Home > Uncategorized > Efficiency is the Hallmark of Virtual Academies… But COVID is Showing America the Difference Between Efficiency and Effectiveness

Efficiency is the Hallmark of Virtual Academies… But COVID is Showing America the Difference Between Efficiency and Effectiveness

February 21, 2021

Efficiency is defined as by Wikipedia as follows:

Efficiency is the (often measurable) ability to avoid wasting materials, energy, efforts, money, and time in doing something or in producing a desired result. In a more general sense, it is the ability to do things well, successfully, and without waste.

The same source defines EFFECTIVENESS as:

Effectiveness is the capability of producing a desired result or the ability to produce desired output. When something is deemed effective, it means it has an intended or expected outcome, or produces a deep, vivid impression.

We’ve learned over the years that our current model of education is both inefficient and ineffective, assuming the “expected outcome” of funded education is a universal cohort students who are ready for work, ready for college, or ready for both. Many observers of our current model see it as a failure because it is not subject to “market forces”, believing that such forces will yield both efficiency and effectiveness. While there is no evidence whatsoever that this happens in the REAL marketplace, there is a massive amount of evidence that the marketplace CAN drive down costs by substituting lower wage employees for higher wage ones by outsourcing labor or diminishing the power of employee groups OR introducing technology. Those who value the marketplace model place a premium on EFFICIENCY over EFFECTIVENESS…. and far and away the most EFFICIENT means of educating children is replace sentient teachers with algorithmic models.

As readers of this blog know, I’ve often used the phrase “efficiency is the enemy” in blog posts to decry the practice of REPLACING live teaching with some form of computer instruction. At the same time, I am a big fan of flipped instruction, Khan Academy mini-lectures that explain complicated issues in clear language, and even entire units in Khan Academy where subjects like math lend themselves to algorithmic learning— learning that can replace the rote drills that teachers often oversee in large groups. When technology AUGMENTS learning in the form, it is, I believe, unarguably GOOD.

But when technology is the primary (if not exclusive) form of instruction, it is unarguably BAD.

All of this is a lead up to this Diane Ravitch post from last weekend that describes the boots-on-the-ground experience of a newly minted K12 teacher in California, an experience that included this observation:

Though it seems nauseatingly naive in retrospect, I had hoped and at one time believed that “free and fair education for all” could and logically should include our nation’s public schools having efficient access to the technologies and mass deployment systems for online education which our tax dollars have paid for.

Instead, I now realize that an otherwise logical process of voting tax payers receiving the public education they deserve has been perhaps irrevocably hijacked and perverted by the “double-speak” of “school choice” proponents and the contemporary scourge of insatiably greedy corporations.

The private for-profit enterprise K12 is notoriously efficient: they deliver a McDonald’s education at the price of a sit down restaurant. They do so by employing newly minted teachers instead of those with experience and assigning the teachers large numbers of students. It’s VERY inexpensive to deliver this instruction… and when K12 provides this at the same rate states pay for traditional schooling the taxes don’t need to go up to get the same results as before and the K12 shareholders are VERY happy.

After living through the past year, it should be abundantly clear to voters and taxpayers that online schooling is insufficient and ineffective even if it IS efficient in terms of cost. If that lesson hasn’t been learned, maybe it’s time for the voters to get some remedial education.

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