Radical change on the near horizon for education

The rapid change affecting other areas of the economy is hitting primary and secondary education.

The Wall Street Journal had a long article recently: My Teacher Is an App

Nationwide, an estimated 250,000 students are enrolled in full-time virtual schools, up 40% in the last three years, according to Evergreen Education Group, a consulting firm that works with online schools. More than two million pupils take at least one class online, according to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a trade group.

That is a lot of kids in virtual schools.

The article describes a variety of models for virtual classes, ranging from lots of time in-class working on projects and having some discussions, to very little time in class, to only having teachers available on-line to answer questions.

Testing results range from not-so-good to great, with explanations & justifications on all sides.  Some schools aren’t seeing great results:

A few states, however, have found that students enrolled full-time in virtual schools score significantly lower on standardized tests, and make less academic progress from year to year, than their peers.

Other schools are seeing good results.

As you would expect, entrenched interests and playing with numbers is in the background.

Sometimes there are cost savings:

Other states see potential savings as well. In Georgia, state and local taxpayers spend $7,650 a year to educate the average student in a traditional public school. They spend nearly 60% less—$3,200 a year—to educate a student in the statewide online Georgia CyberAcademy, saving state and local tax dollars.

Sometimes there is gamesmanship:

For individual school districts, though, competition from online schools can cause financial strain. The tiny Spring Cove School District in rural Pennsylvania lost 43 of its 1,850 students this year to online charter schools. By law, the district must send those students’ share of local and state tax dollars—in this case $340,000—to the cyberschool. Superintendent Rodney Green, already struggling to balance the budget, cut nine teaching jobs, eliminated middle-school Spanish and French and canceled the high-school musical, “Aida.”

Let’s check on that math.  Lose 43 students.  Cut 9 teaching positions.  That means the school system must have a 4.7:1 student-teacher ratio.  Average class size of 5 students?  Seems like 43 students would be more like two classrooms instead of 9 teaching positions, but that’s just my accounting brain talking.

Lots of experimenting going on.  Lots of contradictory claims.  Will take a while to sort out what works and doesn’t.  But then, isn’t that always the case?  The point is, radical change is near.

(I saw the article when it appeared, but looked at it again after reading Via Meadia’s post, The Education Change is Coming Faster Than You Think.)

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