This week in America: the big scramble

1. As I travel the country, I see evidence of thousands of districts, charter networks, and non-profits scrambling to mobilize for stimulus money—the great ARRA premobilization. Everyone knows Duncan’s four priorities; everyone is trying to figure out how this is going to play out; everyone is trying to figure out how to be stimulated. Here’s a couple specific observations:

· Half the RTT funds will be shoveled to districts one the Title 1 formula—this on top of stimulus funds. States working on RTT proposals are trying to figure out how to guide investment of all the formula distributed money. Good thing those with any shot of winning have a bunch of grant supported consultants trying to figure this out.

· The flood of T1 funds will put districts in the chosen states in a potentially weird position of cutting general account expenditures and trying to figure out what to do with surplus T1 funds.

2. On top of the ARRA scramble is the preauthorization scramble. SES providers worried about how tutoring funds will be reshaped or whether they’ll be part of reauthorization at all are thinking about getting in to paid tutoring, summer school, school improvement, and even starting schools.

3. The explosion of virtual learning and blended models; we’re early on an exponential curve. We’ll see 2x growth during the 09-10 school year and 4x the following year.   For example, the GA virtual school run by K12 now has more than 5,000 kids enrolled making it one of the largest in the country.  The recently formed charter school commission received 6 applications for virtual charters from all the usual (and some unusual) suspects. For more, read the recently release iNACOL report.

4. Rural solutions. The connection between ARRA, ESEA, and the explosion of blended learning will be rural school solutions—some adopted by districts, some forced conversions to blended charters. As tough as the urban talent challenge is, we’ll never fill rural schools with highly qualified teachers and blended learning is the solution.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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