Curry School’s Online Grad Programs Soar in New U.S. News Ranking

Jane Kelly

Demand for the school’s growing online graduate programs – much of it from UVA alumni – led to the jump of 61 places, to No. 9 in the nation.

The University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Human Development has made a massive leap in U.S. News and World Report’s 2019 rankings of online graduate education, vaulting from No. 70 nationally to No. 9 in the assessment.

The rankings took into account schools’ engagement, faculty credentials and training, expert opinion, student excellence and services and technologies. Nearly 300 schools were ranked.

“In recent years, we have expanded our strategy of converting many of our on-Grounds offerings to online courses in an effort to meet demand by professionals in the field. This expansion specifically included a full suite of degree programs now delivered online,” Curry School Dean Robert Pianta said. “These rankings reflect the quality of these programs and the effectiveness and instructional leadership of our faculty and online support team.”

The school entered the online space more than 20 years ago and today offers Master of Education degrees in four areas:

  • Administration and supervision.
  • Curriculum and instruction.
  • Reading education.
  • Education psychology: social foundations.

Curry also offers a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction and education specialist degrees in reading education and curriculum instruction.

Jenny Provo Quarles, Curry’s director of online initiatives, said teachers -- often UVA alumni – wanted to continue their professional development at Curry, so the school’s online offerings grew with demand. Teachers need frequent recertification to maintain their licensure.

“This fall, we launched our fully terminal degree, which is our online Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction,” she said. “We’ve also had one of our most top-ranked programs, the administration and supervision program, moved to an almost fully online model.”

The program blends asynchronous online courses with synchronous courses that are held via Zoom, an online video communications platform.

“Students do occasionally meet with mentors in different school districts, so there is a smidgen of a face-to-face component, but it is almost fully online,” Quarles said.

This is the first year Curry has been able to provide data on graduates who fully earned their degrees online, she said, which probably accounts for the huge leap in the rankings.

“In our online courses, our goal is to thoughtfully incorporate media and also have the students working together collaboratively,” she said. “They are always supporting each other and interacting. We want them to have a sense of community.”

The courses combine superior academics, online communications platforms and even a phone application that can send push notifications and alert students when they have work to do.

“You can read all of your course content on your device, and you can probably imagine that this is pretty revolutionary and important to our working professional students, who might need an extra reminder or might need to be able to read that article while they take their kids to gymnastics on a Saturday,” Quarles said.

It’s a winning combination. The Curry School boasted a 95 percent graduation rate for students who were on track to complete their online degrees last May and December.