Measuring Quality from Inputs to Outcomes: Creating Student Learning Performance Metrics and Quality Assurance for Online Schools

Digital learning has the potential to revitalize American public education, providing personalized instruction to millions of students. Which doesn’t mean it will cause them to learn much. This report from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) properly observes that today’s assessment systems cannot provide the data necessary to track the efficacy of online-learning programs. This creates two potential scenarios, both problematic: Digital education could either 1) become ubiquitous but not transformative, as effective programs are not scaled up nor shoddy programs shuttered or 2) be weakly adopted as states restrict options for programs that are unproven. To remedy this situation, iNACOL points to five measures that should be used to evaluate online programs: proficiency levels, individual student growth, graduation rates, college and career readiness (though the authors fail to fully define the term), and reduction of the achievement gap. The authors then offer a number of recommendations for how to operationalize these measures. Among them: Online-education programs need common assessments across most course subjects (and end-of-course exams for all); state data systems must be updated to meet the challenge of collecting, reporting, and passing data between schools and the state; and online-school data should be disaggregated from that of brick-and-mortar schools to assure accurate reporting. For those still unclear about exactly how to go about implementing these changes, this report presents example plans-of-action both for states without online schools and for those that offer individual online courses statewide. In just thirty-four short pages, iNACOL authors define the problem, propose a solution, and then offer concrete and useable recommendations for how to make that solution a reality. Bravo!

SOURCE: Susan Patrick, David Edwards, Matthew Wicks, and John Watson Measuring Quality from Inputs to Outcomes: Creating Student Learning Performance Metrics and Quality Assurance for Online Schools (Vienna, VA: iNACOL, October 2012).

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