Keeping Pace with K12 Online and Blended Learning

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In this latest research, the Evergreen Education Group looks at how far districts have come with online learning, as well as how far administrators still have to go, and what is needed to get there.

Important developments in 2012

New laws and policies are being created and implemented at a dizzying pace. These policy changes are among the key developments in 2012, but by no means the only ones. Beyond the spread of online courses and schools, among the significant developments in the past year are:

  • Provisions to allow students to choose online courses from multiple providers are being implemented in about a half-dozen states. By the end of SY 2012-13 we will be seeing the first results.
  • Established blended school providers Rocketship Education and Carpe Diem Schools are moving into new states, and experienced providers of fully online schools are opening new blended schools. Given that there is likely a limit to the number of students who want to attend a fully online school, we expect blended schools to be an area of considerable growth and innovation in the near future.
  • States continue to consider, and in some cases pass, online learning high school graduation requirements. In some instances the states appear to be weakening the requirements, making it easier for students to meet the requirement.
  • The spread of the Common Core State Standards is helping online course providers who operate across many states, and the growing focus and expectations around the national assessment consortia PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced are pushing schools and states to evaluate their technology infrastructure.

Both of these will ease the way for additional online and blended course implementations. Common Core and national assessments are not discussed in detail in the report, but we anticipate addressing them in future reports or on our blog at www.kpk12.com.

What to watch for in 2013

Because developments in online and blended learning are difficult to predict, Keeping Pace puts a heavier emphasis on what happened in the 2011-12 school year than on predicting the future. Still, several trends and developments will be worth watching in 2013.

One of these will be what happens in states that are considering allowing fully online schools but have not yet done so, such as Maine, North Carolina, and New Jersey, and states that have limited fully online schools, such as New Hampshire, Arkansas, and Virginia. In 2013 we may see a significant slowing of the spread of fully online schools, and political activities in these states will be an early indication.

We will also be watching for the growth of new blended schools. This may take the form of further expansion of charter schools managed by organizations such as Rocketship, Carpe Diem, Connections, or K12 Inc., or it may be based on new organizations or new independent blended schools. Further growth in this category may spur increased activity by individual school districts, state virtual schools, intermediate districts, and other public education agencies.

These changes will be reflected in next year’s version of Table 1: State-level snapshot of online learning activity. We will be watching to see the progress in expanding more opportunities, to more students, across more states.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly but not easily reflected in a single table or image, we will be assessing how well state accountability and data systems are able to capture student outcomes. This will undoubtedly be a multi-year process, but we are hopeful that we will see noteworthy advances in 2013, with the goals that students will have expanding opportunities in online and blended learning, and these schools and courses will show improved quality based on student outcomes.

Read the entire report at http://kpk12.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/KeepingPace2012.pdf.

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