Students in Idaho will soon have to take two online classes in order to graduate from high school, starting with next year's freshmen.
The state joins Alabama, Florida, and Michigan as the only states to require online classes for graduation, but Idaho will be the first to require two classes. The other three states currently require only one online class for graduation.
Mark Browning, a spokesman for the Idaho State Board of Education, told American Public Media's Marketplace that the board hopes the mandate will help to prepare students for the workplace.
[Learn more about virtual high schools.]
He told Marketplace that Internet skills are growing increasingly important, and that "our students have got to be prepared for that, because they're seeing that in the workplace once they graduate."
Browning said the classes will be offered in a number of subjects, including history, English, and math, and one will feature real-time interaction between students and an online instructor. The other class will allow students to take lessons and complete assignments on their own time.
[Find out why more college students are taking online classes.]
In 2006, Michigan became the first state to require students to take an online class for graduation. At the time, then-Governor Jennifer Granholm said that the state's online learning requirement "makes Michigan a leader among all the states in using the power of the Internet to create learning opportunities in the classroom, the home, and the workplace."
Not everyone is happy about the Idaho requirement. The Idaho Education Association, a teachers' union in the state, is firmly opposed to the law.
"We recognize that [online courses] are a good choice for many students. However … the decision to take online classes should be made by students and their parents, not by the state," the association said in a statement.
But Richard Westerberg, Idaho's school board president, supports the new law, he told The Spokesman Review. "We believe it's imperative moving forward that our students be able to have skills in that area," he said.