Publications

Overcoming the Governance Challenge in K-12 Online Learning

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Online learning and our current system of local education governance are at odds with one another, to say the least. In this paper, John Chubb examines how local school district control retards the widespread use of instructional technologies. He argues that the surest way to break down the system’s inherent resistance to technology is to shift control from the local district—and thus the school board—and put it in the hands of states. He then outlines ten steps to get us to this brave new governance system:

  • Set K-12 Online-Learning Policy at the State Level
  • Create a Public Market for K-12 Online Learning
  • Provide Students the Right to Choose Online Learning Full Time
  • Provide Students the Right to Choose Online Learning Part Time
  • Authorize Statewide Online Charter Schools, Overseen by Statewide Charter Authorizers
  • License Supplementary Online Providers
  • Fund All Learning Opportunities Equally Per Pupil
  • Exempt Online and Blended Teaching from Traditional Teacher Requirements Including Certification and Class Size
  • Establish Student Learning as the Foundation of Accountability for Online Schools and Providers
  • Address Market Imperfections by Providing Abundant Information to Students, Families, Schools, and Districts

Download the paper to learn more, and be sure to read Fordham’s other papers on this vital topic.

This is the fifth and final paper in a series examining sound digital-learning policy. Previous papers appearing in this series include “Quality Control in K-12 Digital Learning: Three (Imperfect) Approaches” by Frederick M. Hess; “Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction” by Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel; “School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era” by Paul T. Hill; and “The Costs of Online Learning” by Tamara Butler Battaglino, Matt Haldeman, and Eleanor Laurans. This working paper series is generously supported by the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation.

In the Media

The Costs of Online Learning

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The latest installment of the Fordham Institute’s Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning  series investigates one of the more controversial aspects of digital learning: How much does it cost? In this paper, the Parthenon Group uses interviews with more than fifty vendors and online-schooling experts to estimate today's average per-pupil cost for a variety of schooling models, traditional and online, and presents a nuanced analysis of the important variance in cost between different school designs. These ranges—from $5,100 to $7,700 for full-time virtual schools, and $7,600 to $10,200 for the blended version—highlight both the potential for low-cost online schooling and the need for better data on costs and outcomes in order for policymakers to reach confident conclusions related to the productivity and efficiency of these promising new models.   Download "The Costs of Online Learning" to learn more.

In the Media

January 10, 2012
The Huffington Post
April 05, 2012
THE Journal

Quality Control in K-12 Digital Learning: Three (Imperfect) Approaches

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In this first of six papers on digital learning commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Frederick M. Hess explores the challenges of quality control. As he notes, “one of the great advantages of online learning is that it makes ‘unbundling’ school provision possible—that is, it allows children to be served by providers from almost anywhere, in new and more customized ways.  But taking advantage of all the opportunities online learning offers means that there is no longer one conventional “school” to hold accountable. Instead, students in a given building or district may be taking courses (or just sections of courses) from a variety of providers, each with varying approaches to technology, instruction, mastery, and so forth….Finding ways to define, monitor, and police quality in this brave new world is one of the central challenges in realizing the potential of digital learning.”

Addressing this challenge is the purpose of Hess’s groundbreaking contribution. Use the link to the right to download the paper.

In the Media

July 27, 2011
HechingerEd
July 27, 2011
Education Week

Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction

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Will the move toward virtual and “blended learning” schools in American education repeat the mistakes of the charter-school movement, or will it learn from them?

Try this thought experiment: How much more successful might U.S. charter schools look today if, at the beginning of the charter movement two decades ago, proponents had spent the time and effort to consider what policies and supports would be needed to ensure its quality, freedom, rules and resources over the long term? What mistakes might have been avoided? Damaging scandals forestalled? Missed opportunities seized?

We can’t go back in time for charters but we can be smarter about the next major phase of education reform and innovation: taking high-quality virtual and blended schools to scale—and to educational success. To this end, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with the support of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, has commissioned five deep-thought papers that, together, address the thorniest policy issues surrounding digital learning. The goal is to boost the prospects for successful online learning (both substantively and politically) over the long run.

In a new paper, “Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction,” Public Impact’s Bryan and Emily Hassel “propose that digital education needs excellent teachers and that the teaching profession needs digital education.”

They propose a smaller—but more talented and better paid—teaching force with its impact magnified through the expanded reach and efficiency allowed by digital technology. “Time-technology swaps” allow the unbundling of teacher roles and the more efficient use of their time, supported by new, lower-paid positions with appealing, shorter hours.  Realizing the potential of this new system requires, however, that policymakers revamp everything from certification to teacher preparation, from compensation to class size.

In the Media

November 16, 2011
Getting Smart
November 16, 2011
Education Next
January 09, 2012
The Clayton Christensen Institute

School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era

A Working Paper Series from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

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Will the move toward virtual and “blended learning” schools in American education repeat the mistakes of the charter-school movement, or will it learn from them?

Try this thought experiment: How much more successful might U.S. charter schools look today if, at the beginning of the charter movement two decades ago, proponents had spent the time and effort to consider what policies and supports would be needed to ensure its quality, freedom, rules and resources over the long term? What mistakes might have been avoided? Damaging scandals forestalled? Missed opportunities seized?

We can’t go back in time for charters but we can be smarter about the next major phase of education reform and innovation: taking high-quality virtual and blended schools to scale—and to educational success. To this end, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with the support of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, has commissioned five deep-thought papers that, together, address the thorniest policy issues surrounding digital learning. The goal is to boost the prospects for successful online learning (both substantively and politically) over the long run.

In "School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era", Paul T. Hill zeroes in on the policy area most in need of reform if digital learning is to succeed: funding. “Our system doesn’t fund schools, and certainly doesn’t fund students,” he writes in “School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era.” “Yet to encourage development and improvement of technology-based methods, we must find ways for public dollars to do just that—and to follow kids to online providers chosen by their parents, teachers, or themselves.”

Hill explains why our current school funding system could cripple the promise of digital learning—and then proposes innovative solutions.  By consolidating education funding from different sources into a “backpack” model that follows students and creating debit cards that parents can use for online enrichment courses, the system Hill outlines would ensure that families can choose from a diverse range of robust schooling options.

In the Media

November 16, 2011
The Huffington Post
August 12, 2014
American Thinker

Cracks in the Ivory Tower? The Views of Education Professors Circa 2010

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This national survey of education school professors finds that, even as the U.S. grows more practical and demanding when it comes to K-12 education, most of the professoriate simply isn't there. They see themselves more as philosophers and agents of social change, not as master craftsmen sharing tradecraft. They also resist some promising reforms such as tying teacher pay to student test scores. Still, education professors are reform-minded in some areas, including tougher policies for awarding tenure to teachers and financial incentives for those who teach in tough neighborhoods. Read on to find out more.

Press Release

 

 

In the Media

October 01, 2010
The Washington Post
October 05, 2010
Education Week
November 03, 2010
The Columbus Dispatch

Teaching about 9/11 in 2011: What Our Children Need to Know

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Any number of organizations are offering advice about what to teach schoolchildren about the events of September 11, 2001, yet most sorely miss the mark. Fordham's publication, "Teaching about 9/11 in 2011: What Our Children Need to Know," highlights the danger of slighting history and patriotism in the rush to teach children about tolerance and multiculturalism. It combines ten short essays by distinguished educators, scholars, and public officials from our 2003 report, "Terrorists, Despots, and Democracy: What Our Children Need to Know," essays that feel more timely than ever, and includes a new introduction by Chester E. Finn, Jr. reflecting on how the lessons of these essays apply today.

In the Media

September 08, 2011
The Washington Post
September 08, 2011
The Baltimore Sun
September 10, 2011
Los Angeles Times

Shifting Trends in Special Education

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In this Fordham Institute paper, analysts examine public data and find that the national proportion of students with disabilities peaked in 2004-05 and has been declining since. This overall trend masks interesting variations; for example, proportions of students with specific learning disabilities, mental retardation, and emotional disturbances have declined, while the proportions of students with autism, developmental delays, and other health impairments have increased notably. Meanwhile, at the state level, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts have the highest rates of disability identification, while Texas, Idaho, and Colorado have the lowest. The ratio of special-education teachers and paraprofessionals to special-education students also varies widely from state to state—so much so that our analysts question the accuracy of the data reported by states to the federal government.

Needles in a Haystack

Lessons from Ohio's high-performing, high-need urban schools

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The schools that serve Ohio’s poor, urban and minority youngsters overwhelmingly fall short when it comes to academic performance. But there are a small handful of schools that buck these bleak trends and show serious achievement for disadvantaged youngsters from depressed inner-city communities.

This study profiles eight of these high-performing outlier schools and distills their successes, in hopes that state policymakers and educators can learn from them and create the conditions necessary for more schools like them.

To study the schools, Fordham commissioned two reseachers, Theodore J. Wallace and Quentin Suffren, who spent 16 days and hundreds of hours in eight schools in five cities to observe what makes them successful.

See the news release here. View the PowerPoint, an overview of findings and policy recommendations that we shared with state lawmakers at a Statehouse news conference on May 25, here.

Profiles of the eight Needles schools

Citizens' Academy (video)

College Hill Fundamental Academy (video)

Duxberry Park Arts IMPACT Alternative Elementary School

Horizon Science Academy - Cleveland Middle School (video)

King Elementary School (video)

Louisa May Alcott Elementary School (video)

McGregor Elementary School (video)

Valleyview Elementary School (video)

In the Media

June 23, 2010
The Canton Repository
June 24, 2010
Cincinnati Public Schools

Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism

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The most exciting innovation in education policy in the last decade is the emergence of highly effective schools in our nation’s inner cities, schools where disadvantaged teens make enormous gains in academic achievement. n this book, David Whitman takes readers inside six of these secondary schools—many of them charter schools—and reveals the secret to their success: They are paternalistic.

The schools teach teens how to act according to traditional, middle-class values, set and enforce exacting academic standards, and closely supervise student behavior. But unlike paternalistic institutions of the past, these schools are warm, caring places, where teachers and principals form paternal-like bonds with students. Though little explored to date, the new paternalistic schools are the most promising means yet for closing the nation's costly and shameful achievement gap.

For review copies, please contact John Horton.

 

Other materials

Education Next Book Club

George Will writes about American Indian Public Charter School

George Will writes about Cristo Rey Jesuit High School

David Brooks mentions the book

Press release

Fordham held a book talk for "Sweating the Small Stuff" on September 3, 2008. Watch the video here.

"Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism" book talk from Education Gadfly on Vimeo.

Excerpt of David Whitman's comments at book talk for "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner City Schools and the New Paternalism," September 3, 2008

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