Creating zip code boundaries around virtual opportunities sort of defeats the purpose, right? That’s just one of the recommendations from NEPC in their annual plea to block progress. Actually, they were so fond of geo-limits that they mentioned it twice.
The other 14 recommendations aren’t all that bad, 5 are common in state policy, 7 hold promise for improving online schools, but a couple like geographic boundaries just don’t make sense (unless, of course, their objective is simply to block online learning).
The magical thing about digital learning is that anyone can learn just about anything anywhere. Family learning opportunities are no longer limited by zip code. Anywhere-anytime-learning resources have been available for 20 years and for a decade there’s been plenty of capacity to offer every high school student in America access to a great college prep high school experience including every AP class, a dozen world languages, and hundreds of electives. All of these classes should be available to every student, any time, at no cost, on a full or part time basis. States would actually save money and benefit from higher college completion rates by simply ensuring that every student had access to quality learning opportunities.
That’s why limiting online learning to zip codes or curtailing rather than expanding access is exactly the wrong thing to do. Instead, states should expand part time online enrollment–course choice–and should build reciprocal agreements with other states so that a great physics teacher can serve a thousand students nationwide rather than 100 from his zip code.
NEPC has a couple common sense ideas like more research–bring it on! They also suggest new outcome measures for virtual schools–actually, we need better growth measures for all schools so that we can easily compare progress in different environments.
They are also right that we could use better accountability measures–especially for all the virtual schools that take on the challenge of over-aged and under-credited kids seeking a last chance at a high school diploma.
The report suggests developing rubrics for online teacher evaluations. They should just call the three largest providers–they all have well developed evaluation systems.
The worst idea was to “stop growth”…but that was the point of the report.
I’m a director of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and support the organization’s interest in quality assurance. We can and should expand access to high quality, cost effective, full and part time online options for students and families.