Elizabeth Novak-Galloway, 12, center, seen with mother Gabriela Novak and sister Kira, 8, was pulled from a K12 school by her dissatisfied mother. Photo: Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group
Virtual (all-online) and blended learning schools aren’t doing as well as traditional schools, concludes a National Education Policy Center report. Performance is especially low at for-profit schools, researchers said.
The report recommends slowing or halting the growth of virtual and blended schools, writing rules that specify a student-teacher ratio and other measures, reports Hechinger’s Nichole Dobo.
Officials at K12 Inc., a for-profit company that operates a significant share of the nation’s online schools, said they had noticed flaws in the data – such as missing schools and inaccurate demographic numbers. They took issue with the report’s methodology, saying that high turnover rates in online schools make it difficult to compare these schools to more traditional models.
K12’s California Virtual Academies were accused of “cashing in on failure” by the San Jose Mercury News after a recent investigation. In particular, graduation rates are very low.
I think it’s hard to compare students who choose all-online schools with those in traditional schools. It’s not just apples and oranges. It’s apples and zucchini. Overall, though, research suggests that learning online requires maturity and motivation — or, at least, a parent’s close supervision. Students who couldn’t succeed with an in-person teacher aren’t likely to do better with a virtual teacher.
The report is way off base on blended learning, responds Julia Freeland Fisher, director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute, who questions what’s counted as a “blended learning school.”
Furthermore, “Does blended learning work?” is the wrong question, she writes.
That is tantamount to asking: Do textbooks work? Do lectures work? Do small group interactions work? Of course these delivery methods—like blended learning—vary widely in their effectiveness depending on how they are implemented. Instead, we need to evaluate specific blended learning models relative to acute problems that individual school systems are trying to solve.
Blended learning — a mix of online and face-to-face instruction — is spreading rapidly, she writes. By 2019, half of high school courses will incorporate online learning with “the vast majority of these using blended learning instructional models.” Christensen researchers predict.