Most RttT Finalist Have Lame Online Plans

Most of 16 Race to the Top finalist have lame online learning plans–and this is the best of the bunch.  iNACOL posted a useful review.
FL is the best of a bad lot and they’re just coasting on Jeb’s leadership and still protect district enrollments by stopping the Internet at district boundaries (no statewide v-charters).
NC may have the best state v-school plan but no v-charters. KY was an early mover with a state virtual school but quashed innovation and competition.  Both will make some most progress incorporating online resources into traditional classrooms (but they won’t save any money doing it).
NY, RI, and PA plan to launch v-highs (PA ignores existing operators).  It’s such a bad idea for SEAs to try to develop and manage virtual schools–they can only do a mediocre job and dampen innovation and competition.  States should authorize great operators and do everything they can to reduce barriers.
SC plans expansion of poorly funded SCVSP with a focus on STEM and PD.  If they just funded v-charters adequately, they’d expand access to quality options.
The rest (CO, DE, GA, IL, DC, OH, LA, MA) are just embarrassingly bad with a nods toward online PD, a little credit-recovery, and a few more AP courses.
RttT and i3 plans were designed for districts not kids.  This country has great online learning providers that, in spite of ridiculous restrictions are serving hundreds of thousands of students with high quality curriculum, strong supports, and efficient management systems.  Connections Academy, K-12, KCDL, Apex, Kaplan and others are poised to expand and invest in a new generation of curriculum. I’m a huge Pastorek fan, but the LA state board just rejected proposals from three of these providers.  This is a massively scaleable educational resource that will be almost completely excluded from ARRA investment.  If we’re serious about doubling college completion rates, we need to encourage authorization of virtual charters and adoption of virtual courses.

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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Tom Vander Ark

Sounds like state run virtual schools didn't appreciate this post. My concerns are primarily with the ways and reasons states initiate these programs. First, state run schools are often approved by legislatures as an alternative to outside operators and that's bad long term idea; the private operators are the ones that can invest in innovation and hope to recoup a return at scale over time. Second, states don't usually fund and set up state schools with a real chance to succeed.
Given less than optimal policy environments, states v-schools can and do play an important role (as noted above) in supporting blended environments and online options.
My point: we're a generation behind where we should be in terms of online tools, platforms and options--a state government caused market failure. Where competition is welcomed, we'll see innovation.

Tom Vander Ark

an email comment:
Your blog post this week was thought-provoking and while I am not surprised that some in the state-wide public virtual schools would take issue, I have become a believer over the years that competition in the online space is not only appropriate, it is absolutely necessary. While there are examples of state-wide public programs that have proven to high a degree of accountability in all aspect of their operation (Florida Virtual School specifically; and perhaps solely) there are too many, in my opinion that seem to more interested in touting their enrollment growth rather than focusing on how successful their students are or what their per-student operational costs are.
It is ironic is it not that some state-wide public virtual schools position themselves as a choice for students as a means of providing a better learning experience than the traditional classroom, yet some of these same programs seek to put of up roadblocks from allowing districts in their state and families from having other choices in online learning. I think it would be quite eye-opening if all of the government run virtual programs had to live up to the same accountability standards that companies like K12 and Connections Academy face anytime they are awarded a district or state program to manage.

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