How we fund schools determines how we learn, and the funding mechanism is way out of date.
This guet post by a long-time friend of mine, Ted Kraver, who has been an advocate for educational transformation for twenty years, suggests a legislative strategy to modernize K-12 education. You can contact him directly using the information at the end of the post, or you can comment here and I will alert him:-)
What is necessary for education in our century includes
Competency learning to complement the seat time system
Data driven reporting and decision support;
Broadband use by everyone;
Teacher transformation for the digital age;
Global digital curriculum access with effective application.
There are many objectives for student learning, but the one the State of Arizona pays for is student competency over a wide range of disciplines. Some courses of learning are prescribed, and some of these are backed with state standards. Others courses are elected by students in their specialized areas of interest.
Today we are not getting what we pay for.
The problem is that the current funding system has evolved to prevent competency in well over a third of the student population. The current system funds seat time based on a 100 day average daily attendance formula resulting in lockstep promotion by grade level. Struggling students are passed through the system and gifted students are turned off by lack of effective learning engagement. When this system was designed in the late 1800’s there were no data to drive decision support systems to enable individualized learning. The economy could only accommodate a small percentage of the graduates with full competency of the course materials in a K-12 education.
In 1896 my grandmother graduated high school with a full curriculum including geometry, Algebra, Greek and Latin. Her first job was teaching high school. Most of her classmates learned their numbers and letters in the lower grades and prospered in retail, factories or farms in the Cleveland area.
Thirty students to a class with a teacher and the agricultural annual cycle worked just fine in 1896. Relating funding to costs of running this lockstep 13 yearly cycles settled on seat time as an effective administrative means. With manual accounting systems, it was a simple way to forecast and allocate educational expenditures.
The financial administration of all other aspects of our society have changed in the past 120 years. The funding mechanism for K-12 education must also change.
Many national experts and leading Arizona advocacy organizations are promoting the complex method of basing school funding on student competency learning vs. the more easily administratively measured seat-time. There are many pilot programs supporting this system design. One example is the large publicly funded K-12 Florida Virtual Schools which works at the single student-course level.
Online-virtual education has an education structure and results that are not currently available in the traditional classroom. They provide individual education that is at each student’s natural learning pace. The teachers provide significant one-on-one support along with some group collaboration. The current implementations are mostly in the 7-12 grade levels. The academic performance results from a 2009 US Department of Education study of online and hybrid education show significant academic performance gains over legacy education. This means of learning will continue its compound growth. In a hybrid form it will become a disruptive innovation that transforms legacy classroom education.
One of the first things we need to implement is an enhanced State of Arizona K-12 funding system. The current system must be transformed to support not only the online and hybrid forms of eLearning but all aspects of eLearning. The means a systematic transformation of many of the administrative centered funding mechanisms to student centered mechanisms. This systemic transformation will take 7 to 10 years to implement. For starters Arizona can legislate student centered competency education funding as an alternative to seat time funding.
The following elements are suggested for 2010 legislative attention. Both have low startup cost and are the foundational to the systemic transformation.
1. Design, fund and implement a system that will provide a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) that is individualized each student. The PLP will be the center of the data driven decision support system used by the student, teacher and parents to guide the K-12 student’s academic career. Elements of this plan will be used to determine course completion competency/proficiency and to report individual student status and progress to school, district, parents and the state data system.
2. Provide funding and assign responsibility to an agency(s) to assess, plan, redesign and implement a transformation of one aspect of the K-12 financial system. This transformation will enable the funding of any public school, in whole or in part, based not on average daily attendance, but on individual student course completion measured by end of course testing for competency. The level of competency set for each course within each PLP will vary based on student learning ability and ambitions. The individual teacher-parent-student team will make these determinations. The range of competency levels will be bounded at the low end to meet Arizona academic standards and the upper end by student ability, motivation and ambition.
Theodore C. Kraver Ph.D. President
eLearning System for Arizona Teachers and Students Inc.
not-for-profit 501-c3 volunteer systems design and advocacy organization
firstname.lastname@example.org 602-944-8557(direct) http://www.azelearning.org
225 West Orchid Lane Phoenix, AZ 85021