Four themes that Keeping Pace 2011 introduced largely hold true a year later, with some updates for 2012:
Many states have created or allowed some online and blended learning opportunities, but no state has yet created or allowed a full range of online learning options for students—with one exception. Florida in 2012 has passed laws that, in theory at least, make a full range of supplemental and full-time online options available to all K-12 students. At the other end of the spectrum, in many states at least some students still have few or no online options; their educational opportunities continue to be determined by their zip code.
Innovators sometimes overlook the benefits, and challenges, of “traditional” online learning such as single online courses that are made available to students in physical schools. These courses and programs continue to deliver new opportunities to hundreds of thousands of students across the country. They are increasingly being offered by individual districts, often working in conjunction with private providers and/or public agencies such as state virtual schools.
Developing an online or blended program requires a high level of investment to be successful, or a willingness to work with an experienced partner. Expecting positive student results without the necessary investment is unrealistic. In the “Planning for quality” section we highlight key issues and suggest timelines for implementation under different program development scenarios.
States must invest in data systems, student tracking, and new accountability measures to ensure that online and blended learning provide both opportunities and positive outcomes, and that all stakeholders can accurately assess student and school performance. As of 2012, robust measures of student achievement do not exist in most states.
Beyond these themes, discussion of the landscape in late 2012 can be divided into categories of growth, important developments, and trends to watch for in 2012-13.