An important new report on online learning and accountability was released last week by Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning. Titled, School Accountability in the Digital Age, the report was written and researched by John Watson and Larry Pape with Evergreen Education Group – nationally recognized experts in the field of online learning.
Online schools and traditional schools are very different, yet the standards and accountability frameworks used to measure performance are the same. State education laws and regulations are generally designed for the brick-and-mortar school and classroom-based model. Like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole, these legal and regulatory frameworks often do not mesh well with online schools. Even worse, they risk producing an incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate, picture of the real quality and performance of online public schools, especially on the effectiveness of educating transfer students who move from a local public school to an online school.
Policymakers are left to grapple with the question: what are the best accountability frameworks to use for online schools? This report takes a big step toward answering that question by outlining 8 policy recommendations:
1. Credit schools with graduating students in five or six years.
2. Measure students’ progress towards graduation, especially for situations in which students switch schools.
3. Change funding mechanisms to systems that minimize the impact of high student mobility.
4. Publish data on student mobility for all schools, and consider creating a designation specific to schools with high rates of student mobility, regardless of other student demographic factors.
5. Require separate reporting on online programs so that online student outcomes can be tracked.