Monday, October 31, 2011

Going Digital

Nothing, new, right? Not in theory. Digital schools as an alternative to regular school to either fastrack motivated students or as a credit recovery option before students "age out" of high school are not brand new. But they are still new enough to be untested and not proven.

One school in Cobb Count has had mixed results, graduating less than 50% of its students, but supporters think it is the wave of the future, economically and educationally. Students at Oakwood High School choose to be there (rather than being put there) and attend "classes" five days a week for three hours. There are four teachers in the room to assist them, but students basically structure their day however they see fit and work on whatever interests them (in a core curricula; there are no electives). The school offers three times of day to attend to accomodate working students. Total cost: $13,000 less per student than a traditional classroom.

This is a good theory. If these types of schools expand, students who choose to attend will take pressure off traditional schools, who may be able to offer better instruction and attention to the remaining students. There is a balance, though. Too many students leave, teachers get fired, class sizes stay big, and budgets shrink, so no enhanced programs.

I think there is a certain student who will do very well with this. A studnet who is motivated can finish early and get started with life (college, work, whatever); a student who is motivated can also work a job at the same time (providing, of course, that they can find a job). 

It is difficult to judge the efficacy of this approach until it is around for longer than five minutes, but I think it is promising. People are starting to realize the huge time waster that is public school, especially public high school, and are looking around for alternatives. We will see how this works out.

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