In general, virtual charter schools have had poor outcomes. But when we scanned the field for virtual charter schools with positive learning results, we found a few. What can others learn from them to make virtual school success the rule, not the exception? This report highlights the experience of two nonselective virtual charter schools making online schooling work for their students—Idaho Distance Education Academy (I-DEA) and New Hampshire’s Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS).
Making Technology Work for Students and Teachers
Technology holds great potential for rural schools, such as extending the reach of excellent teachers and expanding course offerings. But digital devices in a pre-digital school structure will not transform K-12. This paper, written for the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho, offers policymakers and philanthropic leaders a set of recommendations to capitalize on the potential of technology to serve students: expand broadband access to schools lacking it, create an elite corps of proven teachers who would be made available to students across the state, and provide districts and schools with the flexibility to develop new models of staffing and technology and to achieve the most strategic combination of personnel, facilities, and technology.
All schools present significant challenges for states and other entities charged with holding them accountable for their effects on student learning outcomes. However, virtual schools—full-time schools that provide most, if not all, instruction online—raise unique challenges and opportunities for accountability. This report, written for the National Charter School Resource Center, presents five recommendations, with multiple means to implement each, for facing the challenges of adequately assessing virtual schools.
Blended learning that combines digital instruction with live, accountable teachers holds unique promise to improve student outcomes dramatically. This brief explains how schools can use blended learning to encourage improvements in digital instruction, transform teaching into a highly paid, opportunity-rich career that extends the reach of excellent teachers to all students and teaching peers, and improve student learning at large scale. We call this a “better blend”: combining high-quality digital learning and excellent teaching.
This white paper, written in collaboration with Getting Smart and Digital Learning Now!, is the seventh installment of the DLN Smart Series. The paper and accompanying infographic explain how blended learning can help create better teaching conditions and expanded career opportunities for teachers. By eliminating the traditional one-teacher-one-classroom model, blended learning environments allow for more teacher collaboration and more meaningful professional development. Enhanced student data systems improve efficiency, providing more time for personalized learning. Through the use of high-quality education technology, schools can extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students, while at the same time professionalizing the teaching career. The paper also addresses how to remove the policy barriers to blended-learning innovations, and notes that “Core to this is a belief that technology does not replace a teacher, but rather it empowers teachers and enhances their work.”
City-based funders focused on education are eager to invest in technology-based initiatives to address education’s most complex problems. However, many funders are struggling to figure out how to most effectively and expeditiously realize technology’s potential in schools. This white paper—published by the organization now known as Education Cities— identifies and catalogs the core components of education technology markets that city-based funders might support, and how they might support them. Interviews with funders and education technology experts yielded thoughtful observations about options for city-based funders in two categories: intervening directly in education technology markets to fund creators or users of cutting-edge technologies, and catalyzing activity or funding, to educate the field or create conditions favorable to the creators and users of education technology.
City-based organizations are playing pioneering roles in the development and implementation of blended learning initiatives. As more of these initiatives demonstrate early successes, their leaders and backers are turning their thoughts to replicating and scaling their efforts to improve student outcomes across their cities. This white paper—published by the organization now known as Education Cities—examines four approaches to scaling a successful blended learning initiative: expanding blended learning to additional schools and classrooms; developing systems and talent for scale; advocating for policies that support expansion of high-quality blended learning initiatives; and amplifying the voices of educators in efforts to influence policy and practice.