What can be done in a year?

By:

Dec 29, 2010

In two weeks

…a gifted 9th grader in Utah whizzed through an online algebra course and moved on. His program made his progress contingent on his mastering the material, not on his sitting through a year’s worth of unnecessary class time.

In 50 days

…Miami-Dade Public Schools and other districts resolved a teacher shortage for 8,000 high school students who were impacted by a state law limiting classroom size. Rather than try to hire and pay for an additional 300 teachers to comply with the new mandate, the districts set up Virtual Learning Labs (sometimes referred to as “Very Large Labs”) in libraries, technology centers, and open classrooms. Florida Virtual School (FLVS) delivered the content online, while onsite facilitators supervised. Over 8,000 students got the courses they needed, and the districts averted a crisis.

In three months…

Alabama’s Task Force on Distance Learning created a plan to make high quality, advanced courses available to all the public school students, including the third of the population living in remote, rural parts of Alabama, who did not have ready access to teachers and courses. The plan launched ACCESS Distance Learning, a statewide videoconferencing and online-learning program that now offers 115 unique courses, including 13 Advanced Placement courses and five foreign language courses. In FY2010, ACCESS provided 29,415 for-credit course enrollments and 11,746 non-credit remediation enrollments. Now, students can be taught by certified, highly-qualified Alabama teachers, regardless of where they live.

In ten months

…an average AdvancePath Academics student can make up two years of school. AdvancePath Academics’ proposition for districts is simple: “Give us 3,000 square feet in your facility and responsibility for your out-of-school and at-risk-of-dropping-out students, and we’ll give you graduates.” Students rotate between online instruction in a computer-lab setting and small-group breakout sessions. On average, students show a 200 to 300 percent gain versus their pre-enrollment index during the first year.

In one year

…North Carolina’s Connectivity Initiative had connected all 115 public school districts to the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN). Before this project, NCREN’s fiber-optic infrastructure had provided high-speed Internet to all 16 of the state’s public universities, as well as many of its private universities, such as Duke and Wake Forest. But for the most part, the state’s K–12 public schools had not enjoyed such connectivity. In one year, with the collaboration of public agencies, public funding, and private partnerships, all districts were using NCREN to access statewide content and administrative applications.

In a little over 365 days, the year 2011 will have ended. What will we have to show for it?

Heather is an adjunct researcher for the Christensen Institute and president of Ready to Blend. She is the co-author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools and co-founder of Brain Chase Productions, which produces online-learning challenges disguised as worldwide treasure hunts for students in grades 1-8.