Online high for high achievers

Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Youth is launching an online high school for the gifted.

The virtual high school will offer a full standard curriculum — and more — for students in 10th through 12th grades, leading to a high school diploma.

The only restrictions? Students will have to prove their intellectual prowess — and come up with the tuition of about $12,000 a year. Applications are being accepted later this month, classes will begin in the fall.

With the promise of a diploma that says “gifted” and “Stanford,” this should prove popular.

My daughter took EPGY algebra in seventh grade when the program was in its early all-math stages. She wasn’t really gifted in math, but she was desperate to escape an incompetent pre-algebra teacher and a fuzzy math curriculum. It took a lot of self-discipline and help from her math-major father to complete the program. Unfortunately, EPGY didn’t offer geometry so she spent the eighth grade math period helping the school librarian computerize records and serving as an aide to her former sixth grade teacher.

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Comments

  1. wow

    we’re looking into virtual home charter schooling right now (and found your post on the subject helpful)

  2. Wayne Martin says:

    > we’re looking into virtual home charter
    > schooling right now

    Both Florida and North Carolina are providing this function:

    FL:
    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/state/content/state/epaper/2006/04/05/a7a_xgr_virtual_0405.html

    NC:
    http://www.ncpublicschools.org/distancelearning/

  3. I wonder why it’s taken this long for anyone to come up with this idea–I’ve had it for years. Online education is ideal within the following niche markets:

    homeschooling
    home/hospital (long-term illnesses)
    expulsions
    etc

  4. They’ve been around for years but haven’t exactly set the world on fire. I think the idea is awaiting a key insight; something that’ll make online education notably better, i.e. more effective, in some important respect then classroom education.

    The typical cost advantage of a new technology isn’t as compelling in K-12 education as it might be due to the tax-supported nature of the K-12 education system in the U.S. That’s why I’m wondering if that key insight will take root in some nation other then the U.S. A nation that can’t support the cost of a U.S.-style public education system yet where the understanding is clear that an effective education system is a necessity if hope to improve their standard of living. Right now the top spot on the list of possible nations is occupied by India and China.

    No obvious frontrunner yet but India might have something of an advantage due to their tradition of private schooling.

  5. Wayne thank you!

    People around here are shocked by my interest in virtual charter schools.

    Allen & Darren

    Americans love public schools – I’ve always loved public schools myself. I’m only thinking about virtual charter schools because our middle school is so bad.

    The question is whether virtual charter schools will ‘cross the chasm’ between ‘Innovators’ and ‘Early adopters’ to everyone else. (The books CROSSING THE CHASM & THE INNOVATOR’S DILEMMA seem to be the Bibles on this question. I’ve posted a couple of crossing-the-chasm charts at Kitchen Table Math.)

    What I need, here in New York state, is flexibility. Our law does not allow homeschoolers to send kids to school for part of the day. It’s all or nothing.

    People in other states have taken this to court (or to the legislature – I forget which) and won.

    My district won’t allow homeschooled kids to participate in extra-curricular activities, either.

    It’s a Caring Community!

  6. Catherine Johnson wrote:

    Americans love public schools – I’ve always loved public schools myself.

    What makes you think that Americans love public schools? Inasmuch as most people don’t have a practical alternative to the district-based public school system how would they know if they’re happy with the system or merely bowing too and making the best of, the inevitable? And even for those who are happy with the current system, it’s not because they chose the system, they’re just lucky to be the sort of person who’s well-suited the system and thus, happy.

    The question is whether virtual charter schools will ‘cross the chasm’ between ‘Innovators’ and ‘Early adopters’ to everyone else.

    Without significant alteration to the current public education system, and that would have to occur on a state-by-state basis, the answer is “no”. Why should it? Most of what’s wrong with the current system, if you ask its proponents, is inadequate funding and inadequate students/parents. There’s nothing about virtual charters or, indeed, any technology that’ll address either of those problems.

    What I need, here in New York state, is flexibility.

    And you’ve managed to compress neatly, into a single sentence, most of what’s wrong with the current system.

  7. Wayne Martin says:

    > What I need, here in New York state,
    > is flexibility.

    My school teacher friend, who lives in rural New York, has often lamented that NY does not allow voter-initiated ballot items. It would seem that this would be a good place to start, since the legislature seems to be the only source of “law” in NY. This, of course, is how a representative form of government is supposed to work, but the idea of “checks and balances” works better when the voters have the opportunity to override the legislature, that might have “sold its soul” to the highest bidder.

    yhs,
    wayne

  8. Wayne Martin says:

    > What makes you think that Americans love
    > public schools?

    I agree with Allen .. there just have never been any alternatives since the “academy” system was displaced by the “common school movement” in the mid-1850s. Before that time, most children who went to school were educated in private schools.

    From following the discussion on this WEB-site, most people seem to shy away from vouchers, when the topic comes up. The reasons aren’t always the same, but I sense that most people don’t want to assume the cost of educating their kids — accepting instead the state subsidy and loss of control that goes along with this subsidy.

    Public education generally does not include any attention to the topic of public education. For the most part, this seems to be the domain of college level coursework for education majors, if then. Given that the US education system is consuming almost $1T a year, it’s beyond sad that this much money, and this much social engineering, is not better understood by US citizens.

  9. What makes you think that Americans love public schools?

    Whenever a poll is taken, people always grade their own school fairly highly even though they don’t think the system as a whole is doing a good job.

  10. I believe the polls you’re referring too are polls of parents with kids in public school. I don’t think much exertion is required to reconcile the seemingly opposing opinions.

    Some parents are right. Not all public schools are M.C. Escher paintings. While the system may have nothing in the way of rewards for professional excellence, pride, luck, intelligence and drive may occasionally combine to overcome institutional indifference to quality.

    Some parents prefer to believe a convenient fiction rather then face the unpleasent, demanding truth.

  11. Some parents prefer to believe a convenient fiction rather then face the unpleasent, demanding truth.

    It’s this apathy that presents the biggest hurdle to any kind of reform.

  12. KDeRosa wrote:

    It’s this apathy that presents the biggest hurdle to any kind of reform.

    It’s more then that and I wouldn’t characterize it as just apathy.

    Until not that long ago, in historical terms, there was no publicly supported alternative to district-based public schools. Other then private schools there just wasn’t anywhere else to go and paying twice is pretty hard to accept, for quite a few parents, impossible.

    There’s also a very human desire to believe that the proper authorities have the situation under control. Even if government is seen as wasteful and inept, fires still get put out, bad guys still get arrested and the mail gets delivered. The thought that an important function of government is not being performed is not comforting. If the situation isn’t too awful a bit of self-induced blindness keeps you from having to get appropriately anxious.

    Public education is a political system which means it’s responsive to political pressures. The political power that an individual parent can bring to bear is inconsequential and there are some politically pretty powerful forces that think the system is perfect just the way it is.

    Any alternative to the district-based school would be new, hence novel and what parent would willingly make their child a subject in someone’s education experiment? I know, I know, educational fads are a cliche but they’re foisted on the public via the tried, true and comfortingly familiar public education system. The experts must know what they’re doing, right?

    Then there’s greed. The public education system represents a “commons” and I’ve come to the conclusion that where there’s a commons there’s, inevitably if not currently, a tragedy of the commons. For low to middle-income parents, more is being spent on their children’s education then they could afford to pay. If you can get someone else to pay, and a tidy sum at that, for your child’s education, that’s a good thing, right?

    Apathy’s certainly part of the reason reform’s having a tough go of it but it’s not the only reason.

  13. Wayne Martin says:

    The $12,000/year price tag for this program is steep. Certainly makes it difficult to use this program as a model for public schools in most locations.

  14. The $12,000/year price tag for this program is steep.

    I thought the same– especially for an online school. But I haven’t looked to see what services this includes. Maybe it will follow the same pattern as other high-tech products– high costs for early adopters, followed by price reductions as volumes increase. Either way I wouldn’t begrudge anyone a voucher to cover the first $4000 or so.

  15. Wayne Martin wrote:

    The $12,000/year price tag for this program is steep.

    I thought it was pretty steep as well, especially for an online school but a couple of thoughts about that.

    First, high school appears to be inherently more expensive then grade school. Private school tabs are notably higher for private high schools then they are for private grade schools. I believe I’ve also seen some stats from public education that support that observation. So, $12,000 may not be all that far out of line.

    Second, while there are other online high schools, none of them have the cachet of being affiliated with a college that has Stanford’s reputation. Parent’s who can pony up $12,000 are likely to be comforted by that affiliation, assuming, probably correctly, that Stanford can’t afford to damage it’s reputation by allowing their online high school to be seen as anything other then first-class.

    Thirdly, an online high school like this would be valuable as a “farm team” for admission to the college. Stanford wants to recruit the cream of the high school crop and what better way to do that then to have them in an online high school for very convenient observation? The online nature of the school means that Standford would be able to reach into every corner of the nation, even the world, to fish for the best and the brightest, scooping them up before other colleges even see the kids names on an application.

    Fourth, as Bart’s already pointed out, early adopters are willing to pay a high price to be at the head of the line. Stanford may be scooping those early adopters up by being first to offer an interesting product.

    The really neat thing about this idea is that it pushes the competitive nature of higher education into the K-12 market. If the “farm team” idea appears to be working for Standford then other top flight schools will have to get into the same game to keep Stanford from monopolizing all the smartest, most energetic kids. They’ll all be second to the market so they’ll have to, minimally, match Stanfords offering but probably they’ll try to sweeten it somehow – lower price, better product, something and then let the games begin.

  16. Another thought is that the online program will also compete with bricks-and-mortar schools, including the elite prep schools that seem to worry at least one anonymous union hack.

  17. I don’t know. I think the AP programs in district-based public schools are at greatest risk, not entire schools. The notion that local schools would be able to deliver an education on par with Stanford will illicit snorts of laughter in most cases and, point up the fact that the public education system is ill-suited to handle anything other then the proverbial “average” student with the degree of ill-suitedness being a function of how far to the left or the right of average the student is.

    In fact, I can see local schools “out-sourcing” the AP courses with the local staff acting primarily as proctors for tests and adjuncts for the remote AP instructional staff. I would say that charters are more likely to make use of this option then are district-based schools. Being more likely to respond to parental pressure they’re also more likely to swallow professional pride and overcome territorial concerns then are district-based schools.

  18. Wayne Martin says:

    > I can see local schools “out-sourcing”
    > the AP courses with the local staff acting
    > primarily as proctors for tests and adjuncts
    > for the remote AP instructional staff.

    It’s only a matter of time before Universities/Colleges realize that they can make money offering AP courses, as well as insure course quality for prospective entering students at the same time.

  19. That’s the rub, making money. At $12,000 a pop it’ll be a relatively small customer base although if Stanford’s fixed and up-front costs aren’t too great they might be able to make a go of it with a small number of students.

    That’s assuming that making a buck is the goal. It seems to me that getting a jump on the other A-list schools in the race to attract the best and the brightest might be worth taking a cost hit.

    Stanford won the DARPA Grand Challenge in part because of the quality of the student body the school attracts. If they want to maintain that attraction they’ve got to keep uncovering that caliber of kid.

    If that’s the goal, or an important goal of the program, then either the program has an unusually large component of human interaction, to justify the high cost, or Stanford’s using the high price to offset development costs while the program is fine-tuned.