Public policy in Ohio (not unlike many other states) has not been kind to education innovation. But despite the roadblocks, online charters — or virtual schools — have experienced strong growth.
We’ll share some info from the Fordham Institute. While based in Washington, Fordham has its roots (as well as an office) in Ohio and is active as a charter school organizer and energetic advocate for students. It reports:
Despite a moratorium on new charter e-schools (installed five years ago) enrollment in online programs has risen by 46 percent, with 29,000 students now served by such programs.
Ohio must rethink how we use technology in education, and embrace nontraditional, non brick-and-mortar models.
Almost 30,000 students are served by a virtual charter school. Ohio’s credit flexibility plan allows students to earn credit for distance learning, internships, community service, and other educational experiences (and doesn’t require a standard amount of “seat time”).
While undoing seat-time requirements and exploring hybrid models represent uncharted territory for most Ohio educators, there was general consensus that it’s inevitable. This is the pathway down which education is headed – and it’s exciting. The possibilities for using online learning to improve student achievement are exponential, and we’re not taking full advantage of it (yet). Further, a proficiency or mastery-based model makes better sense for students and districts should introduce online learning as an intervention for those students having trouble mastering content. This is good for students, and the messaging is much more palatable than introducing technology in a manner that frightens teachers (they may fear it will take their jobs).
Lastly, online learning “unbundles” teachers’ skills and is more efficient than current learning models. For example, teachers who are adept at teaching AP physics or statistics can teach those courses traditionally and in an online format (and reach hundreds more students) rather than teaching AP courses along with basic courses or myriad subjects, etc. And since the online program presents the content (in various modalities suited to kids), virtual teachers spend less time presenting content and more time explaining, trouble-shooting, and interacting one-on-one with students. Isn’t this what parents and educators want more of?