This is the 10,000th entry on this blog – wow! I have to say wow because I would never have guessed that I had done that much (even if many of the entries are just copied and pasted). I figured that given the number, that this entry should be an original one.
In the past few days this appeared in the New York Times.
TODAY’S education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology.
Neither strategy has lived up to its hype, and with good reason. It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.
Marketplace mantras dominate policy discussions. High-stakes reading and math tests are treated as the single metric of success, the counterpart to the business bottom line. Teachers whose students do poorly on those tests get pink slips, while those whose students excel receive merit pay, much as businesses pay bonuses to their star performers and fire the laggards. Just as companies shut stores that aren’t meeting their sales quotas, opening new ones in more promising territory, failing schools are closed and so-called turnaround model schools, with new teachers and administrators, take their place.
The only reference that the author makes about K-12 online learning actually occurs in the very next paragraph. It begins:
Charter schools have been promoted as improving education by creating competition. But charter students do about the same, over all, as their public school counterparts, and the worst charters, like the online K-12 schools that have proliferated in several states, don’t deserve to be called schools.
While the blanket statement isn’t quite accurate, the sentiment does jive with the research. Online or cyber charter schools that serve students statewide tend to do rather poorly. We’ve seen this in state audits, independent research, investigative journalism, etc..
Center for Research on Education Outcomes. (2011). Charter school performance in Pennsylvania. Stanford, CA: Author.
Colorado Department of Education. (2006). Report of the State Auditor: Online education. Denver, CO: Author.
Hubbard, B., & Mitchell, N. (2011). Online K-12 schools failing students but keeping tax dollars. I-News Network. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/inewsnetwork
Joint Legislative Audit Committee. (2010). An evaluation: Virtual charter schools. Madison, WI: Legislative Audit Bureau.
Layton, L., & Brown, E. (2011, November 26). Virtual schools are multiplying, but some question their educational value. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/washpost-K12OL
Miron, G., & Urschel, J. (2012). Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools. Denver, CO: National Education Policy Center.
Office of the Legislative Auditor. (2011). K-12 online learning. St. Paul, MN: Author.
Ryman, A., & Kossan, P. (2011). The race to online: Arizona experiments with virtual K-12 schools. Will they work for your child? Arizona Republic. Retrieved from http://www.azcentral.com/news/education/online-school/
Zimmer, R., Gill, B., Booker, K., Lavertu, S., Sass, T. R., & Witte, J. (2009) Charter schools in eight states effects on achievement, attainment, integration, and competition. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.
This is just a sample…
The bottom line is that we have found that those full-time K-12 online learning programs that have success share some of the following characteristics: they are geographically-focused, they often require students to spend a certain amount or percentage of time on campus; many allow students to earn time away from campus for good academic behaviour, many limit the number of courses that students can enroll in at any given time (allowing students to focus more on fewer courses), many maintain a managed growth model to ensure they are able to manage their growing pains, etc.. Why legislators and policy makers aren’t pursuing more regulations that promote these kinds of criteria, I have no clue?!?
Actually, I do have some idea as to why – and it has nothing to do with education and everything to do with ideology and money!