0213_Online learning is being increased to boost graduation rates–in order to receive school ranking and funding– By Zoe Kirsch_ Dallas Morning News – 6.6.17

Donna Jack
June 12, 2017

Online learning is increasingly being used to boost graduation rates.  Online learning replaces teacher classroom instruction time.

There is no measure of the quality of online learning — no quality contro!  Graduation rates are tied to the performance grade of schools.  Graduation rate increases are necessary for a school to receive funding – increases that must occur in order in order for principals to keep their jobs –and ultimately for schools to continue existing.

Do increased rates of student graduation from high school, automatically reflect what students have accomplished academically?  Or are graduation rate increases just empty goals to reach, in order for schools to get funding – and for principals to keep their jobs?  What does graduation from high school actually measure?  Does graduation necessarily measure anything – or does “graduation”insure any academic meaning at all?

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From: Donna Garner <wgarner1@hot.rr.com> Sent: Wednesday, June 7, 2017 9:19 AM To: Donna Garner Subject: HOW SCHOOLS GOT HOOKED ON ONLINE LEARNING TO BOOST GRADUATION RATES – BY ZOE KIRSCH – DALLAS MORNING NEWS – 6.6.17

6.6.17 – Dallas Morning News

“How Schools Got Hooked on Online Learning To Boost Graduation Rates”
By Zoe Kirsch, Contributor

 https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/06/06/schools-got-hooked-online-learning-boost-graduation-rates

How schools got hooked on online learning to boost …

www.dallasnews.com

Don’t miss a story. Like us on Facebook. Like Dallas News’ Facebook Page Florida’s superintendents had a graduation problem. Nearly a decade ago, state officials …

 Excerpts from this article: 

Florida’s superintendents had a graduation problem.

Nearly a decade ago, state officials decreed that starting in 2009, graduation data would factor into the letter grades assigned to individual schools. The stakes were high: Consecutive failing marks meant that the state could mandate major changes, like replacing the school’s principal; significant improvement translated into extra cash for perks like teacher bonuses and athletic equipment.

The policy change worried Reginald James, then the superintendent of the Gadsden County School District in the Florida Panhandle. By 2010, Gadsden’s graduation rate had fallen to a bleak 43 percent.

So at the start of the 2010-11 school year, James initiated a host of new efforts: lecturing parents about the importance of keeping their teenagers on track, meeting with guidance counselors to review student performance, and pouring money into an after-school tutoring program. For his efforts, he saw a 12-point boost in the graduation rate. That was pretty good, but not nearly enough.

The summer after that exhausting school year, James heard about a different way to raise Gadsden’s graduation rates: online credit recovery.

Despite its anodyne name, online credit recovery promised a radical turnaround in student performance. It was cheaper than any other option; it was easier; and, James says, “It was getting results” in other districts around the state. He bought in, licensing a virtual program called EdOptions for students in his district who had failed in-person classes and needed another way to graduate on time. “I was driven by what we needed to do,” James says.

By 2016, Gadsden’s graduation rate had swelled to 68.4 percent. And as that metric improved, local reliance on online credit recovery grew. The average pupil in Gadsden will take two or three of the virtual classes before graduation, most in core subjects like math and English.

What has happened in Gadsden shows how the push to rank schools based on measures like graduation rates, codified by the No Child Left Behind Act, has transformed the country’s approach to secondary education, as scores of districts have outsourced core instruction to computers and downgraded the role of the traditional teacher. It also offers a glimpse into what that shift means for the students who are increasingly dependent on online courses to help prepare them for college and the workforce. The view from the ground suggests that many online credit recovery courses are subpar substitutes for traditional classroom instruction.

But online credit recovery, which started proliferating in earnest nearly a decade ago, has morphed into a booming, baffling business in which dozens of companies of varying quality compete to sell school districts the latest virtual versions of courses like English II and geometry. There are no comprehensive national statistics on how many districts are using it.

Almost 90 percent of school districts use some form of credit recovery, according to a 2011 report from the National Center for Education Statistics. (The center doesn’t distinguish between online and other forms.) And data cited by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a trade group, shows that at least 75 percent of districts use some form of online learning. Texas is among the states that allow students enrolled in public schools to take online courses for credit. So we can say this about online credit recovery: It’s pretty big.

Across the country, many school districts, including several of the nation’s largest, have seen graduation rates soar after introducing online credit recovery.

In Georgia, where half a million high schoolers enrolled in more than 20,700 online credit recovery classes in 2015, officials admitted that the courses had helped the state improve its graduation rate. But a review by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that just 10 percent of students who passed online credit recovery classes in subjects included on the state’s standardized test that year were actually proficient in the relevant areas. “They’ve created a second-class credit,” said Jeremy Noonan, a former teacher in Georgia’s Douglas County.

State investigations, or investigations of any kind, into the prevalence and quality of online credit recovery remain rare. While many state education departments have started to review online education providers, few bar districts from using companies that don’t meet their standards. Most fail to track the number of students enrolled in online credit recovery courses statewide, and almost none caps the number of virtual classes a student can take to qualify for a diploma.

When, nine years ago, officials at the National Collegiate Athletic Association noticed a spike in the number of online credit recovery courses appearing on high school transcripts, they undertook their own review. Under a set of requirements adopted by its member schools, the NCAA now contacts school districts to gauge how much time online courses take to complete and how much interaction students have with instructors.

The vast majority fail to pass muster, according to Nick Sproull, whose high school review department oversees inspection efforts for the NCAA. That means many students who rely heavily on online credit recovery have to find another way to complete the required coursework or be rendered ineligible to compete in college-level sports.

A visit to West Gadsden’s virtual learning lab last fall revealed that rigor varied considerably, depending upon how much students applied themselves and how often they asked for help.

A senior named Justin who needed an Algebra I credit to graduate leaned into the glow of his computer monitor, trying to grasp systems of linear inequalities. To his left, classmates streamed a Knicks game on YouTube while swapping pieces of candy. That’s definitely against the rules, but nobody reprimanded them.

Justin, whose last name is being withheld to protect his privacy, failed algebra his freshman year. He was retaking the class in the fall of his senior year to squeeze in the credit before graduation in the spring.

An on-screen prompt asked Justin to determine the relationship between a point and two inequalities. He stared at it for half a minute before dragging his cursor over the prompt and dropping it into Google. Within seconds, he found the solution there. Another swift cut and paste, and Justin answered the question correctly.

Although Justin struggles with memorization and dislikes tests, he’s fond of the online course. “You can move quicker than in class,” he said. “All the units I did were pretty easy.” Later, Justin struggled to summon an example of something he’d learned recently. “It’s mostly just to graduate,” he said.

Zoe Kirsch is a writer for Slate in New York. Sarah Carr, Francesca Berardi, and Stephen Smiley contributed to this report. Twitter: @Zrkirsch

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Donna Garner
Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

 

 

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