Without question, K-12 virtual education opportunities are gaining more and more attention as late. Earlier this month, the Digital Learning Council — under the leadership of former governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise — released its Digital Learning Now! report. In it, the new group offered up its 10 elements of high-quality digital education.
The 10 elements are core to learning success, whether it be digital or otherwise. By focusing on issues such as student eligibility, student access, personalized learning, advancement, content, instruction, providers, assessment and accountability, funding, and delivery, the DLC makes clear that digital learning is central to the 21st century learning environment. Online learning is no longer a topic left to the periphery. It is core to modern-day instruction.
But the DLC’s outline of how begs a very important question — who? This week, Eduflack was talking with a school district that is quite interested in expanding its digital learning offerings and take a major step forward in offering e-instruction and online offerings to its students. Anticipating the time and expense involved in such forward progress, school officials were looking to do some site visits with other school districts in state. The list of “success stories” was relatively short, but a few districts kept popping up.
After some exploration, though, a big problem arose. The districts that were identified as best practice for online learning in the state were districts that failed to meet AYP this year. Knowing that, can one look to model instructional practice from a district that can’t make adequate yearly progress? It might not be fair, but AYP is the most important measure a school district faces today. Any step one takes to improve or enhance instruction should result in improved student achievement.
It would be terrific if every state were a state like Florida, with a strong and successful online learning network that can be modeled and borrowed and stolen from. But in this day and age, we first look to our own backyards to see what is done, particularly as we emphasize the need to demonstrate proficiency on state assessment exams. So while we’d all love to replicate what the Florida Virtual School may be doing, we’re first going to look at what the neighboring county or the district with similar demographics on the other side of the state is up to.
It is no secret that K-12 education believes in modeling. Few want to be first to market; everyone wants to do what a fellow successful state, district, school, or teacher is doing. This is particularly true for digital learning, where so few truly understand it and so few are actually doing it well. So how do we know who is an appropriate model? Where is it happening in a district, a school, and with kids like mine? And how do we determine if a district is indeed worth modeling?
Eduflack is all ears for those who want to identify examples of school districts who have been particularly successful in developing online learning programs, particularly those LEAs who can demonstrate return on their investment, both in usage and in student achievement. Who wants in? Where are our exemplars for district-based online learning programs?