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.”
In this blog post for the Innosight Institute (now the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation), Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel argue that “schools – and nations – that excel in the digital age will be those that use digital tools both to make teaching more manageable for the average teacher, and to give massively more students access to excellent teachers.” While digital learning can help solid teachers become more effective, one of its greatest promises is to enable top teachers – those whose students already achieve well over a year’s worth of growth – to educate more students by freeing up their time, allowing them to teach students who are not physically present, and capturing their teaching prowess by recording videos or helping develop smart learning software.
In Fordham’s new book Education Reform for the Digital Era, Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel’s opening chapter proposes that “digital education needs excellent teachers and that a first-rate teaching profession needs digital education.” In the digital future, teacher effectiveness will matter even more than it does today. While the roles of teachers and other adults will change dramatically, what will increasingly differentiate outcomes for schools, states, and nations is how well responsible adults carry out the more complex instructional tasks. At the same time, technology has enormous transformative potential to extend the reach of excellent teachers to vastly more students, to help teaching attract and retain the best, and to boost the effectiveness of average teachers. To realize that promise, though, the nation needs new staffing models, significant policy changes, and a stronger dose of political will to change. Read the chapter here, and watch Bryan Hassel on a webcast of the release event here. The authors also penned a related commentary that appears here.