This blog picks up from where I left off in my previous blog.

Once a viable strategy and solution had emerged for the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), several other policies fell into place that helped it grow and evolve.

In 2000 it snapped its emergent strategy into a deliberate and codified one when it was established as an independent educational entity—the legal equivalent of a school district. With its independent status, FLVS received the freedom to create its rules and procedures and enter into agreements with providers, hold patents, and so forth in order to fulfill its mission. In essence, Florida created an autonomous division—the equivalent of a Target to Dayton-Hudson—that could disrupt the old order.

The state in essence first sheltered FLVS with line-item funding, which made sense in FLVS’s early years as it was still proving itself. It also did not compete for funding from the existing districts as a result initially. In 2003, however, because of changes in the broader Florida educational landscape, FLVS was forced to find a new funding model. What it settled on proved with hindsight to be a move filled with great foresight. The funding model it adopted was a self-sustaining one; no longer was FLVS dependent on the year-to-year whims of the legislature. It could grow organically. And rather than just get money for serving students, FLVS chose to receive the majority of funds only if the students were successful and passed the course. This funding based on outcome is a sea change in education—and represents a dramatic departure from holding schools to account through old input-based metrics like seat time, student-teacher ratios, and the like.

One other last thought. When FLVS started up, the team looked around and saw that there was really no online content out there. If FLVS hoped to offer an online school for students, that meant that, unlike a brick-and-mortar school, it would have to build online content and courses itself. Integrating to do this step as well was key to its success. Of course, for online schools starting up today, doing this really is not necessary as there is lots of online content—from FLVS’s to K12, Inc.’s to open-source content and on and on. Making full courses from scratch (often of questionable quality) doesn’t make much sense. Instead, in many cases, acting as a portal—from which students can choose which content makes the most sense for them—would be much more logical. But we haven’t seen this emerge fully yet.

What lessons or insights do you draw from this? What would you do if you were starting from scratch today and what wouldn’t you do?

– Michael B. Horn


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

    Michael B. Horn is Co-Founder, Distinguished Fellow, and Chairman at the Christensen Institute.