Utah leads in online learning

Utah is leading the way in digital learning, writes Matthew Ladner on Jay P. Greene’s Blog. A new state law based on Digital Learning Now’s Ten Elements of Quality Online Learning “funds success rather than just seat time, has no participation caps and allows multiple public and private providers.” The program starts for public high school students but then adds home-school and private school students.

Tom Vander Ark’s predicted “radical choice” at the lesson level,

We’ll soon have adaptive content libraries and smart recommendation engines that string together a unique playlist for every student every day. These smart platforms will consider learning level, interests, and best learning modality (i.e.,motivational profile and learning style to optimize understanding and persistence).

Smart learning platforms will be used by some students that learn at home, by some students that connect through hybrid schools with a day or two on site, and by most students through blended schools that mix online learning with on site support systems.

West Virginia’s state board of education has adopted the Digital Learning Now recommendations, writes Vander Ark on EdReformer.

Florida’s legislature passed a bill requiring high school students to take at least one online course. The law also ends the Florida Virtual School‘s monopoly on online classes.

Productivity or the poorhouse

Is the Golden Age of Education Spending Finally Over? In Time, Andrew Rotherham warns schools to adjust to the new reality.

In 1970 America spent about $228 billion in today’s dollars on public schools. In 2007 that figure was $583 billion. True, some of the increase can be traced back to growing enrollments, better programs, and improved services for special-education and other students, but much of the increase is just a lot of spending without a lot to show for it.

School districts pay little attention to productivity, Rotherham writes. While businesses have used technology to improve productivity, public schools are going in the opposite direction.

For example, while the private sector gets more work out of each employee, schools have hired more and more teachers to bring down class sizes even though the research is crystal clear that other reforms pack more bang for the buck. What’s more, schools lowered class sizes a little across the board rather than a lot for the most at-risk students — and in the key early grades — where it does make a difference. And when teachers are laid off because of declining enrollments or funds, it is almost entirely based on seniority rather than their performance. In Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing to change that practice because of its disproportionate effect on low-income and minority students. That case could ricochet around the country. 

Productivity innovations are rare, writes Rotherham, but there are a few examples.  Rocketship Education, a charter school network in San Jose, uses a blend of traditional teaching and online learning to produce “good results at substantially lower costs.”

With $1 million from the Broad Foundation and $6 million from the Charter School Growth Fund, Rocketship hopes to open 30 new hybrid schools by 2015.  The nonprofit charter network is exploring partnerships with cities including Denver, Chicago, Tulsa, Okla., Houston and Phoenix.