The conventional wisdom among reformers today is that “we know what to do, but we don’t have the political will to do it.” I’d frame it differently: We increasingly have good policies in place, but we don’t know how to turn them into reality. And because most policies aren’t “self-implementing,” we have to solve the problem of “delivery” if reform is going to add up to a hill of beans.
Those of us at the Fordham Institute (and our partners at the Center for American Progress) have been making the case that our governance structures impede our ability to do implementation right. Local school districts—with their elected school boards, susceptibility to interest group capture, and lack of scale—aren’t always inclined or well suited to turn legislative reforms into real change on the ground. I’ve wondered out loud whether we should abolish school districts and run the whole kit and caboodle out of state departments of education.
How about creating a “virtual education ministry” that school districts would choose to associate with voluntarily?
That’s still a tantalizing idea, but probably too radical for anyone to take seriously in the immediate future. So here’s an alternative: How about creating a “virtual education ministry” that school districts would choose to associate with voluntarily? (Creating more than one of these entities would even better.) Think of it as a private-sector department of education, but run much more efficiently and with higher-quality staff than the government ever could.
Such a ministry would be akin to the comprehensive school reform organizations of the 1990s (such as Success
Today, Fordham is releasing the fifth and final paper in its Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning series, "Overcoming the Governance Challenge in K-12 Online Learning." Online learning and our current system of local education governance are at odds with one another, to say the least. In this paper, the Hoover Institute's John Chubb examines how local school district control retards the widespread use of instructional technologies. He argues that the surest way to break down the system’s inherent resistance to technology is to shift control from the local district—and thus the school board—and put it in the hands of states. He then outlines ten steps to get us to this brave new governance system:
- Set K-12 Online-Learning Policy at the State Level
- Create a Public Market for K-12 Online Learning
- Provide Students the Right to Choose Online Learning Full Time
- Provide Students the Right to Choose Online Learning Part Time
- Authorize Statewide Online Charter Schools, Overseen by Statewide Charter Authorizers
- License Supplementary Online Providers
- Fund All Learning Opportunities Equally Per Pupil
- Exempt Online and Blended Teaching from Traditional Teacher Requirements Including Certification and Class Size
- Establish Student Learning as the Foundation of Accountability for Online Schools and Providers
- Address Market Imperfections by Providing Abundant Information to Students, Families, Schools, and Districts
Download the paper to learn
In this post, guest blogger Bill Tucker, managing director of Education Sector, responds to "The Costs of Online Learning," a paper released today as part of Fordham's Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning series.
The latest in Fordham’s digital learning policy series tackles the tricky question of cost. And while the paper cannot offer definitive answers for policymakers and school leaders, it does provide a helpful primer on the overall economics of online and blended learning.
The top-line findings, that blended learning models cost an estimated $8,900 per pupil (+/- 15%) and fully online schools cost $6,400 (+/- 20%), will surely be repeated in statehouse policy battles throughout the country. But, those who actually read the short brief will quickly realize that the authors have bent over backwards to caveat their findings in multiple ways. The most important of these caveats? The author’s cost figures reflect estimates of what online and blended schools are currently spending, rather than what they should be spending. In other words, since we have little understanding of how spending relates to student outcomes, the authors cannot say much about either the effectiveness or productivity of this spending. Is it the right amount? We just don’t know.
Still, readers of the paper will better understand the various components of costs in blended and fully online programs – and how they differ from one another and with traditional instruction. These insights should inform those looking to evaluate digital programs by helping them ask
Guest blogger Ron Packard is CEO of K12 Inc., the country’s largest online learning company. In this post, he responds to criticisms of the effectiveness and cost of K12′s schools raised in a New York Times report last week.
In September of 2011, I was invited by the New York Times to speak at the paper’s Schools for Tomorrow conference. It brought together educators, philanthropists, and leaders in the public and private sectors to discuss how America’s education system can better educate students and prepare them to compete in a global economy. To sponsor the event, the Times reached out to leading education and technology companies including Intel Corporation, McGraw Hill, and the company I founded and lead, K12 Inc. The goal of the conference was clear and unequivocal: “To harness the power of technology to improve the learning experience. Democratize access to quality education. And elevate the American student to a higher level.” At the conference there was universal agreement about the urgency to innovate in the public education system; the need for a shift from one-size-fits-all education models, challenging the status quo, and rethinking the way children can learn through personalized instruction, adaptive curriculum, and innovative learning platforms.
I was pleased to see the Times advocating for the same ideas that drove me to start K12 Inc. Yet only four months later, the Times published an embarrassingly one-sided and unfair attack
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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