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
We recently did some research on the state of school turnarounds in Colorado. I was reminded of that great “spaghetti” western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. For those of you that don’t remember the movie, it was a tale of intrigue, deceit and murder among three men (not so good, bad, and ugly) in a quest for buried gold in the context of the chaos of the Civil War. It’s one of my favorite movies for the remarkable cinematography, directing, and character acting, not to mention one of the best scores ever. Oh yes, there’s also the interesting sub-texts on war and the West.
So, what’s the connection with the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG)/ turnaround schools program? The SIG program is hardly as interesting as the movie, but turnarounds are filled with struggle, conflict, and failure; often the only ones benefiting are the outside consultants making upwards of $5,000 a day. It’s like the end of the movie where after all the death and destruction, the “not so good” walks into the sunset with the gold. In this case it’s the consultants walking
Illinois may finally be addressing its dysfunctional teacher retirement system with meaningful, bipartisan reform:
The sweeping pension changes, presented by House Republican Leader Tom Cross and Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan, would establish three retirement options for government workers to choose from going forward. State employees could keep their retirement benefit in place but pay more; take smaller benefits but pay no more; or set up a 401(k)-style plan that would give employees more control of their investments but also see them roll the dice on the markets.
I've made no secret of how little I think of last year's "reform" in Illinois, which simply took money out of the pockets of young teachers to make up for the bad choices made by legislators and unions. This is a much better start, and it's cheering that the Democratic leadership is on board.
Labor doesn't like it, with the Illinois AFL-CIO's president claiming this measure would reform the pension system "on the backs of working families." But working people are going to be hurt no matter what, since the retirement system is in terrible fiscal shape. The question is whether reform shares the pain or soaks only new workers, and whether Illinois can compensate new teachers in an attractive and competitive way. The state needs to get both those questions right.
Keep it up, Illinois reformers.
? Chris Tessone
Everyone's favorite guest host, Dave DeSchryver, joins Mike to discuss the 2011 NAEP results, ESEA reauth, and charter schools in middle-class locales. Amber dissects the Chinese education system and Chris extols the virtues of eating red meat.
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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