Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Did the On-Line Schools Do This Year?

Long-time readers have seen a lot from me about on-line schools here in Washington State, including a comparison of test scores that I did last fall. The whole series can be found here.

What's changed in the last year? Not much. If anything, on-line schools are doing worse than ever when compared to their brick and mortar counterparts. You can see a spreadsheet that I made here; the general upshot is:
  • Out of 111 tested areas, on-line schools were better than the state average 12 times.
  • On-line highschools fared extremely poorly--in 29 attempts, they didn't beat the state average a single time. It's the same for 5th grade (0 for 12).
  • The brightest spots were 6th grade math (2 school out of 5 beat the state average) and the third grade tests (3 of 8).
In the interim since I worked on this year's spreadsheet and got around to finally putting it up on the blog I also received the September edition of the Freedom Foundation's Living Liberty newsletter. Within there's a column from their lead education analyst Diana Moore where she once again overstates the case for on-line schools. For example:
Like the mythical king Sisyphus, reformers seemed doomed to roll a heavy rock up a hill for eternity. Yet online learning might just be the lever to heave that rock to the other side.
That lever was better than the existing system about 11% of the time. In some cases those lever schools had scores less than half those of the state average. On-line schools aren't excelling.
The groundswell of online learning is growing. If this continues at the same pace, it will be hard for status quo protectors to stop.
Not really--you'll just have to look at the results and say, "Wow, those schools have problems."
With online learning, we have the historic ability to reclaim the mission of public education from the statists and interest groups who have perverted it. It is possible to offer access to a world class education to every child. Every child.
And this is when I get pissy. Those statists that Diana slags on here are beating the online schools regularly and thoroughly. This call that she makes here, to some bygone era where learning was somehow better, doesn't match up with the data owned by the schools that she's pushing. For certain kids online education may well be a better option, but instead of focusing on the micro aspect she tries to take it into a macro argument about the school system in general, and she's a lesser person for it. We should have online programs, but let's make sure the conversation about them stays honest. What I get thrown back at me fairly regularly is "But Ryan, the mission of the on-line schools is different!", and that may well be true, but consider--if I made that argument about a public school like Wellpinit, or a program from downtown Seattle, Spokane, or Tacoma, if I showed you a "failing" public school and said to you "But those kids are different!", do you think that those in the ed reform movement would grant the point or accuse me of embracing the soft bigotry of low expectations and giving up on kids? When the data is this overwhelming you have to ask yourself what the Freedom Foundation gets out of it, and they've made that clear: the important thing is to screw the WEA. This isn't about freedom, the free market, or conservative principles--it's about the agenda, and that agenda has absolutely nothing to do with students.

A new year begins. Online schools have been poor for two consecutive years. Is there any reason to believe that will change?

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Anonymous Daniela said...

If funding issues don't corrupt the process too badly there's no reason to think that online schools won't get better as they refine their methods and people become more used to them.

10:02 AM  

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