with their students online with a secure intranet connection from their homes throughout Ohio.
Online learning has grown significantly in popularity since ECOT led the way as Ohio’s first e-school in 2000, with more and more traditional school districts offering online education for their students.
The graduation ceremony will be held at 2:30 p.m., June 12, at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of The Ohio State University. The school will “webcast” the event live so that graduates, students and families may participate live online even if they cannot travel to Columbus.
In 2001, ECOT staged its first commencement in the Atrium of the Ohio Statehouse with only 14 graduates attending the ceremony. Since that first ceremony, the venue and the class size have grown steadily through the decade to accommodate the more than 1900 graduates and thousands of family members who will be eligible to participate this year at the 19,500-seat Schottenstein Center.
Students choose full-time, online learning at ECOT for many reasons and many graduates have compelling stories of success despite challenges.
The June 12 ceremony will honor alumni of the past ten commencements, including James Gerity of Liberty Center, a first-year graduate who is now a U.S. Navy Corpsman based at the President’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. The school will also honor David Simiele of Strongsville, who has already received an associate’s degree from Cuyahoga Community College BEFORE receiving his ECOT diploma this year. His story demonstrates the flexibility of online learning for K-12 students who want to accelerate their education.
Students from all over Ohio have dramatic success stories, including scholarship winners of the Coann Michael Memorial Scholarship, given each year for perseverance in the face of adversity. The scholarship is named for the late Miss Michael of Cincinnati, the ECOT commencement speaker for 2003, who was terminally ill and died a few weeks after receiving her diploma.
The student commencement speaker will be Kelly Luke of Gahanna, a transfer student from the Columbus School for Girls.
“The success of our students has been amazing to witness for all teachers and staff of ECOT, and we see it on display every year at commencement time,” Mr. Lager said.
“ECOT administrators and teachers have more online school experience than anyone else, and we provide our students with the best online technology and learning tools in the nation,” Mr. Lager said. “These are the keys to the academic success of our at-risk student population – along with the dedication of students and parents.”
In 2009, ECOT achieved its third year of Continuous Improvement on the State Report Card. Also last year, ECOT received “green light” ratings in Reading, Math and the overall Composite rating on the State Report Card’s “value-added” measurement, which tracks student academic growth from year to year.
This achievement places ECOT near the very top of Ohio school districts in improving its students from year to year. ECOT exceeded a year’s worth of growth at every grade level in Math and met or exceeded the average year’s growth in four out of five grade levels in Reading.
ECOT’s academic success is significant because ECOT’s statewide student population mirrors the at-risk, economically-disadvantaged population of Ohio’s “Big 8” urban districts, with 75 percent of families designated as low-income. Data released in 2009 from the Ohio Department of Education showed that ECOT and other online schools performed better than the “Big 8” urban districts when the value-added measurement is considered.