In addition to the new Fordham reports that I reviewed yesterday, here’s what I’ve been reading/thinking about:
- Given the recent spate of stories and reports, both policymakers and educators are likely to be inundated with questions about digital learning. My advice? Read Keeping Pace with Online Learning 2011. It is the most balanced, objective, and thorough publication available. And, importantly, it’s written by people who actually know the field. For novices, the background information on pages 8-31 is critical to understanding the wide variances in online learning practices, models, and institutions. Pages 40-49 are the best and most concise summary of issues around research, performance, and accountability. If you read this, you’ll understand why asking, “Does online learning work?” is the wrong question. And, if you’re wondering what’s happening in your state, the profiles on pages 64-167 are a good first stop.
- Digital learning crosses international boundaries, too! iNACOL just released its fourth report on Canada, along with a survey of international practices from dozens of additional countries. Also, who knew that K12 Inc. operated, in addition to virtual schools in 20+ states, almost 100 learning centers in 52 Chinese cities serving nearly 40,000 students?
- Digital Learning Now‘s State Report Card, modeled after similar 50-state report cards from the Data Quality Campaign, is getting a lot of traction. Even if you don’t like DLN’s policy prescriptions or methodology, it’s a really great resource for state policy information. It won’t take long, though, for DLN to realize what the Data Quality Campaign figured out — how a state implements and takes action on these policies is critical. The next step for DLN is to report on the actual performance and outcomes from states’ virtual schools, programs, and initiatives.
- Speaking of outcomes, they were absent in the policy recommendations from the National Education Policy Center’s flawed report. Jon Becker, who concludes that the “policy brief is not about what it claims to be about and generally overreaches badly,” has the best review and discussion thread on the paper. “Overreach” is a really great descriptor. And, it’s unfortunate, because there are real concerns about transparency and improper incentives, not just for private corporations, but also for traditional districts and administrators. It’s quite natural and important for organizations to advocate on their own behalf. But, ideally, the field of innovation is defined by educational outcomes, not statehouse lobbying for a particular product, intervention, or interest group.