Monday, August 31, 2009

Innosight primer on virtual schools

The Innosight Institute is releasing case studies of online education. Note that the Innosight team is behind the book "Disrupting Class". The first case study they released is on the Alpine School District in Utah and deserves a quick read.

I found it fascinating from a number of different points. The first is to see a school district striving to meet the needs of home-school parents by marketing a product that they want. How many school districts use business-like responses to issues affecting student enrollment? Second, it is pretty fascinating to see how quickly they are able to get a virtual high school up and running (with K12 Inc). Third is that virtual schools really can save a considerable amount of money and still get results.

Innosight says that more case studies will be released quarterly and I hope so. It is a great primer on the online education market and should help further the cause.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Online education wins

A study released by the United States Department of Education, titled Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning found that “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.

No shock here - this is an evaluation that is a study of the studies. But it is definitely making the rounds on the blogs and deserves the good press.

Anecdotal evidence and single school results are great, but having hard data will hopefully get schools moving in the right direction.

We need technology to increase the effectiveness of our schools!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scholarity = disruptive innovation

About four months ago I started working with a group of amazing programmers who had spent the past 2 years developing the next generation of education software. They have created technology to provide a tutor-like experience for students. This software checks student work at every step, provides deep and continuous diagnostics then recommends the next set of content and problems to truly master a subject. This is a true ‘game changer’ for any education company and could be the disruptive innovation we need to move our education system forward.

Our goal is to now find a test prep company and a content provider to partner with since our software “bolts” underneath any curriculum. We are now ready to introduce dynamic insight technology to the world with the right partner.

Please check out the website, give us some feedback (yes, I created the website) and let us know if we can help your organization!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Only the strong survive

Note: this is not an ABCTE charter school - I just joined the board of an independent DC charter school 18 months ago to try and help them survive and did all we could.

Last night I went before the Washington, DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) and relinquished the charter to our school. We will not be opening this year because we did not have enough students enroll to make it financially viable. But it goes deeper than that.

Charters schools operate on an incredibly lean budget, always less then district schools, and if there is not outside funding they cannot make it. In our case, we did not succeed in getting enough grants and donations and continued to fall further behind. This drove staffing cuts that then started to hurt the curriculum and student experience.

Even with those cuts we did dramatically improve on AYP this year and we had higher enrollment than we ever have had this summer. But without financial support, we could not make it unless we had another 20 students enroll. We worked hard with the PCSB to thoroughly analyze the school this summer so that we could make the right call. It has been an agonizing few weeks trying to figure out the best possible course of action.

In the end we did what is right for the students and closed the school.

This is the beauty of the charter school system without artificial caps – only the strong will survive giving students the best possible choice for their school.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Big score for hybrid learning

The future of education is student-centric digital platforms to deliver challenging curriculum. More and more people are coming to realize that it is pretty insane that we are not fully leveraging technology to create a better and more efficient learning environment for all students.

But with results like these, the revolution will not be far behind.

The Arizona Charter School Association reports that Carpe Diem E-Learning in Yuma Arizona has the highest learning gains, by far, in that state. Carpe Diem is a charter school that uses a hybrid approach of both digital and live education courses. Students work towards subject mastery before moving on. They have an extensive digital library and coaches to keep the students on track and moving forward. This is a totally student centric approach and the results are off the charts.

It is amazing to me that we don’t have more hybrid learning centers but I believe that it is only a matter of time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Textbooks go digital

The most stunning thing about this post about digital text books coming to California is that it is 2009! How is it that kids are still lugging around tons of books – especially in topics that need to be updated? And since I have two kids in college how come I just paid $149 for the new edition of a college algebra book – no used because this is the NEW edition!!

The problem for California is that the districts that cannot afford text books are also the ones that can’t afford enough computers in every classroom to use the more cost effective digital versions.

In Singapore, every high school student has some of their curriculum delivered by computer.

We continue to fall further behind in virtual learning but maybe the current fiscal crisis will finally push us to move forward.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Carnival of Education Innovation!!

From the ABCTE blog!! Visit it today!!

Welcome to the first edition of the Carnival of Education Innovation.

Before we get started, here’s a quick summary of what a blog carnival is for those who’ve never heard of one before: It’s basically a collection of links to recent blog posts on a particular subject. People can come browse the links as a sort of one-stop-shop for all that’s happening in education innovation that week—a “best of the week” so to speak where you can come each Tuesday to catch up on what’s happening in the world of education innovation.

One other important thing to note—you play a major role in what appears in each week’s Carnival of Education Innovation. Visit our submission page by 4pm every Monday and submit your suggestions for that week’s carnival. These suggestions can be from your own blog or other education innovation-related blog posts you’ve come across.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Teachers rule

I was pondering what to write about for our Friday blog when I received the email below from on of our scholarship recipients. ABCTE has a Transition to Teaching grant which provides a full scholarship through our program. This is why we fight so hard for alternative teacher certification programs:

"Yes, today was my first day with the students. And yes, I am crazy busy, but I will make time to keep you updated because I would not be here if not for you. It turns out that I am teaching 7th and 8th grade English and Reading. I found out (from a parent) that I was also teaching 8th grade Tuesday night! There seems to be quite a bit of confusion at my school about many things, but I am sure it will all work out eventually. I am just doing what I think should be done until I am given more direction. I have learned quite a bit about frameworks, pacing guides, and more. I have been assigned a mentor – she has been very helpful. I really like her.

My room looks fantastic. My sister-in-law and I painted a mural on the back wall that says, “Language is your transportation … to your dreams, your goals, your future. “ My principal loves it. She used my syllabus at the grade level meeting as an example of what she wants from everyone. She has given me a lot of encouragement.

I fell in love with my students today (already). I am swamped, overwhelmed, confused, but very happy.

It was great to hear from you.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

And the winner is.........the STUDENTS!

In the education world, part of the promise of competition is that it will improve schooling for all kids. But we really have not seen that happen in areas where students have a choice of schools to attend. Most of the blame goes to a system that protects schools from seeing adverse affects from competition.

I chair a board for a DC charter school and I am now seeing first hand the two factors that will ultimately make better schools a reality through competition:

  1. There has to be more seats than students so that schools actually have to fight for every student in order to survive
  2. Parents have to experience shopping for schools long enough to become savvy consumers

It is basic economics that if a resource is scarce, the price goes up. In DC, there are excess seats and not enough students. Wouldn’t be too much of a problem but our reimbursement per student has stayed flat this year and our reimbursement per student for facilities has gone down. Also of note is that many of these schools were built at the peak of building costs in DC. There is no slop in a charter school budget to absorb any reduction in revenue. Ouch.

So the only way to make up for this budget crunch is to make sure you have more students. Basic business sense as more students means more revenue. The result is more schools are pursuing these students and marketing to a lot more of their parents. These aggressive marketing efforts required in these lean times are creating a much more educated consumer out of DC parents - because we have to reach all of them in order to survive.

In order to meet recruitment numbers, schools are offering free after school programs and more laptops. Parents are demanding more to commit to bringing their student to your school.

And the winner is……….the students!!!

It is pretty amazing to see that charter schools are actually building this competition in DC. And because Michelle Rhee is building a better public school system to compete, the students in DC are really going to win over the next few years.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Education Carnival -

The Carnival of Education Innovation

Next Tuesday, August 11, we’re launching a blog carnival—the Carnival of Education Innovation.

For those of you who have never heard of a blog carnival before, it’s basically a collection of blog post summaries on a particular subject – a “best of the week” so to speak. One blogger hosts each edition of the carnival and then other bloggers and blog readers submit blog posts they’d like included in that edition of the carnival. Then the carnival goes live on a certain date (every Tuesday for ours) and people can come browse the links as a sort of one-stop-shop for all that’s happening in education innovation that week.

The Carnival of Education Innovation will include anything having to do with new ideas on moving education forward (ideas to move education backwards will not be accepted). We’re interested in hearing from people on all sides—right, left and center—and from as many different backgrounds and angles as possible. We want to hear from teachers, administrators, parents, students, politicians, writers and anyone interested in blogging about education and how it can be improved. So please help spread the word.

The benefits to you are many:

1. Each week you get a new link to your blog – building your search ability in google and your status on blog rating sites
2. Each week you get more traffic to your blog
3. Overall building of readership as other bloggers come to know what you are doing in the education space
4. If you don’t have a blog THIS IS A PERFECT WAY TO GET IT STARTED

To submit a blog post for consideration for inclusion in the 1st edition of the Carnival of Education innovation, our carnival submission before 4pm next Monday, August 10. This is how it will work every week—please submit by 4pm on Mondays and then check the ABCTE blog every Tuesday for the new edition of the carnival. The carnival will “travel” at times and be hosted by other bloggers. You can check the carnival homepage ( or ABCTE’s blog ( ) to find out who is hosting each week. Also – when the carnival is up – it helps if you say so on your blog with a link.

Let’s make sure that all your Education Innovations get the readership they deserve!

Please email Mike Holden here at ABCTE with any questions