Ray Rose, Alese Smith, Karen Johnson, and David Glick


In this chapter, we argue that online and blended education and virtual schools can be a critical tool in our search for equitable education across all aspects of our public education system, and caution that without proper planning, virtual schools could perpetuate or even exacerbate disparities in our system. We present three major themes: equitable access to technology, equitable access to online courses, and equitable access to quality instruction. Our focus is on U.S. K–12 education; those interested in international equitable-access issues should consult Cavanaugh’s foreword and Chapter 13 in this volume.

Discussion Questions

1. Drawing from current information about the latest products for instructional technology, describe how these products could support inclusion and equity, and the equity and access problems inherent in the current implementation of these tools.

2. Data is an essential tool in determining the provision of access and equity in educational programs. Describe how data is used to determine if there are violations of civil rights laws enforced by U. S. Department of Education.

3. Online learning, both full-time and blended, have a number of requirements to ensure they meet current civil rights access requirements. Discuss the strategies that programs and institutions can and should undertake to ensure that their programs meet their full responsibilities for access and equity.

4. The classic New Yorker 1993 cartoon by Peter Steiner depicts a dog at the computer saying “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” That concept has been used to explain that there are no issues of stereotyping in online education. Drawing from research and OCR findings, support or challenge that concept.

5. How can issues of equitable access to high-quality K-12 online instruction be identified and addressed?

Additional Resources

Because of the evolving nature of instructional technology and case law and civil rights enforcement, it is important to study the latest information on the issues of access and equity.

Rose, R. M. (2014) Access and Equity for All Learners in Blended and Online Education Retrieved from http://www.inacol.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/iNACOL-Access-and-Equity-for-All-Learners-in-Blended-and-Online-Education-Oct2014.pdf

U. S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Web site.

OCR Findings
2013 Virtual Community School of Ohio Agreement Press Release, Resolution, and Agreement

2014 Press Release South Carolina Virtual Charter School Agreement

Relevant OCR and Department of Education Dear Colleague Letters
Charter Schools and Civil Rights Legislation

ADA requirements for K-12 programs

Broadened definitions for ADA

Electronic Book Readers

Questions and Answers about the Law, the Technology, and the Population Affected (June 29, 2010),

Dear Colleague Letter [to Colleges and Universities] on Emerging Technologies (May 26, 2011), http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201105-pse.html

Dear Colleague Letter [to School Districts] on Emerging Technologies (May 26, 2011), http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201105-ese.html

Frequently Asked Questions about the June 29, 2010, Dear Colleague Letter (May 26, 2011), http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-ebook-faq-201105.html

Equal Access Regardless of Immigration Status


Almy, S., & Theokas, C. (2010). Not prepared for class: High-poverty schools continue to have fewer in-field teachers. Washington, DC: Education Trust. Retrieved from http://fi les.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED543217.pdf

Baker, D. B., Fouts, J. T., Gratama, C. A., Clay, J. N., & Scott, S. G. (2006). Digital learning commons: High school seniors’ online course taking patterns in Washington State. Seattle: Fouts and Associates.

Brown v. Board of Education. 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

Cavanaugh, C. (2009, May). Getting students more learning time online. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. Retrieved from http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2009/05/pdf/distancelearning.pdf

Federal Communications Commission. (1934). Communications Act of 1934. 47 U.S.C. 214(e) Provision of Universal Service. Retrieved from http://www.fcc.gov/Reports/1934new.pdf

Federal Communications Commission. (2010). National Broadband Plan. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.fcc.gov/national-broadband-plan

Friedman, T. H. (2002). The world is flat. New York: Farrar.

Genachowski , J. (2010). Julius Genachowski. Washington, DC: Federal Communications Commission. Online video. Retrieved from http://www.broadband.gov/plan

Glick, D. (2010). Survey of demographics of online programs. Maplewood, MN: David B. Glick and Associates.

Glick, D. (2011). The demographics of online students and teachers in the United States 2010–11. Maplewood, MN: David B. Glick & Associates. Retrieved from http://glickconsulting.com/sites/default/files/images/Online_Demographics_Glick_2011.pdf

Hoffman, D. L., Novak, T. P., & Schlosser, A. E. (2000, March). The evolution of the digital divide: How gaps in Internet access may impact electronic commerce. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 5(3). Retrieved from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol5/issue3/hoffman.html

Lowes, S. (2008). Online teaching and classroom change: The impact of Virtual High School on its teachers and their schools. Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 4(3). Retrieved from http://innovateonline.info

National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (1994). Falling through the net: Defining the digital divide. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce. Retrieved from http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/fttn99

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. 20 U.S.C. § 6301 et seq. (2002).

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2001). Lessons from the cyberspace classroom: The realities of online teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Picciano, G., & Seaman, J. (2009). K–12 online learning. Newburyport, MA: Babson Research Group, CUNY, and the Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/sites/default/files/K–12_online_learning_2008.pdf

Rose, R. M., & Blomeyer, R. L. (2007). Access and equity in online classes and virtual schools. Vienna, VA: International Association for K–12 Online Learning. Retrieved from http://www.inacol.org/research/docs/NACOL_EquityAccess.pdf

School 2.0. (n.d.). Bandwidth calculator. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Retrieved from http://etoolkit.org/etoolkit/bandwidth_calculator

Shachaf, P., & Horowitz, S. (2006). Are virtual reference services color blind? Library and Information Science Research, 28(4), 501–520.

Special Ed Connection. (2007, November 16). Case Report 108 LRP 17959, Quillayute Valley (WA) School District Office of Civil Rights, Western Division, Seattle (Washington), 10-06-1196. Palm Beach Gardens, FL: LRP Publications.

State Education Technology Directors Association. (2008, June). High-speed broadband access for all kids: Breaking through the barriers. Glen Burnie, MD: Author. Retrieved from http://www.setda.org/c/document_library/get_fi le?folderId=270&name=DLFE-211.pdf

U.S. Department of Education. (2010). National education technology plan: Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2006). Internet access in U.S. public schools and classrooms: 1994–2005. Fast facts. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=46

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics. (2010). Educational technology in U.S. public schools: Fall 2008. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from nces.ed.gov/pubs2010/2010034.pdf

Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2012). Keeping pace with K–12 online & blended learning. A review of state-level policy and practice. Durango, CO: Evergreen Education Group. Retrieved from http://www.kpk12.com