By The Bakersfield Californian
For a state that has been at the innovative forefront of digital technology since the beginning, it's alarming to note that California lags behind in the development and deployment of online learning in elementary and secondary educational settings.
Based on an analysis by two digital education not-for-profits, one headed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the other by former Democratic Gov. Bob Wise of West Virginia, California comes in dead last in a comparison of states' implementation of strategies incorporating new approaches, John Fensterwald reports in Thoughts On Public Education's Educated Guess blog.
Digital Learning Now!, a project of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and the Alliance for Excellent Education looked at which states were taking new approaches -- such as dropping calendar restrictions for the completion of courses offered online and allowing middle school students to take high school courses on their home computers -- and which states were lagging behind. And the nation's top laggard was California, a finding that belies the state's reputation -- increasingly fanciful and self-deceiving -- for innovation.
Online education is not, in and of itself, better than more traditional approaches, and when poorly executed, it can be much worse. "Virtual schools" in Colorado and Minnesota have significantly underperformed in comparisons with peer schools, so it's clearly possible to lose ground by failing to find the right mix between computer screens and more personalized instruction, among other variables.
But the willingness to encourage digital technology in the classroom is usually accompanied by the willingness to modify other conventions, whether related student-teacher ratios, calendar limitations or curriculum standards. A state with education challenges as daunting as California's cannot afford to stand to the side and watch for long.