Whether you consider today’s New York Times article on K12.com a “hit piece” (Tom Vander Ark) or a “blockbuster” (Dana Goldstein), there’s little doubt that it will have a long-term impact on the debate around digital learning. Polls show
that the public and parents are leery of cyber schools, and this kind
of media attention (sure to be mimicked in local papers) will only make
them more so.
But just as these criticisms aren’t going away, neither is online
learning itself. The genie is out of the bottle. So how can we go about
drafting policies that will push digital learning in the direction of
This is something we at Fordham are thinking a lot about, and we’ve published three papers (so far) in our series, Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning: Rick Hess on quality control; Paul Hill on funding; and Bryan and Emily Hassel on teachers. And in January, we’ll publish an analysis by the Parthenon Group of what high-quality fulltime online learning really costs.
I’ll leave it to others to rebut the Times’ extremely
selective use of data, expert opinion, and evidence. Where the article
landed a punch, in my view, was around the perverse incentives at play
today. Clearly K12, and its well-paid CEO, Ron Packard, face strong
incentives to boost enrollment at their schools. Unfortunately, states
haven’t figured out a way to create similar incentives...