Suiting Educational Policy to “Corporate Stakeholders”: DC and Beyond

National Educational Technology Standards (“NETS”) are the creation of an organization which “strongly believes that corporations are major stakeholders in education.” NETS — under review by DC’s State Board of Education, as well as by numerous other jurisdictions around the country — are a product of ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education.

ISTE assures corporations of their central role in the organization and, therefore, in forming standards for which the organization advocates:

ISTE strongly believes that corporations are major stakeholders in education. Forging strong relationships with corporations is one of the keys to successfully transforming education. ISTE is proud of its more than 30-year history of working with corporations to help achieve our mission of advancing excellence in learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology.

Corporate champions and corporate leaders enjoy year-round opportunities to interact with ISTE members in a focused way designed to advance the field while achieving corporate objectives. Corporate champions and corporate leaders are leaders in the industry who want to retain that leadership position and partner with the premier membership association in the field to create a world in which all children can achieve their potential, and making the world’s children globally competitive and true global citizens.

Meanwhile, graduation requirements — in DC, as elsewhere — are changing to facilitate adoption of computer-based and on-line instruction.

Ridding school systems of “seat-time requirements and other outdated regulations that interfere with competency-based models” has been a goal of the Digital Learning Council, convened by former governors Jeb Bush (FL) and Bob Wise (WV). (See p.19, The Shift From Cohorts to Competency. See also “Targeted Philanthropy” and “Emails Link Bush…”.)

Schools systems are also, increasingly requiring an on-line course…not necessarily a course that might particularly benefit from on-line learning, or one that would teach “digital citizenship,” just a course. This has obvious financial implications for K12 and other providers of on-line learning programs. See, e.g., this Education Week article on Florida Virtual School is capitalizing on these new requirements:

Facing state-mandated class-size restrictions and a state requirement that all students take an online course before graduation, districts are turning to Florida Virtual to help meet both those obligations.

Supporting Evidence?

Is there any evidence that taking classes on-line, or via computer, somehow improves the experience or educational outcomes for K-12 students, generally? Not so much — although there is research on individual programs (some, K12, e.g., with less-than-rosy results).

Without waiting for research evidence, supporters of “the digital learning imperative” declare that “digital learning offers the only path to boosting achievement in this ‘decade of deficits.'” Widely-quoted proponent of digital learning (and investor in digital learning companies) Tom Vander Ark, e.g., insists that the “achievement needle” should not be expected to move when adopting on-line programs. (Nonetheless, digital learning must be adopted, apparently, because that achievement needle has been stagnant without it.)

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Educational Technology Plan of 2010 questions “seat-time” requirements (in favor of “competency”) and recommends research into online and blended learning with a view toward the adoption of such programs. As noted by The Education Town Hall (and by many others), however, the DOE specifically cautions against applying research with adults to K-12 environments.

….So, once again (with feeling):

Caution is required in generalizing the study’s findings to the K-12 population because the results are for the most part based on studies in other settings, such as in medical, career, military training, and higher education.
— “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies

No analyses were found that rigorously measured the productivity of an online learning system relative to place-based instruction in secondary schools.
— “Understanding the Implications of Online Learning for Educational Productivity

– Virginia Spatz,
for The Education Town Hall with Thomas Byrd
on We Act Radio (“Do Something!”)

Do Something!

Around the Country….Let The Education Town Hall know how the move toward “competency” and NETS is progressing in your jurisdiction. What is being adopted? What is working? What is not?

DC citizens….DC SBOE Working Session and vote, on NETS, Wednesdays, Feb. 6 and Feb. 23, respectively. Working session and vote on graduation requirements in March.

From the SBOE announcement: “While working sessions are open to the public, individuals and representatives of organizations are not permitted to speak or participate during the working session. However, individuals and representatives of organizations may submit written testimony for consideration by the Board. Written testimony may also be submitted by email at”

Inform yourself. Attend the sessions, if you can. Let the State Board know your opinions of NETS.

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