Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I'm giving up on virtual schools.

Recently the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), in conjunction with MATHEMATICA Policy Research and the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) released its findings on a national study of full-time, online schools.

The results of the findings were dismal. The report was released just prior to the annual conference of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, or iNACOL, which is going on this week in Orlando to tout the benefits of virtual learning and the impact it has had.

As for the report, there were quick responses from K12, ECOT (an Ohio virtual school), and others calling into question the validity of the findings, or taking issues with key aspects of it. K12 even published a more detailed analysis of the study itself taking issue with the study's lack of taking into account persistence, enrollment date, mobility, reasons for enrolling, and more. While most of their reasoning falls flat in my opinion, they do raise some valid points.

"I'm giving up on virtual schools." -- that's what a former colleague of mine used as a subject line in her email to me, after reading the report and sending me her thoughts on it.

Other words she used were "disgraceful" and "pitiful" as she laid out her argument for agreeing with the findings. It was a long email, and one where I could tell she had put great thought into it. More than likely, she wrote it, edited, and rewrote it. It was not quick and flippant but instead was one filled with deep emotion.

I am sure it deserved a response equal to its original standard. That is why I am also confident my reply disappointed her.

Dear (      ),

It's okay to give up on virtual schools. Just don't give up on virtual schooling.

Kind regards,
Figment Consulting

Dr. James Woodworth, Senior Quantitative Research Analyst for CREDO at Stanford University, was quoted at the end of the study's press release. He said, "While the overall findings of our analysis are somber, we do believe the information will serve as the foundation for constructive discussions on the role of online learning in the K-12 sector."

An industry friend of mine and I are working now on either an article or series of articles (not sure just yet) related to Dr. Woodworth's belief in constructive discussions. Our hope is to put forth some ideas and suggestions on ways in which we can move forward -- at the policy level, oversight level, and at the school level.

At the heart of the report is what I have believed for a long time now -- the current model is broken. However, as I said to my friend via the email, don't give up on the concept. I haven't.



  1. I am currently exiting my virtual position to become an independent teacher trainer contractor with k12.com & visually impaired teacher for a school district in the Seattle, WA. I would like to sit down and talk with you via Skype because I may have an interesting business prospect that could create a revolution in virtual education. Jen Ding

    1. Hi Jen,

      You can reach me at houston@figment-consulting.com. Look forward to it.