Online Learning is the Parent Trigger

Ben Austin, Parent Revolution

Andrew Kelly, doing a great job filling in for Rick Hess, lamented that the Parent Trigger (from hasn’t had a bigger impact.  The basic idea is that a majority of parents should be able to vote in a change at their neighborhood school. Executing on the Parent Trigger has proven challenging despite being adopted into state law in California.
Online learning is the real parent trigger these days, at least where states and districts give students options.  There are more than 1.5m students blending their own learning and there may be 3m by the end of next school year.  They include students catching up or moving ahead, students following an interest, and students looking for better quality.
Remember the Rotherham’s most provocative piece where he suggested that parents should choose teachers?  It’s happening in states that allow part time enrollment in online learning.   In Utah, SB65 created choice to the course and it is turning into customer driven evaluation. Now that part time options exist students are beginning to take advantage of them.  Online learning providers in Utah are gaining enrollment and some school districts are ending up with lousy teachers with few students.
I spent last weekend at the National School Board Association conference.  It’s clear that opposition to ‘money follows the kid’ and ‘choice to the course’ proposals from Digital Learning Now unites school board, administrator, and teacher associations.
Despite the inefficient way things are set up here in America, learning is no longer place-bound, it’s an anywhere, anytime service.  Even where choice-to-the-course is limited, access to informal learning resources is exploding–a simmering Khan Mutiny.  There will be a long difficult struggle over the stream of public funding that supports education, but it will inevitably follow students to the best option–and that’s a big parent trigger.

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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