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New Jersey Hearing On Online Learning

September 12, 2012

President of The Center for Education Reform Jeanne Allen testifies before the Joint Committee on the Public Schools in New Jersey about Online Learning. Her testimony shares facts about the schools that deploy digital learning, the parents who utilize online learning opportunities, and the teachers who lead and instruct in the digital learning world.

Read her full testimony here. You can also access the entire hearing from the New Jersey Legislature’s website.

Newswire: July 24, 2012

Vol.14, No. 30

WORLD SCHOOL. Avenues: The World School, is opening its doors this fall in New York City, the flagship in a planned global network of schools with a unique mission to promote and nurture global preparedness. Pledging to “set an example as an effective, diverse, and accountable school,” Avenues’ rigorous curriculum and forward thinking operational philosophy is designed to prepare kids to be successful, responsible, well rounded, and ethical citizens of the global community, who will have access to any international campus in the Avenues family. The faculty and administrative leaders are virtually a who’s who in rigorous education programs – including founder and entrepreneur Chris Whittle. Avenues shows what big thinking, entrepreneurship and hard work can accomplish.

EMPOWERED ONLINE. Speaking of entrepreneurship and forward thinking philosophies…Silicon Valley technology guru Steve Poizner has partnered with UCLA Extension to create Empowered Careers– an online continuing education certificate program taken entirely via a groundbreaking iPad app. Adult learners can take professional development courses from the comfort and convenience of their iPad, completing a certificate program to enhance or redirect their careers. The College Admissions Counseling course, for instance, might help a teacher who wants to transition from the classroom to the counselor’s office in order to focus on helping students make the jump from high school to college. To see some of the program’s high profile cheerleaders including Pierce Bronsan, James Franco, Sally Field and more, check out the video on their homepage. Looks like online learning is not only good for the gander (K-12 kids), but the goose (adult learners), too.

VIRTUAL VILLAGES…New Jersey just gave the thumbs up to two blended learning charter schools, set to open their doors in Newark, while closing the door to others. The Merit Preparatory Charter School and the

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Online Learning Success in South Dakota

The South Dakota Virtual School and South Dakota MyLife are two online programs helping Mount Rushmore state students “increase the rigor and relevance of their high school education.”

The State Board of Education got an update on these two programs, finding out that 2,900 students in grades 6-12 logged 3,822 class registrations for the South Dakota Virtual School. The number of school districts and school systems using the virtual school for students to take full-time or part-time classes is up from three years ago. Use of the South Dakota MyLife program, created 4 years ago to help students map out their academic goals and prepare for life after high school, has also steadily increased.

Perhaps the rural nature of some of the school districts in South Dakota has played a role in the boost of digital options. Using technology to expand options helps students in smaller districts because it allows for access to highly specialized subject matter that might not be offered otherwise.

Favorable Outcomes With Online Learning

“Online Programs Helping Students Succeed”
Yankton Press & Dakotan
July 24, 2012

The South Dakota Board of Education received updates Monday during its regularly scheduled meeting on two online programs that create rigor and relevance for high school students.

The South Dakota Virtual School provides expanded course offering to students through online studies. It gives students the opportunity to take more Advanced Placement courses, study highly specialized subjects, or receive tailored remedial instruction.

In 2011-2012, 133 public school districts and school systems participated in South Dakota Virtual School. That’s up from 88 just three years ago. More than 2,900 full- or part-time students in grades 6-12 use the system, for a total of 3,822 semester registrations.

“Especially in many of the smaller districts in the state, schools may not be able to pay a full-time teacher in advanced or highly specialized subjects,” said curriculum specialist Erin Larsen. “The South Dakota Virtual School gives students those same opportunities, increasing the rigor and relevance of their high school education.”

Currently, there are 364 semester course offerings through South Dakota Virtual School, with 24 AP courses and 82 credit recovery courses. In the future, the virtual school will expand to offer more courses at the middle-school level.

Another program, South Dakota MyLife, is an online career development tool that encourages students to explore careers through interest inventories and skills assessments. Students can then research careers they are matched with and save that data to their online portfolios. With that knowledge, they can use their profiles to plan their academic programs and track their goals.

“SDMyLife usage is really high right now,” said Tiffany Sanderson, career and technical education administrator in the Department of Education. “Overall usage has been steadily climbing since we introduced the site four years ago. It’s a good indication that students have access to the resources they

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Here They Go Again…

I read with some interest and a lot of frustration this Washington Post article, taking as gospel the findings of a flawed study conducted by The National Education Policy Center (NEPC). The study “found” K12 Inc. lags behind traditional public schools.

Once again we have good reporters getting snookered by “research” based on un-comparable data and lacking any value-added measurement of performance progress over time.

By any reasonable standard, reputable research needs to be based on an apples to apples comparison of subjects. The NEPC methodology makes no effort to compensate for the fact that the basic nature of virtual schools like K12 makes it difficult to compare their students to those in traditional public schools. Consequently, it ends up comparing apples to watermelons.

The NEPC report also cites a 2009 CREDO study that is one of the most egregious examples of bad research out there. CER has successfully debunked it time after time and yet the media continues to trot out that Trojan horse for some reason.

Where does madness end? When is the media going to learn to recognize good research from bad?

–Jeanne Allen, Founder and President of the Center for Education Reform

For K12 Inc.’s perspective, check out the Spotlight section on their website.


Fairfax County Looking To Go Virtual

The Virginia county is considering a full-time online high school, which, the Washington Post acknowledges, is a “a nod to the power of the school choice movement, which has given rise to the widespread expectation that parents should have a menu of options to customize their children’s education.”

Board members in Fairfax County, Virginia, realize that if they don’t start looking into virtual options for students, then others will capitalize on the opportunity to provide digital learning options.

Although Virginia isn’t known for full-time online learning programs, Governor Bob McDonnell recently signed legislation that requires all high school students take at least one online course before graduating.

Fairfax County students already take advantage of a la carte virtual classes for various reasons, whether that be catching up, getting ahead, or schedule conflicts. As one board member tells the Washington Post, “creating a full-time online school is a natural next step.”

Education Innovation Summit 2012

Education Innovation Summit 2012 kicks off at Arizona State University. “Bringing together the greatest education innovators, thinkers and investors” is critical at a time when the competitiveness of U.S. students is nowhere near where it should and can be.

Last year’s keynote address hit the nail on the head and made clear that educational success is the key to national success, and that educational success will “be driven forward mostly through innovation and creativity.”

Joel Klien, former Chancellor of New York City Public Schools, stressed that “If we don’t fix our schools, the American Dream will become the American Memory.”

Get more on last year’s event here, and a schedule of this year’s event here.

After the Summit, you can check back for videos of keynote addresses and some sessions.

TED-Ed: Free Online Lessons

“TED offers free video lessons for high school and college students”
by Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post
March 12, 2012

Imagine you’re a high school biology teacher searching for the most vivid way to explain electrical activity in the brain. How about inserting metal wires into a cockroach’s severed leg and making that leg dance to music?

Starting Monday, that eye-popping lesson, performed in a six-minute video by neuroscientist and engineer Greg Gage, is available free online.

TED, a nonprofit organization that produces a popular annual conference on ideas, is launching TED-Ed, an online collection of lessons it hopes will bring the best educators to any classroom with an Internet connection.

“Right now there’s a teacher somewhere out there delivering a mind-altering lesson and the frustrating thing is, it only reaches the students in that class,” said TED-Ed project director Logan Smal­ley. “We’re trying to figure out how to capture that lesson and pair it with professional animators to make that lesson more vivid and put it in a place where teachers all over the world can share it.”

TED-Ed is the latest wave in a growing trend of free online education. With offerings from the Khan Academy, founded in 2004 when Salman Khan began posting math tutorials on YouTube, and undergraduate courses from prestigious universities such as Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, free classes and lectures are proliferating on the Web.

But much of that content consists of sequential lectures delivered by an instructor behind a podium or, in the case of Khan, a disembodied voice narrating math equations on an electronic blackboard.

TED-Ed, by contrast, is using sophisticated animation, professional editing and high-quality production values to produce online lessons that are hard to forget. And the lessons don’t meander — each is no longer than 10 minutes.The project

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Virginia: Moving Forward or Backward in Education?

Entering 2012, the state of Virginia was coping with the effects of a faulty funding formula, which did not provide equity for all students statewide, that the existence of full-time virtual schools had exposed.

Senate Bill 598 was introduced in January to fix the problem by insuring fair funding for public school students who wanted access to full-time, statewide virtual schools that had been approved by during a rigorous review process by the Virginia Department of Education. The fixes—themselves worked through in a lengthy and rigorous process—insured fair funding not only for the students, but also in a way that could work for the districts.

In the last week of February, however, changes were introduced to the bill that struck out all of the well-balanced language in the bill designed to fix the faulty funding formula. Read More…

Why Restrict Digital Learning?

“Finn: All students could access high-quality education”
by Deirdre Finn
Richmond Times-Dispatch
March 6, 2012

Virginia lawmakers are being asked today to consider legislation (SB 598) that severely restricts students’ access to a high-quality education. This legislation prohibits students from enrolling in an approved virtual school that is offered by a school division other than their own.

In this day and age, the Internet makes geography irrelevant to getting a great education. Virtual learning tears down the greatest barrier to high-quality education — access to a rigorous curriculum taught by effective educators. With virtual learning, all students — particularly those in rural regions or urban centers — can access the same high quality education typically enjoyed by students in affluent suburban neighborhoods. Students who live anywhere can learn anywhere. For many students, the option to attend a virtual school is a lifeline to an education that prepares them for success in college and challenging 21st-century careers.

Technology has changed the way we live, work and play. It has increased productivity in the workplace and enhanced communication with family and friends. And it has the power to transform education.

Imagine if the law applied the same restrictions to other areas of life. Limiting online shopping to stores in your neighborhood would likely cause outrage. Restricting access to Web-based learning should cause the same reaction.

Last year, I was part of a team of independent researchers that reviewed and analyzed education policies in every state in the nation for Digital Learning Now!, a national initiative launched by former Govs. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) and Bob Wise (D-W.Va.) to harness the power of technology to provide an education that prepares each and every student for success in college and challenging 21st-century careers. Virginia scored well in that analysis, but this legislation runs the risk of reversing all the progress Virginia

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