The 2012 campaign season is in full swing for national and statewide races. Gubernatorial candidates are raising money and shaping messages.
Other than a few states where new drilling technology has unlocked a new round of oil drilling, most states are broke and it won’t change for years. While cuts to education have been challenging, it is simultaneously a period of great opportunity. The next five years will lay the foundation for the future of digital learning.
The shift to personal digital learning holds great promise but it is fraught with academic, financial, technological, and political challenges. But education is too important to be a partisan issue—in the long run, it’s the most important issue for statewide leaders to get right. Following is a seven point bipartisan agenda that will boost college completion and career preparation rates.
1. High Expectations. Provide vocal and visible support for higher standards while your state adjusts to the Common Core State Standards and implements new online assessments. These are real college and career ready standards. You’ll probably see a drop in proficiency levels in the next two years and a bigger drop in the 2015 scores as new online assessments roll out. You and your state chief will need to be all over this, defending the need for more students to graduate from high school with real skills.
2. Good Schools. Make sure every family has access to at least one good school. With the unraveling of NCLB, states will have more latitude and responsibility to create a school accountability system that makes real the good school guarantee. Fulfilling the guarantee requires:
- Strong accountability that supported struggling schools and closes schools in the case of chronic failure
- Supporting development of high performing new schools in underserved communities
- Expanding full and part time online learning options
3. Good Teachers. Make sure every student has access to good teachers by supporting evaluation systems that consider all available evidence—good evaluation requires good data—and sound judgment. Blended school models will more advancement (and compensation) options for proven teachers. Access to multiple providers of online learning on a full and part time basis will also ensure that students always have access to good teachers.
4. Make the Shift. Schools budgets are shrinking and they are stuck with not enough textbooks and not enough technology. The state should make a plan, in collaboration with districts, to shift to online assessments and online instructional materials over the next three years. Districts should be encouraged to provide access devices for low income students and to allow students to bring their own mobile devices to school. The state should work with foundations to pilot new school models that blend online and onsite learning.
5. Make Funding Smarter. This may take several steps (the last of which you finish in your second term): educational funding should be weighted, portable, and performance-based. Students bringing more risk factors to school should bring more money with them. Funding should follow the student to the best option and providers should have incentives for completion and performance.
6. Start Early. It’s clear that early learning makes a difference and is a sound investment. Despite budget challenges, it is important to expand access to and improve quality of early learning opportunities particularly for low income children.
7. More Post-Secondary. Make college and job training more affordable and more accessible by authorizing new options and making funding performance-based.
For more, see my review of two great Fordham papers on the implications of digital learning on teaching and school finance, and 6 reasons school leaders should let kids bring devices to school. Digital Learning Now and the accompanying Roadmap to Reform are the most comprehensive policy recommendations for education in the digital age.