The Nation Hit Piece Had Little to do With What’s Good For Students

The Nation ran a long piece condemning anyone promoting innovation in education (I’m not even going to link to it because they embarrassed themselves). Here’s ten things they got wrong (a few were borrowed from items the WSJ got wrong–it’s always interesting to find places where the left and right get it wrong together)
1. Real progressives are concerned that 2/3 of US kids don’t get what they need and deserve from American schools–almost a third drop out and another third exit unprepared for college and careers.
2. Philanthropic and private investment has boosted the ability to deliver quality education at scale on a full or part time basis online.
3. Jeb Bush was the best education governor of the last decade and has become an informed advocate of innovations in learning.  He’s done more to improve the lot of low income students in American than anyone else I can think of.
4. iNACOL is the leading advocate of quality online and blended learning, particularly competency-based approaches designed to benefit low income students.  Check the record, read the reports
5. Options are good.  Families choose full time online options for many reasons. Read this story about how Florida Virtual saved this young ladies life and tell me it’s not a great option.
6. Online is accountable. All full time programs operate under a performance contract with a nonprofit board which enters into a performance contract with the state.  These two levels of accountability are stronger than what is in place for traditional schools.
7. Geography is no longer a barrier. Except where states (and spotty broadband) get in the way, every American student now has access to a rigorous well taught K-12 curriculum.  That’s a big deal–one progressives should celebrate.
8. Scale is no longer a barrier.  Quality at scale is the education challenge of our day, but we finally have a dozen (nonprofit and for-profit) providers that together could give every student in America access to every AP course, every STEM course, and every foreign language.  If Duncan wanted to offer free online summer school to every student, it would be a snap.  The only thing standing in the way of access to quality teachers and courses is local and state policy.
9. The world is blended.  Our kids are digital but our schools are stuck in the world we grew up in.  For the last 15 years, full time online learning has been a great option for a few kids.  This small market is developing platforms and practices that are revolutionizing schools.  By the end of this decade, most U.S. schools will blend the best of online and onsite learning, and most U.S. students will benefit.
10. This fine ‘journalist’ questioned my integrity because I’m on the board of a small dropout recovery network.  He thought that’s why I advocate for students taking an online course in high school–seriously?
I don’t think this article had much to do with what’s good for students.
For more see Fordham response

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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1 Comment

Tom Vander Ark

Two very good responses to the Nation
Fordham, Business Buy-in Doesn't Sell Out Digital Learning
and EdSector, The Nation’s Online Learning Omission

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