Online ‘Bill of Rights’ for high school

Initiative would go to voters in November 2012
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Students whose high schools don’t offer the required courses or enough sections to qualify them for admission to the University of California or California State University would have a right to take those courses online, under an initiative that sponsors are targeting for next November’s ballot.

The California Student Bill of Rights would greatly expand high school online education, while breaking down geographic and other barriers that are denying many rural and urban students equal opportunities to attend a four-year public university. If their schools don’t offer AP history, or if calculus conflicts with their schedules, they could take the course through another publicly funded program. The initiative would also create a California Diploma for students who have accumulated the credits, known as A-G, for entry into UC or CSU, however and wherever they’ve taken the courses – in school, online, in one or more districts.

Two leaders behind the initiative are administrators at Riverside Unified School District: Superintendent Rick Miller and David Haglund, principal of Riverside Virtual School, the largest district-run online school in the state. Both say they are acting as private individuals at this point, and the initiative’s web site doesn’t identify their affiliation.

The initiative, said Haglund, “will create a right of access. ZIP codes should not determine college readiness – not with technologies that have the ability to deliver synchronous and asynchronous learning environments.”

The academic performance of students in online courses has been mixed nationwide, with recent studies in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Minnesota concluding that online students generally did worse than students in traditional courses. The California initiative would impose requirements on online providers that would address concerns about quality:

  • The courses would need to be certified by the University of California as A-G eligible;
  • The online provider – which could be a district, charter school, community college, or private provider under contract with a district – would have to be accredited;
  • The teacher would need to have a California teaching credential or the equivalent if a college instructor;
  • The online provider would be required to document student work, and students would have to pass a proctored end-of-year exam.

“These are high bars but not insurmountable,” Haglund said. “Quality is our highest concern.”

The initiative would leave it to the state Department of Education to create regulations governing payments between providers and districts and verification of work performed. The provider of an online chemistry course could contract with the students’ home districts to offer the lab work and to proctor exams, for example.

Tie reimbursements to student outcomes

Haglund said he would propose tying tuition payments to online providers to student performance, as is being done in Florida. A quarter of the payment would be eligible only if a student got a C in the course; the final 25 percent should be tied to passage of the final exam, as determined by the state, he said.

The initiative has been submitted to the Attorney General’s Office; signature gathering is expected to begin in December. Haglund, who chairs Education Forward, the nonprofit organizing the initiative, won’t say who’ll fund it until checks start coming in, but he expects to receive support from education foundations and business executives in Orange County and Silicon Valley. He assumes he’ll be able to raise the $25 million needed to run a successful campaign.

Riverside Virtual School serves about 115 full-time students, with between 2,500 and 3,200 students from Riverside Unified and other districts taking courses. But state restrictions on online providers have hindered online growth. California ranked last in a new rating of states’ openness to online learning by Digital Learning Now! – a project of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, headed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and the Alliance for Excellent Education, a nonprofit headed by former Democratic Gov. Bob Wise of West Virginia.

The Bill of Rights would push aside some obstacles, including a restriction that limits an online provider to offering courses only in the county in which it’s located and contiguous counties. Online providers aren’t automatically entitled to tuition for part-time students; they must negotiate payments with the students’ home districts. Full-time online schools are classified as independent study operations with strict student-teacher ratios.

Haglund acknowledged that the initiative reflects frustration over failed efforts to amend restrictions on online learning, the latest being AB 802, sponsored by Assembymember Bob Blumenfield, a Democrat from San Fernando Valley. There will be another legislative effort next year.

The Student Bill of Rights initiative “is not intended to be leverage (for passing a bill), but if it became leverage to get the Legislature to do the right thing, we would be happy with the outcome. This is just the first step,” Haglund said, to opening up online learning in California.

34 Comments

  1. California teaching credential? Interesting. Sounds like this is a competitive move to hold off the national online providers like K12, Inc. to boost and protect revenues for the Riverside Virtual School using the Digital Learning Now report to back their case.
     
    So many questions!
    What California law prevents students from accessing online courses right now? My kid has completed two A-G classes online via an out of state provider.
    The FAQ states that there is no cost to a district, yet the Bill of Rights proposes that a student can take an online class from another district if he merely has a schedule conflict within his current district.  Who pays for that class? Who loses ADA?
    Will this bill prevent students from exercising the choice they currently have to take classes from schools like BYU? Sounds like it might.
    UC is currently expanding their own online offerings for high school classes to serve precisely the group this bill proposes to address. Does this pit school districts in competition with UCCP or does it preclude access to UCCP?
    It’s the wild, wild west out there in online education. This bill does not look ready for prime time.

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  2. I agree with Bea. On first reading, the “Bill of Rights” begs so many questions. I cannot imagine disentangling the Ed. Code … and financing … and working out the equivalent qualifications … as well as how the ADA splits are calculated and apportioned. How will IEP requirements, equality of access, and so on, be individually met? 
    There isn’t a single cost analysis. Financing would seem to be provided by taking dollars from a shrinking pot and moving those dollars somewhere else!  Neither does the Bill provide any type of evaluation criteria as to when the plug would be pulled should it not work. 
    Will the district in which the student is enrolled  be required to provide transportation to on-ground labs, and meetings, etc.? How will this affect the daily schedule of a high-schooler?
    I am completely in favor of a total overhaul of AP and college prep. courses, but despite its grandiose title and rhetoric, this needs to wait awhile!
    Who can find out who is backing  this?

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  3. @Sue – it looks like they all have a connection to the for-profit provider, Blackboard, Inc.  It’s not mentioned in any of their bios on the Bill of Rights website, but a quick Google search of each of their names + Blackboard will net you a web of connections.  Freeman is an Executive VP of Education Strategy and Rick Miller serves on the Blackboard Advisory Board.  Haglund’s school uses Blackboard, etc., etc.
     
    Not so sure this is about the kids…looks a lot more like homesteading for revenue.  This is the sad future of public education.

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  4. That “dead last ranking in digital ed” is a pretty self-serving measure put out by a consortium that is out to siphon public education dollars to for-profit companies. Literally, among their requirements is that for-profit companies have equal access to other providers; that provision has the same weight as “broadband available to all schools.”
     
    I would share the concerns of others in passing such a bill by initiative. This is something that would need to be pretty agile and is better served by running through the legislature, even if it isn’t as speedy as one might like.
     
    When I was a student, back in the post Prop 13 era, there was a time when it was not possible for a student to meet the HS graduation requirements and A-G without attending summer school, because there weren’t enough periods offered. I don’t want to see that solved by saying, “See, kids, you can just take a couple of classes online… problem solved!” I want to see it solved by offering enough sections in the first place.
     
    I’m surprised at the suggestion that there are high schools that simply don’t offer enough A-G classes to meet the requirements. I’d like to know more about how many schools are in this category and where they are, and what they are doing to address it. (I imagine if they are rural schools, they are already using online resources.) If they are not addressing it, what are their barriers?
     
    I have no problems with online courses being accredited statewide and I would like to see them available to all schools. There will always be individual kids who need credit remediation, who are separated from their cohort, or who need some scheduling flexibility. There also seems to be an obvious synergy with the community college system.
     
    And, sigh. That $25 million is half of the “big money” that George Miller was excited about for the next round of Race To The Top funding. That $25 million might be better invested in grants to create terrific, exciting online learning programs instead of gathering signatures.
     

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  5. Bea and Sue are correct. The for-profit online world truly does seem like the Wild West. It would be great if the MSM and commentators would exercise a little caution and skepticism before launching into the unrestrained cheerleading.
     
    How many California public high schools don’t offer enough classes for students to meet the A-G requirements? “Enough sections” gets more complicated, since that situation may be created or compounded by other choices students might make.
     
     
     
     

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  6. If these two want to expand access to online “a-g” courses, perhaps the fastest method would be to get the University of California to amend its rather archaic and seemingly-arbitrary policies that restrict online instruction for a-g courses (read ‘em here: http://www.ucop.edu/a-gGuide/ag/online_course.html ).
    Under these policies, both the providers and the school need to go through special review processes before even submitting a course for “a-g” approval.  While there is  a growing list of approved providers, the course lists remain quite thin and the approval process is slow and unnecessarily burdensome.  The policies outright ban certain lab science and visual/performing arts courses from the online setting.

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  7. @El, sadly that $25 million is chump change.  Both K12, Inc and Blackboard bring in about $125 million per quarter. The Goliath yet to stomp into the online arena is Pearson – they are about 10x bigger in terms of revenue, profitability and size.
     
    K12 public education in this country is a $600 billion industry with 50 million customers (students). It is second only to health care in public sector business.
     
    You only need to scratch the surface a tiny bit to find these interests behind all of the major forces at play in education policy – NCLB, Common Core, virtual/online schools, charter schools, “ed reform”. There are a handful of private for-profit corporations and wealthy invsetors that stand to win or lose billions of dollars depending on how these policies evolve.

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  8. My kids took a number of online classes from both the local CC and an online school – Keystone Online HS – and I have taken online classes at local universities.  There are a lot of problems with online classes.  They are definitely solvable but they won’t be if they aren’t addressed before authorization of this as law.
     
    One problem is exams.  They need to be proctored but one exam for a an entire class as feedback?  That is not good.  One of the functions of teachers is to provide early and continual feedback that matters to the students.  Students only respond to what they are tested on.  Online, unproctored tests are not the same thing and it is easy for students to delude themselves they are doing well only to come up against their one and only “real” test at the end of the year.
     
    Another problem is tiny little comprehension problems that really only take a few seconds to explain can be major roadblocks to a student learning advanced math or science.  If their only recourse is email, the feedback loop is so long and tedious as to be virtually useless and ultimately leads to students giving up.
     
    A third problem is pacing.  The online classes have to have definite checkpoints to assure progress at a reasonable rate.
     
    A reasonable hybrid would have students working on online classes at a set time in a class room with a teacher who is reasonably conversant with the material and can answer questions as they come up, (or at least help the student figure out how to get the answer), and proctoring the normal number of exams for a course.  There might be 25 kids taking 5 different online courses in a classroom with one teacher available for help.
     

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  9. @Eric: why do you think UC is wrong to ban lab science and performing arts courses from the online portfolio?

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  10. Equivalent, if not superior lab experiences can be done through an online setting if properly designed.  The UC’s focus should be on the quality of the delivery, not whether a traditional approach is used.
     
    Similarly, much of our visual and performing arts are now conducted online.  Some performing arts courses (e.g., dance) where three-dimensional imaging and in-person instruction arguably are very important might be tough to teach through an online format. Others (e.g., electronic music) might work very well online–and perhaps a lot better.
     
    Visual arts would seem to be especially well-suited to the online setting, including potential access to troves of digitized art from museums around the world and teaching kids how to use digital graphics programs to create visual art.
     
    The UC’s archaic requirements seem to stem from a rather backward view of technology driven by a small committee of UC faculty who make these key decisions for the entire UC and CSU system.
     

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  11. Eric, if you could point me at an example of an online lab experience that you consider equivalent to an in-person course in an actual lab, I would be interested. I remain skeptical. Most people would not have the equipment at home to do a chemistry or biology type lab equivalent even to the ones I did in high school. Learning to deal with glassware and actual materials is part of the purpose of the course.
     
    I mean… my daughter thinks she knows how to snowboard because she’s done it on the Wii. :-) There are some things you have to do in meat-space.
     
    It also seems unnecessary to take lab classes online. All high schools and community colleges should have labs and lab classes. If there’s a scheduling conflict, better to give the lab priority and do english or history or math online.

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  12. @Bea – the impediments to online learning and use of technology are numerous.  Lance Izumi has written about it on this very website: http://toped.svefoundation.org/2011/02/09/nonsensical-state-regulations-handcuffing-online-learning-innovation/

    There are barriers – usually driven by teacher unions – to distance learning.  This California Federation of Teachers model contract (as pointed out by Izumi) even calls on unions to bargain technology out of the classroom by restricting online education.  The idea is that they don’t want jobs replaced by technology on any level.  http://www.cft.org/uploads/key/framework_final.pdf

    Unions are going to appeal to emotions by cynically suggesting this all about profits for companies pushing technology but it’s really about protecting dues paying employees.  What’ worse, offering products to help educate kids or making laws that forbid people from taking advantage of technology?

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  13. I am really interested in this online education debate. How does a dancer learn to choreograph a Strauss Waltz arrangement for  a dozen 8 – 10 year old children using a computer? I used to do that in much younger years, and I (limited luddite as I am), cannot even figure how to begin something like this. Nor do I want to, since the delight is, to me, the embodiment of the process.  I am totally open to ideas -just no idea how it would work. I love watching dance clips on YouTube, but nothing matches the past experience of being there, watching Margaret Barbieri in CheckMate, or David Ashmole as he possessed the stage with presence. Can online get there?
    And … one of the biggest complaints I hear from scientists who run high-tech companies that make things … is that incoming scientists often don’t know how to “do” things, and are very dependent upon technology instead of their own knowledge/brain power – however we call it. 
    My son (engineering physics/mechatronics at Stanford) talks to me a lot about how the students who haven’t “built things” as kids are really hampered when they are sent to a lab to design and build. How is the visceral aspect of materials, fabric, whatever it is, intuited when there hasn’t been a physical experience of it?  As you can tell, I am a very kinesthetic learner in some fields – but not others – and I just can’t get around this abstraction of learning. My daughter – as physical a learner as I have ever seen in my three decades of teaching kids in different environments – is struggling in school now because she needs the experience of what she is doing, another of my kids just reads it! 
    When I taught in a teacher education program, in an “on-ground” classroom, I spent untold (and unpaid) hours of my time helping the students with material in their other  on-line classes, because they just didn’t get the feedback. There wasn’t the community. More important,  the “on-ground” aspect of being in a classroom and trying things out with 30  teenagers just was lost online. I guess I am the poster child for the voter that the Bill of Rights advocates need to convince!!! 
     

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  14. In addition to my engineering background, I also have substantial experience in the art world. There are many exciting options with computer generated artwork and in particular, wonderful tools for animation. But, to me having art exclusively online would be as wrong as teaching kids to type but never to write longhand with a pencil. Computer-generated and digital media is such a small part of the possibility of art that IMHO it would be a real shame to graduate kids who had been limited to that.
     
    One of the classic problems with freshly graduated engineers is that you put them out in the world, and they draw three-dimensional parts that cannot be built, or parts that can only be built at great expense. (Yes, I know 3-D printing may change this somewhat.) Having your hands on real things and interacting with your peers and teachers while doing it is an essential part of learning how to be a good engineer. Sympathy for your machinist and an understanding of his task is surprisingly important to your success. :-) Art is also a key into this ability to translate between a real object, a drawing of an object, and a mathematical representation of an object.

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  15. el: I happen to share your doubts about the last in the nation ranking and indicated skepticism when writing about the issue, but the analysis also pointed to limitations in California, like the geographic restriction of contiguous counties and the classification of online learning as independent study, with its set of rules, that should be examined.

    An initiative is not the best way to create complex policy, I agree. The difficult details of this initiative that you, Sue and others have raised  would have to be done via regulations and statutes. Or the Legislature, worried about an initiative, could deal with the issue of online learning directly.

    As for the need for the initiative, UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access has looked at the lack of A-G access in California schools. It’s tough to quantify, as John Rogers, the Institute’s director, acknowledges. But by its yardstick, a quarter of the high schools in the state don’t offer enough A-G courses to meet the need of all of their students, as of 2008-09. The yardstick is 2/3 of the courses offered must qualify for A-G to serve the full student population. (Some will argue with that standard as too low or two high.) To no surprise, the largest percentage below that standard is in minority communities. These schools also have the largest proportion of courses taught by teachers  without the subject credential. In a quarter of high schools statewide, at least 20 percent of  courses are taught by teachers our of subject. One certainly can make the case that students should have the right to a course taught by a teacher with subject expertise.

    Many students in high schools without sufficient A-G or AP courses may be taking courses online. But their parents may be footing the bill. Nothing in state law compels a high school to pay a provider, public or private, for an online course that a student chooses to take. The initiative would create the right of the student to take it for free. It’s not apparent to me why private providers would make out like bandits under the initiative. I would assume that more districts and county offices of education would start programs like Riverside’s.

    I look forward to more discussion on benefits and concerns that readers have raised.

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  16. Any idea of how many students are not getting the A-G and AP courses they want?  Besides basic safety I can’t think of something that would get me more upset than my child not getting access to the needed courses.

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  17. I would be very interested in a more rigorous survey of what kids are underserved. If kids are not able to get into A-G classes, that would be both surprising and deeply troubling to me. I note the initiative vaguely references a UCLA study on the topic – does anyone have a pointer?
     
    Again, though, it seems to me that kids in crowded minority classrooms are the least likely to benefit from moving that coursework online. Will they have computers and bandwidth at home? Will they have the support they need, both technical and academic? It seems more problematic than getting those schools up to speed with appropriate A-G offerings.
     
    As we’ve discussed before, one of the biggest obstacles to the use of online education in California schools is lack of broadband, closely followed by a lack of computer equipment and the lack of appropriate wiring to install and use that equipment. It frustrates me when people jump in with prescriptions for online learning as if they know all about it without even doing enough research on the topic to know that broadband is far from universally available in communities, schools, or homes.

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  18. There are two UCLA studies that point to the inequity relating to a-g course access. The 2009 study can be found at (http://bit.ly/tu3Sdf) and an 2007 study found similar inequities and is available at (http://bit.ly/vfhGdH).
    Both studies make compelling cases for the need to ensure all California students have acces to the courses required for college entrance, whether or not those courses are provided online or in the blended-learning or face-to-face classroom environment within or outside of their home high school or district.
    While broadband acces continues to be a challenge, there are ongoing efforts to ensure more and more families find that access. A recent news article (http://bit.ly/sJYyHl) outlines one plan to reach low income families.

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  19. Though your concerns are valid, don’t assume that all online instruction must or will take place at home.  A growing number of charter schools, for example, use a “bricks and clicks” approach where students study online, but do so within the walls of a school facility, learning center, library, or similar.  Other charter schools subsidize the cost of an Internet connection and/or lend computers to students who lack them.  Solving the broadband and hardware access problems is far easier than solving the challenges related to delivering advanced math and science instruction in traditional classroom settings.
    Online instruction is by no means a panacea, but can have some vital advantages.  For English learner students, for example, the ability to pause, rewind, and replay difficult-to-comprehend passages can be extremely helpful.  This is especially so with high school science and social studies classes where the vocabulary can be complex.
     

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  20. el:
    If you visit many California high school science labs, I think you may find that the glassware, chemicals, and supplies that were available when you went to school are now gone, broken, or locked-up due to paranoid district office risk management staff who themselves failed chemistry.
    While it’s difficult or impossible to duplicate many lab experiences in an online setting, a modest amount of creativity and solid programming can do a lot and in some cases can be vastly superior.  A few weeks ago, I was enthralled by a chemistry student’s software for modeling chemical bonds and reactions.  If only this sort of digitized lab experience were available when I studied organic chemistry, my college chemistry experience would have been much more pleasant and intellectually engaging.
    Other major online providers send out boxes of lab equipment that are custom designed for the course and allow a student or group of students to do very engaging and high-quality labs without needing a bricks-and-mortar lab.  For just one example, see this web site that serves as a provider to Apex learning for its Advanced Placement science courses: http://www.labpaq.com/home
    Just as we shouldn’t assume that the wii is a substitute for snowboarding on a real snow-covered hill, we shouldn’t assume that putting a ill-equipped teenager on a snow covered hill will lead to the development of sound snowboarding skills.
     
     

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  21. Eric – Agreed. Virtual learning experiences – even in online programs – are strengthened through blended-learning. Learning constructs such as time, content, pacing, and place are best determined by student learning needs and demonstration of competency. A report by the Innosight Institute provides some definition of what those strategies might look like. Their report can be found at http://bit.ly/tusQ5q

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  22. Thank you for these posts, they are very helpful. 
    As a note about access to a-g. I just realized what the semantics involve. A lot of schools will offer the a-g courses, but students who do not have competency cannot take those classes because they lack the pre-requisites. The AP courses may well not be offered – that is well documented – and if they are, prerequisites are in place. I saw a “loosening” of prerequisites in San Diego in order to rapidly increase access by students who were under-represented. Honestly, it was a mess. Students who don’t have the math or literacy scores to comprehend the material ended up doing very badly, and they then lost out on what would have benefited them. Teachers were frustrated because they ended up having to try to teach the courses with some kids who had the skills, others who didn’t – and that is difficult without support and time to develop differentiated resources. (I know, I’ve done it.)
    My solution: the K-8 programs in California have got to be improved NOW. There is absolutely no excuse for the low bar in the STAR testing, the inflated CDE API formula that massages scores, and the lack of competency in the K-8 teaching programs with respect to learning not just how to teach reading, writing and math, but to be able to do math and writing themselves. As long as California is locked into the credential mill, with tenure unchanged – and no evaluations – I can’t see progress. 
    But … maybe this is where technology would revolutionize learning. How about developing meticulously sequenced mini lessons on ground for all the Cal Standards, that are then available to all, using  an Open Access site. For communities without access to the technology, schools could provide facilities, as could churches and community centers. Kind of like the old Harold Wilson Open University, but open all hours. I’ve been  seriously considering how to at least teach the reading and literacy units for a while, and have some idea as to what technology would be necessary to implement the program using a model implemented by a UCSD professor friend. Maybe it’s time for me to write the grants when I can’t get into my Humboldt garden for rain.

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  23. This is what UC says in their FAQ – ie, they are perfectly willing to accept blended online learning for science labs as long as there is a supervised wet lab component:
     

    Science and VPA courses
    Q: Can online courses be approved in all of the “a-g” subject areas?
    A: No. Online lab science courses will not be approved unless they include a supervised wet lab component. Since UC has not seen computer software that adequately replicates the laboratory experience, computer simulated labs and lab kits will not be acceptable. UC faculty considers the experimentation process a critical component of any laboratory science course because it brings the scientific process to life. Although online labs have been created by several online providers, UC faculty is not convinced that they adequately replicate the wet lab experience. UCCP lab science courses will be accepted because they require a UC faculty certified on-site wet lab component for all science courses.
    Online visual and performing arts (VPA) courses will not be approved because it is difficult for students taking online courses to experience the required performance component of performance arts courses and/or replicate the expected portfolio component of visual arts courses. UC faculty believes that performance is a necessary component of any performance arts course. Whether it is a course in band, choir, drama, dance, or painting/drawing the immediate feedback and coaching of an instructor (e.g., adjusting the toe point of a dancer, correcting the musical intonation of a student musician, advising greater voice projection for a student actor, or demonstrating correct technique for a student artist) is a critical and necessary component of any course.


    Certainly, in any case, there are plenty of other coursework areas remaining to work with.

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  24. The UC faculty apparently have a very idealized notion of what transpires in a typical California high school.  They seem to think that “wet labs” include a great deal of teacher supervision.  Perhaps they should visit a typical high school class and gauge how much supervision students in a 40+ student science class actually receive and whether there are enough lab stations, equipment, chemicals, etc.,  to accommodate all of the students.
    Similarly, they seem to think that students in visual and performing arts courses get “immediate” and individualized coaching and feedback on how to point their toes, intonate and project their singing, etc.
    Instead of establishing arbitrary roadblocks to use of technology, perhaps the UC faculty who make these decisions need to take a harder look at traditional high schools because what they typically offer likely falls far short of what they think.

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  25. @Bea and Sue – just to clarify, while Rick Miller does sit on a Blackboard K12 Advisory Board, RUSD is not a Blackboard client. We switched to the Haiku Learning Management System in June. Check them out at http://www.haikulearning.com

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  26. Just commenting on the new ground broken in bashing of school district employees:
    paranoid district office risk management staff who themselves failed chemistry.
     
    I don’t know if our school district here in San Francisco even has any risk management staff, let alone whether they’re paranoid and failed chemistry. That’s quite a specific characterization. I wonder if in Finland, paranoid district office risk management staff who failed chemistry are well-paid, respected, and given great autonomy.
     

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  27. I think everyone should re-evaluate the so-called California Online Education Bill of Rights in light of this article that just came out in the Nation today. It’s a lengthy investigative piece called, “How Online Learning Bought America’s Schools.”
    http://www.thenation.com/article/164651/how-online-learning-companies-bought-americas-schools?page=full
    I think we need greater skepticism when “ed reform” is proposed, supported, lobbied for, and perhaps even ballot initiatives funded by for-profit companies that have a financial upside in the legislative adoption of a particular policy. To the extent that philanthropies are the handmaidens of this privatizing effort — shame on them for losing sight of their non-profit social mission.
    Cui bono — for urban charter school chains, where lucrative real estate deals can be made, and for “virtual charters” that conveniently siphon taxpayer funds under the pretext of serving rural schools?
    To pre-empt the “you’re technophobic” argument, I’m not. Making lessons plans, professional development, guidelines in crafting high-quality assessments, and rich and varied classroom-tested curricular materials available in a FREE, OPEN SOURCE clearinghouse accessible to any teacher who has an internet connection has enormous, powerful potential to put educators and their expertise front and center of the classroom experience.
    However, that would disintermediate textbook, testing, and for-profit “virtual” education companies in a way they would find distasteful.
    But which approach is better for teachers and kids, and puts quality learning first? And, how committed are we to that priority?

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  28. Sad to see a lot of misinformation among the comments and misconstruing the goals here of the initiative, but here are some resources for those interested.
    On virtual labs: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCQQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.inacol.org%2Fresearch%2Fdocs%2FNACOL_ScienceStandards_web.pdf&ei=yVXMTov4NMmgiALdos3rCw&usg=AFQjCNFjCpL9zENbPPveWqAfcrZNj-rlPA&sig2=6_a4bfeRWCoyeL06O3T9qg
    (Or http://www.inacol.org/research/bookstore/detail.php?id=3)
    Kemi Jona at Northwestern has done lots of work on this, and there are simulations and the ability to do real experiments virtually using college equipment that are quite robust now that enable people to do experiments you’d never be able to do in a physical K-12 classroom. Of course, sometimes a wet lab will still make sense for certain objectives — and of course, often if a student has no access to a critical experience, online learning can be invaluable right now — which is in essence what this proposition does.
    I am told that this lays out the challenge in regards to California science education a bit more: http://www.wested.org/cs/we/view/rs/1187
    Important components here though are rewarding providers only if students are successful (so I and others here agree that this can’t just be a free for all regardless of quality) and making this so that districts are able to offer students a full complement of classes necessary to gain admission to the UC system. The number of students in California attending districts today that are unable to do this is shockingly high.
    Lastly, in regards to the Nation article that was brought up here… That article had an unbelievable number of factual inaccuracies and wove a tail that just doesn’t square. For just one critical mistake it made for example, see this blog by Bill Tucker: http://www.quickanded.com/2011/11/the-nations-online-learning-omission.html.

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  29. Here’s a lengthy Washington Post piece on the moneyed interests lobbying politicians and funding pro-”online education” legislation in 20-some states around the country, focusing on the junk bond ex-felon Michael Milken‘s company K12.com (no relation to K12NN):

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/virtual-schools-are-multiplying-but-some-question-their-educational-value/2011/11/22/gIQANUzkzN_story.html

    Regarding performance: poor
    <block>”On measures widely used to judge all public schools, such as state test scores and graduation rates, virtual schools — often run as charter schools — tend to perform worse than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
    At the Colorado Virtual Academy, which is managed by K12 and has more than 5,000 students, the on-time graduation rate was 12 percent in 2010, compared with 72 percent statewide.
    That same year, K12’s Ohio Virtual Academy — whose enrollment tops 9,000 — had a 30 percent on-time graduation rate, compared with a state average of 78 percent.
    Last year, about one-third of K12-managed schools met the achievement goals required under the federal No Child Left Behind law, according to Gary Miron, a Western Michigan University professor who called that performance ‘poor.’”</block>

    Increases funding inequity:
    “State aid varies by school district and follows a formula based on poverty, among other factors. Affluent Fairfax County receives $2,716 per pupil from Richmond, whereas relatively poor Carroll County receives $5,421, according to the state Education Department.
    This year, 66 Fairfax students are enrolled in the virtual school. Richmond is paying the virtual school twice as much for those students as it would if they attended neighborhood schools in their own county.
    ‘Clearly, it’s not a logical or equitable system,’ said state Sen. George L. Barker (D-Fairfax). ‘It’s a horrible deal for taxpayers.’”

    Californians should be leery of this attempt to open our state (and our state coffers) to “online education.”

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Trackbacks

  1. California’s Online ‘Bill Of Rights’ Expands High School Digital Learning - TOP SCHOOLS – TOP SCHOOLS
  2. David Haglund (Ed.D. ’09) leading initiative to expand high school online education | USC Rossier School of Education
  3. Next step for online ed initiative | Thoughts on Public Education

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