Friday, February 25, 2011

Disrupting Online Learning!

To sign up for virtual classes usual requires a substantial up front investment - but there is one group that is going to change the virtual learning landscape with a subscription model!  VirtualEDU is offering over 200 accredited online middle and high school classes for a subscription rate of $49.95 per month.

This is a pretty unbelievable advancement in the business of online learning - the subscription model is used by - but never in K-12!

With school budgets getting slashed and charter schools hurting even more, this could be a way to go from larger class sizes to a class size of one - providing the true individualized instruction that students really need.

More to come on this - but keep an eye on VirtualEDU!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gainful Employment creates Bi-Partisan Ire

Rick Hess has a great blog on the gainful employment vote in the House.  The vote was 289 to 136 to block the "ham-handed efforts to selectively regulate the eligibility of students at for-profit colleges".  Even Pelosi voted for stopping gainful employment along with the Congressional Black Caucus which feels it will stifle opportunities for nontraditional students.

Hess is against the gainful employment reg because it is not well thought out and it is punishing for-profits for doing what the fed wanted them to do - ensure access for all to higher education (does this sound a little like housing for all and the mess that created).  If you incentivize and industry to provide education or housing for all, they will do it.

The advice from Hess is sound:
" The answer is not to lash out at for-profits that have been responding to federal incentives and operating in accord with federal rules. It's not to change the rules for some institutions while giving others a free pass. It's not to covertly encourage institutions to turn away aspiring students even as the President insists that every American ought to attend some college. It is to rethink the incentives and rules, for public and private institutions alike, so that we're encouraging good actors and addressing the bad ones--whatever their tax status."

And this was one of his shorter blog posts!  Right to the point and right on point - thanks Rick.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Snow Days for the Virtual Class

Great article in St. Louis journal how students are going to class even on snow days to make sure they can master the content they need to succeed. Students completed a review for the AP History test even though schools were closed that day through a virtual review session held by their teacher. 

Anyone familiar with AP History knows there is an incredible amount of content that needs to be reviewed so the students have a chance at hitting a high enough grade to place out of taking history in college.   So one snow day does make a difference and it is the students in this case that were concerned because the test is on May 6th. 

Through the wonders of virtual learning, they didn't miss the day and were able to continue their review.  Blended learning is the key - from weather, to reviews, to credit recovery and summer school - virtual learning offers a far better way to ensure that all students have access to a great learning experience.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Online Credit Recovery Exploding

Great article in edweek by Michelle Davis, "Online Credit Recovery Emphasizes Personalized Learning". The main focus is that in Los Angeles over 2,500 students took online credit recovery compared to about 300 last year and many other large districts are following.

The benefits of online credit recovery, especially in a world of severe budget cuts eliminating summer school, are that students can go at their own pace, lessons can focus on weakness areas and students do not have the embarrassment of summer school are sitting through the class again.  Performance tracking has shown that online credit recovery is equal to or better than sitting through the class again. 

Chattanooga is taking it a step further - using credit recovery classes as an intervention BEFORE the student fails!

And the money quote from the online coordinator: "I would love to see us do so much more of this," she said. "It's a no-brainer."

Amazing how long it takes American education to implement no-brainers.

Friday, February 18, 2011

GAO launches another investigation

Most already know about the first GAO investigation and GAO for-profit videos and now it appears there is a second investigation. 

There is a signed letter at Carreercollegecentral by Senator John Kline, Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Virginia Foxx, Carolyn McCarthy, Glenn Thompson and Alcee L. Hastings that was sent to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro about the new GAO investigation. 

From the letter:
“We also learned GAO is currently working on a second investigation involving the proprietary school sector,” the letter says. “We were pleased to hear the original team that handled the initial report is prohibited from participating in the second investigation.”
(note:  this is because of the softening of the final GAO report issue)

Interesting timing and I assume the for-profit industry is keeping a close eye on their enrollment and admissions teams. 

Rep Rokita Speaks out against Gainful Employment

Nice speech by Rep Rokita from Indiana against gainful employment.  His point - if the school is accredited than you should be able to go to the school.  You don't need a bureaucrat telling you whether you have selected the right major for you.  Nice!

If the school is accredited, then you should be able to go - if there is a problem with the school, then take away the accreditation.

The end is another representative that just decides to make stuff up to further her cause.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

School Grading in NM!

Pretty big first win for education reforms in New Mexico with the school grading bill 427 passing out of committee 7 to 1!  Senator Vernon Asbill introduced the bill which is a key part of the new Secretary of Education, Hanna Skandera's reform initiatives.  It gives parents a very clear idea of how schools are educating their children and is the first part of making those parents educated consumers of education.

Congrats - obviously a long road but getting out of committee with solid vote is a great start.

Maine jumps on Ed Reform!

Governor Paul LePage has appointed Stephen Bowen, former teacher and Maine Heritage Policy center analyst as the education commissioner of Maine!  This is great news for Maine's students. Stephen is a very smart and thoughtful education leader who really understands that education needs to change and focus on the student.

Congrats and thanks for taking on such a difficult role!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Mexico: ABQ agrees

Great opinion piece in the Albuquerque Journal on Secretary Skandera's transition team stating the real facts:
  1. New Mexico's graduation rate is just over 50%
  2. New Mexcio's fourth graders rank 49th in the country on reading
The editorial staff have a tongue in cheak recommendation:  "Why mess with success, if indeed this fits your definition?"  Meanwhile, they point out that Florida has "delivered huge improvements in student proficiency" from the reforms the team is working on.

Thank you ABQ Journal!

Ed note:  I am on the transition team

The AP Question

Walt Gardner poses the question in a blog over at Ed Week.  With record numbers of high school students taking AP classes and the number of students scoring a 1 out of 5, there are questions about AP and whether it is useful or just too diluted.  But we really should not be questioning AP, we need to thoroughly question the instruction that lead up to the AP class and the AP teacher.

Many more students can succeed if they have the educational foundation and a great AP instructor. So first - let's fix the pre-instruction and the instruction so that students have a chance which is exactly what Laying the Foundation, a non-profit group here in Dallas, does for teachers.  It helps middle school teachers realize what the end game is and helps AP teachers get their students on track to pass without using the "worst pedagogy in the form of daily lectures" (which still prepares you for colleges since you will still get a lot of that - not defending, just saying).

Mr. Gardner is also concerned with critical thinking skills so he seems to have missed the fact that College Board is revamping the AP test to increase the use of critical thinking skills and decrease some of the memorization starting with biology and history.

Let's not end a program because some of the implementation is rough.  He is right that students (including both my daughters) really learn how to study and prepare for college courses by taking AP even if they don't pass.  And let's give teachers the skills so that they can help their students succeed and graduate college in 4 years for a change.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Luna Proposes Blended learning and gets attacked

This is so absolutely wrong that it borders on crazy.  Idaho State Superintendent Tom Luna had his truck vandalized and was verbally attacked outside his mother's home because he is proposing that every high school student must take an online class. 

See the posting on Tom Vander Ark's edReformer blog.

Tom Luna is attacking the problem - while Idaho's status quo defenders attack people. Sad.

Over Rhee-action: Day 12

The story continues to get legs - mainly because Jay Matthew's feels a little sheepish that no one else found the story before.  Find it here at Class Struggles.  Apparently the code to unlocking the data was googling Tesseract.  Which is kind of cool -

It is fascinating because of the way things get so inflated in the early stages of politics and then heated when things get tough.  Ed Reformers built this enormous pedestal and never bothered to see if it was legit. 

I think this is probably the last update though - - on to bigger and better education reform issues.

Technorati: U6GX6NE95MYX

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grading Schools in New Mexico

Senate Bill 427 to install a system in which public schools would be graded A-through-F hit a little road bump today but will be on the schedule for Wednesday.  This is a critical first step to identifying schools that need help.  With New Mexico students 49th in the nation - these steps are necessary and the tough choices need to be made.  SB427 would also provide financial incentives for faculty and staff at high performing schools. 

Senator Nava and Senator Asbill are working together to get things moving again. 

Secretary Hanna Skandera - New Mexico

Nicely done - interview with New Mexico's Secretary Hanna Skandera:

She is really doing some great things and does well in this interview! 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ladner - Horn Seize the Learning

I wrote about Carpe Diem - the blended learning school in Yuma Arizona back in 2009 because they had the highest scores in Arizona.  Now Ladner channels Horn on a study they did on Carpe Diem - pretty amazing

Over Rhee-action: Day 5

A story gets legs when it moves from the blogosphere to the papers.  Today the Washington Post takes a look the at OverRhee-action. In this article she admits that she should not have stated a percentage growth on her resume, just that her students had solid growth.  So without saying she lied on her resume, it appears clear that she did.

There is OverRhee-action on both sides of this issue.  It is not a big deal - but because reformers anointed her the Goddess Of All Things Education (GOATE - for the acronym lovers and it is Friday), she has to be perfect to live up to the hype. 

Now it appears that an independent arbitrator has ordered DC to reinstate 75 new teachers fired in by Rhee in 2008.  There was a "glaring and fatal flaw" in this Rhee-action because the teachers were not given reasons for their terminations.  They were invincible and right in 2008 so they didn't do their homework and now it is coming back to bite the city - and Rhee is no longer there to deal with the mess which could cost the city $7.5 million.

Wow - not a good week.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's Ed Attack Day

Today serves as a reminder that to so many people, this is not about educating our students, it is about power and being right regardless of the consequences. 

The New Mexico education advisory team has been attack for not being New Mexican enough, of for being to Floridian - which is odd since Florida rapidly close the achievement gap and increase student scores.  Who would want that?

But the strangest goes to the questions about Michelle Rhee's Baltimore teaching  and the over response.  Here you have a little blog that is obviously very anti-education reform, read by other anti-education reform believers and Michelle Rhee's team goes nuts because they attacked her teaching performance. 

ABCTE used to get attacked by a blogger all the time - he was rash, opinionated and way out there on the anti reform spectrum.  The key point is that he was out there - we didn't respond to him.  We responded by focusing on our results and making sure everyone knew how good we were doing.

Bloggers don't change their opinions.  Bloggers thrive on controversy since it brings more people to the blog.  So responding to them is a complete waste of time unless you want to provide more readers for said blog.

UPDATE:  Great job Mr. Julian in a Gadfly blogpost:
For those of the non-literati like myself:  anthropomorhpizing "refer to any attribution of human characteristics  to animals or non-living things, phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts.

UPDATE:  Not normally a big fan of Alexander Russo, has a solid analysis of why this happens without making excuses for anyone - his blog here.  Well worth the read -

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NM Secretary Skandera Announces Advisory Team

Great team of education reformers helping New Mexico start moving forward!  Press Release Here
(full disclosure, I am on the team)

This team has one common focus - New Mexico students - not politics.  Will be interesting to see what the status quo does.

Ed Schools want output - reformers push inputs in rating

Seems like the last thing Education Schools want is to be graded on their performance.  It's counter-intuitive since they teach teachers how to grade students.  But NCTQ in partnership with US News is going to start giving grades and Brian Kelly hits the nail on the head that this "is an industry that does not want to be examined".

Kudos to Kate Walsh and the Broad Foundation for pushing this even though it is not perfect yet.  The most ironic part of the article is Sharon Robinson representing colleges of education complaining this is not an output based system.  It's funny cause it's true. 

The status quo is complaining because the reformers are not output based enough!  Funny.

Many states are following Louisiana and Florida's lead and rating colleges of education based on their graduate's student performance.  In the end, we don't really care what reading book they used in college, as long as their students learn. 

Hopefully we can get annual reports on all colleges on how students of their graduates perform.  Until then - it's good to have a rating system because what is measured is where people focus their efforts.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Disruptive Innovation in Higher Ed - 'bout time

I seem to be channeling the Center for American progress a lot lately. In this case it is a report from Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, Louis Soars and Louis Caldera on Disrupting College

I come at this from two viewpoints - a frustrated parent of two college students and as a person working in the for-profit university side of things. As a parent, this report is too late to help my daughters - but I can only hope that schools and politicians listen to the recommendations to help future parents. As a for-profit university leader, this is great news for those trying to disrupt the status quo.

The issues from the report -
  • We cannot find the right people to fill jobs even though the country is facing its highest unemployment rates in a generation
  • Higher ed - financial crisis, no focus on outcomes or graduation, not serving minorities, prestige focused on research, not educating students.
"Yet changing circumstances mandate that we shift the focus of higher education policy away from how to enable more students to afford higher education to how we can make a quality postsecondary education affordable."

"Online learning appears to be this technology enabler for higher education"
Growth in online learning in higher education
  • 2003:  10% of students
  • 2008:  25% of students
  • 2009:  30% of students
  • 2014:  50% of students predicted by the authors
The problem with the current system is the focus on divergent goals of research, teaching and preparation for life and careers.  This is not a model for success.  However, the disruptive innovation of online, for-profit college and universities are focused on teaching - but need to focus more on increasing opportunities for life and careers

Take a look at the report - and let's hope this innovation gets even more disruptive for our higher education system!

Best State Capital Restaurants - Santa Fe

If you look at the bottom right of this blog you will see a list of the best restaurants in state capitals.  This past week, I went to my 33rd state capital in the United States - Santa Fe, New Mexico.  And the food there ROCKS.  It was tough to choose the best with great places like Tesuque Market, Guadelupe Cafe and Pasqual's - but La Choza won for incredible green chili and awesome fresh silver coin margaritas. 

Only 17 state capitals to go and hopefully this will be the year that I resume my tour. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Mexico Reforms

If you missed it, here is the Real Accountability, Hard Work Can Fix NM Schools guest column in the ABQ Journal by New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera.

The basics:
  1. Grading formula for schools using the A through F grading system that everyone understands
  2. Reward success ('A' schools) and reverse failure ('F' schools)
  3. Ending social promotion - students must have the skills to advance
  4. Keep more money in classrooms
  5. Fund programs that work - stop paying for programs that don't
Many will recognize the education reforms that have Florida schools eliminating the achievement gap.  If something works, we should stick with it.

More to come as we follow New Mexico and the new education reforms taking hold!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Evidence on Portfolios

My team used to laugh as I would always cringe at the mention of portfolios as a way to judge efficacy.  So when I came to New Mexico and say that their career ladder was built on portfolio submission, I was admittedly skeptical - but kept an open mind.

Apparently - the New Mexico Legislature was skeptical too.  After investing more than $274 million in rewarding teachers for moving up the ladder, they wanted to know if it was positively affecting student outcomes.  Below is a summary of the report -

Public Education Department
The Three Tiered Licensure System and The Achievement Gap
July 4, 2009 report from the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee

  • Since 2004, New Mexico has spent $278.4 million in appropriations from the general fund to implement the three tiered licensure system
  • Difference in licensure levels in student achievement is approximately 2 points
  • When controlling for classroom type, there is no statistically significant difference in student performance for the different teaching level
Other findings
  • There are wide variation in teacher effectiveness at all levels
  • Several teachers at all levels produced negative average score changes for their students
  • Of the 2,336 teachers in the analysis, only 32 teachers increase reading score by over 35 points – enough to move a student into a different proficiency level
  • 177 teachers saw their scores actually decrease
  • An online survey of teachers received 430 responses – 10% citing concerns about the validity of the process and possible fraudulent submissions
  • The achievement gap has not changed since 2004
Key Recommendations
  • PED should develop a bonus pay for performance pilot
  • PED should convene a workgroup to evaluate the following proposals
  • Require more evidence of student performance in PDD submissions and teacher evaluations
  • Establish goals for expected growth on NMSBA in grade level and content area
  • Give districts additional guidance about how to use student performance data to target professional development for teachers showing less than desirable performance
  • Continue to study the link between teacher effectiveness and student outcomes.
Note that to reach tier 3 you must have either a master's or National Board so this more proof that these don't affect student achievement.  It is really great to see the legislature gathering hard data on programs to make decisions and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.