Thursday, April 12, 2012

A real breakthrough

In education circles, people like to use the word "breakthrough" a lot. It's to be expected, given that the space is a bit evangelical right now with people trying to come up with transformational ideas.

But what, really, would a breakthrough mean?

If we think about technology, breakthroughs tend to mean better performance for less cost. An iPhone does a lot of the stuff people use their computers for, but costs less and can travel in your pocket. A digitally-delivered magazine could have more interactive content, and not have all the distribution costs.

Viewed in that light, a real education breakthrough would mean something that raises achievement but also cuts costs from the current model.

I think that last part is going to be critical in the near future. It's no secret that many state budgets have suffered a lot in the last few years, and also that the political interest in raising taxes is, well, minimal. Some states like California are already re-working their per pupil allotments and given the benefits and pensions costs that small class sizes will come with, this is likely not going to be sustainable long-term.

That's why many people are so excited about blended learning models -- doing digital/online learning for some coursework, and redeploying teachers as tutors. A teacher who can track students in real time and let them all work at their own pace can cover more students (with non-teachers running interference and doing crowd control). Most blended learning schools are pretty new. So we'll see if their cost structure turns out to be lower or not (particularly once all their equipment is taken into account). Few things in the history of education reform have turned out to lower costs.

Sustainable financing models might be another approach to lowering taxpayer costs. The Cristo Rey Network has thrived with its urban Catholic schools by having kids work one day a week as temps at local offices. It's interesting to think if there might be ways students could raise money for their own education at other schools. I don't know, but perhaps that will be the real breakthrough someday...

6 comments:

lgm said...

>>A teacher who can track students in real time and let them all work at their own pace can cover more students (with non-teachers running interference and doing crowd control).

This is nothing new. It is called independent study or 'on contract'. In the Jurassic, students like myself read the textbook and consulted with the teacher as needed. All that's new here is that reading isn't req'd. One just needs to listen to the audio...expensive equipment instead of a textbook is req'd.

Anonymous said...

What about the emotional/social side of school? Are you really proposing this for elementary students? Once you make those the working conditions and lower the pay for the paraeducators/nonteachers, you are going to recruit some of the bottom of the barrel to supervise young children.


There are some really big holes in this idea.

lgm said...

>>So we'll see if their cost structure turns out to be lower or not (particularly once all their equipment is taken into account).

The big cost is in the amt of administrators and special educators needed. The ratio of these staffers:students is not going to change under this idea.

Susan Hogarth said...

My name is Susan Hogarth, I am a Certified Transition Coach and am an expert in the field of Gifted and At Risk Youth. I facilitate online parent support groups and self awareness programs that assist parents of gifted youth in leading a less stressful life and creating a more relaxed, balanced family. My contact information and website are 604-581-4452, CZcozching.com please contact me for more information on our upcoming support group starting in June.

Anonymous said...

This isn't anything new! Florida Virtual School, FLVS, is what I have been taking for years. We have online clubs like math club, yearbook, fine arts, science club, and lots more. Students who excel in a certain subject can also help peer tutor in an area if they are approved. It is awesome and free in the state of Florida. We use virtual whiteboards and live chat to do some lessons and work at our own pace for others. FLVS is so much fun and is often available for partial enrollement if you have friends in traditional school and want to attend for part of the day. Online learning is flexible, effective and AMAZING!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Like any other "method", it won't work for EVERYBODY. Schools have such diversity in motivation, abilities, and family/culture support/drive for education that a variety of methods are indicated.

I do think having access to the "best" instructors on interactive computer program is good for motivated GT kids who need a chance to move faster than is traditionally offered. But these kids also tend to have questions and discussion needs that may not be contained in a program.

Since this is "gifted exchange" I won't go into applying this to nongifted.