Posts Tagged ‘On-line learning’

Secular Humanism Alive and Well… at least in John Birch Society’s Mind

July 9, 2017 Leave a comment

Every morning I get a “Google Alert” consisting of several articles on public education, and invariably I get some from publications I would never read. Yesterday’s “Alert” provided a case in point: an article from The New American written by Steve Byas titled “What is the Alternative as Public Schools Degenerate“. The “essay” is effectively a lengthy advertisement for FreedomProject Academy, an online school which is described in glowing terms in the closing section of the “essay” which is printed in it’s entirety at the end of this paragraph. The rationale for enrolling your child in this on-line program is presented in the earlier section of the essay, whose headings give you a sense of the thinking of Mr Byas. They read: “Secular Humanism: Established Religion of Public Schools”; “Academics Take a Back Seat to Secular Humanism”; “Public Schools are Full of Leftist Propaganda”: “Common Core: Nationalizing Education”; “Can the Public Schools be ‘Saved'”; and finally, “FreedomProject Academy: A Fresh Alternative”.  I invite you to read about this “fresh alternative”:

One option we are particularly familiar with, and highly recommend, is FreedomProject Academy (FPA), which is affiliated with The John Birch Society, the parent organization behind The New American. FPA is a private, online K-12 school that does not accept any government funds. While not affiliated with any Christian denomination, the school has adopted a definite Judeo-Christian worldview.

Courses are delivered online through interactive classrooms to students around the world. The school is fully accredited, and it provides diplomas and transcripts. Founded in 2011, FreedomProject Academy offers a first-rate, classical education that acquaints students with great literature and the wisdom of the ages, including the principles of freedom that guided the Founding Fathers. According to its website, “FPA is happy to provide a fully accredited curriculum recognized for its authenticity and excellence, without any need to compromise our beliefs or high academic standards. FPA remains opposed to implementation of Common Core in public, private, and homeschool curricula, and will not tolerate it in our own classrooms.

The online classes of FPA are in real time, with live teachers and student interaction, not recorded lessons. Students log in at specified times, have opportunities to ask questions, and are also called upon during class.

FPA graduates have enrolled in higher education, have accepted internships, and have entered the workforce. They are prepared to compete academically at an extremely high level, bolstered by an education centered on civics, economics, writing, and math, and fortified by the Judeo-Christian values that are at the heart of the curriculum.

Dr. Duke Pesta, the academic director for FPA, told The New American, “Many kids who take our placement exams end up joining FPA after spending a few years in private schools, where parents become frustrated with the cost of tuition and imposition of Common Core in the classroom.” The placement exams, which are given at no charge, help FPA determine whether a student should be in, say, French I or French II. These tests are also utilized by many homeschooling families to monitor their children’s progress.

Pesta added that FPA partners with private schools, homeschools, co-ops, and churches, delivering “our teachers and curriculum into their local communities,” giving families a quality, yet affordable, education in safe spaces. He noted that “FPA’s reputation as a national leader in online K-12 education has provided a platform for us to offer national leadership in the fight against Common Core standards and the federalization of education. [FPA kids are] economically literate [and] schooled in the Constitution and founding documents. We are creating morally responsible, civic-minded thinkers, and we’re doing it without the help of the federal government.”

The reason that some parents are reluctant to homeschool their own children is that they feel educationally inadequate, especially as their children grow older and need specialized instruction in more advanced subjects. For these parents, FPA might very well be the solution.

And it is a safe bet that FPA will not be making use of history textbooks coming out of the California system of public schools.

As a secular humanist, it is also a safe bet I will not be subscribing to The New American any time soon.


Bryce Covert’s Review of Richard Reeves’ New Book Exposes His Timidity, Underscores Need to Reformat Schools

July 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Bryce Covert, the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress and columnist for The Nation, wrote an insightful review of Brookings Institute’s Richard Reeves’ new book Dream Hoarders. The premise of Mr. Reeves’ book is that the top 20% (i.e. those who earn roughly $117,000 or more) has experienced as many benefits from the economic expansion as the top .01% yet they— and the politicians— erroneously think of themselves as “middle class”. As a consequence, when politicians promise to “protect the middle class” from tax cuts they define the “middle class” as anyone making less than $250,000. Furthermore, as Mr. Reeves points out, those in the top 20% are not being asked to make any sacrifices when it comes to helping improve the opportunities for the bottom 80% to advance. Ms. Covert writes:

While, Reeves notes, individual members of the 1 percent can swing their money around to great impact, the upper middle class as a bloc has outsized influence. “[T]he size and strength of the upper middle class means that it can reshape cities, dominate the education system, and transform the labor market,” he writes. When their interests are threatened, the members of this class have the social capital to fight back….

Pretending that people making six figures are middle class, and then promising to protect them from any tax increases, means politicians are unable to ask these families to pay a tiny tax into new universal benefits like paid family leave. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Real solutions to exponentially increasing income inequality will require extensive public investment. And the tax revenue required can’t all come from the top 1 percent... “[M]ore money can be raised from the upper middle class without plunging them into near poverty…,” he notes. “[I]f we need additional resources for public investment, it is reasonable to raise some of them from the upper middle class.”

But Ms. Covert asserts that it is not sufficient to ask the top 20% for only higher taxes, and she believes that while Mr. Reeves’ recognizes this reality, he fails to offer the tough recommendations needed to change this reality:

(Reeves) also sees this class as not just defined by income, but by better health, education, occupational opportunities, and even different family structure. The upper middle class then uses these assets to hoard opportunities for itself, perpetuating an unfair system: Its members fight to preserve zoning laws that keep the good schools free of poorer children, find ways to pay their children’s way into elite colleges (he takes particular umbrage with legacy admissions), and trade favors to get their kids into unpaid internships. The rich skew the game so that American class structure stays entrenched.

In this way, Reeves accurately names a problem that too often goes unacknowledged. But his solutions for the problem are weak at best.

While he admits that his suggestions for how to solve perpetual class stratification are just a starting point, the lack of teeth is telling. He suggests providing low-income Americans with better access to family planning and home visits from nurses for new parents, ignoring the fact that single mothers fare a whole lot better in countries that actually spend enough on their social safety nets. He wants better teachers in K-12 schools, a less complex college loan process, more support for vocational training, and the end to legacy admissions at elite universities, but stops short of calling for a full-scale overhaul of the educational system, one that would put an end to racial segregation and ensure adequate funding for all…

He doesn’t want the Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure that communities comply with fair housing rules or even to make upper-middle-class areas accept more high-rises; he just wants more three-story buildings. On taxes, he believes, “As a general principle, it is better for people to be able to spend their own money rather than have it taken away from them,” which leads him to endorse merely limiting some tax deductions used by the well-off.

Ms. Covert believes that “...for all his talk of a rigged system, Reeves doesn’t actually want to transform it“. Rather, Ms. Covert believes that Mr. Reeves wants to ensure that every child born into poverty has an equal opportunity to move into the upper 20%, a possibility that he believes is close at hand. Ms. Covert sees Mr. Reeves’ perception as flawed on two levels. First, it assumes that our economy must be a zero-sum game where there will always be a 20/80 split and secondly, it naively assumes that women and minorities are currently afforded the same opportunities as men and whites. In short, Ms. Covert does not share Mr. Reeves beliefs that a true meritocracy is close at hand. She concludes her review with these paragraphs:

Meanwhile, meritocracy is more often to blame for perpetuating discrimination than heralding its end. One study found that when an organization explicitly calls itself a meritocracy, managers favor male employees over female ones. If a workplace, or a society, believes that all one needs to get ahead is talent, it quickly ignores anything else that might keep someone from rising.

Reeves says he wants upper-middle-class Americans like himself to pay more so that the playing field is leveled for all. But his solutions suggest he’s not willing to take that instinct very far. His class wouldn’t have to pony up very much for the milquetoast solutions he puts forward. Even after his ideal revisions, the basic structure of America’s ruthless market-based society would remain intact. In his world, being a member of the lower classes, even with more mobility, would still destine you to destitution.

I believe Ms. Covert’s analysis is accurate: in order for those born into poverty, especially the young women born into poverty, to succeed, some deep changes in our economic system are necessary, changes that could be presaged by changing the format of our schools. As long as school boundaries are set by socio-economic demographics we will continue to reinforce the rigid 20/80 split in place making it increasingly difficult for those in the lower 80% to advance into the professional class. The imaginative use of technology might make those boundaries disappear… but only if we can make our current format of education— whereby children are grouped by age-based cohorts called “grades levels”— disappear as well.


The Absurdity of Ignoring the Potential of Technology to Support Individualization

July 3, 2017 Leave a comment

I read Diane Ravitch’s blog every morning to get her take and her commenter’s take on emerging educational trends. While I generally agree with her analyses, I am disappointed that she and many of those who comment regularly seem stuck in the notion that schooling needs to be structured the way it is now and seem reflexively opposed to any kind of technological enhancements to schooling. Her post today and the comments that accompany it are a case in point.

Titled “The Absurdity of applying Industrial Lingo to Schools“, Ms. Ravitch’s post is a well reasoned argument against the notion that schools can be “scaled” the way businesses can be:

While it is possible for schools to adopt and adapt a program or a practice that has worked out for others, the very idea of reproducing cookie-cutter schools designed to get high test scores invalidates the professional wisdom of educators. You can stamp out cars and tools with the right equipment, but you can’t reproduce good schools via mechanical processes.

People who work in business, industry, finance, or the tech sector like to speak of “scaling up,” of “innovation,” of “best practices,” and of “replication,” which they know how to do.

They are frustrated that success in one school is not easily packaged and replicated and scaled up to every school in the district, the state, the nation. They can’t believe how difficult it is to identify and package “best practices.”

So far so good… But then Ms. Ravitch argues against “innovation” itself, apparently linking ALL innovation with charters, vouchers, and for-profit management.

The concept of “innovation” is also overrated. It is not innovative to introduce charters and vouchers and for-profit management. All that changes is who gets the money.

And this raises an intriguing question for me: have the so-called “edu-prenuers” expropriated the term “innovation” the way they have expropriated the term “reform”… or are public education supporters ceding “innovation” to them?  By rejecting “personalization” that is made possible by technological advances, Ms. Ravitch and those who comment most frequently appear to implicitly support the notion that schooling must be provided in the same format that was designed in the 1920s when children were first batched into grade levels based on their age groups and provided with direct instruction in large groups. My thinking is that public schools need to find a way to re-format themselves or they will soon become obsolete. Let me elaborate.

The personalization promoted by some so-called “edu-prenuers” like Khan Academy provides a means for teachers to individualize instruction by using carefully sequenced curricula that embed formative assessments. This form of “personalized learning” is basically an electronic version of the color-coded SRA reading series used extensively beginning in the early 1960s, a form of “programmed instruction” based on the behaviorist theories of B. F. Skinner. While I am very familiar with the animosity many educators feel toward Skinner and the shortcomings of the SRA series (see Audrey Watters article here), I am drawn to the notion that many hierarchical foundational skills (namely reading, science, mathematics, and to a degree foreign language) can be taught effectively using technology-based instruction like Khan Academy. As a first-year junior high math teacher in Philadelphia in 1970 I designed my own SRA-like program for a group of my students who struggled with the basics, a packet of mimeographed sheets that provided individualized instruction and increased the engagement of the class. Preparing this required hours of my time outside of the classroom but reduced the time I needed to spend grading tests, homework, and worksheets. It seemed like a reasonable trade-off since more of the students appeared to be mastering the fundamental skills they lacked when they entered my classroom.

Over the course of my career as an educator, I watched computer technology advance from a clunky card-reader linked to a mainframe in Philadelphia in the 1971 computer class I taught to junior high students… to Commodore PET computers I used in Bethel, Maine in the late 1970s to the various iterations of Apple computers that evolved thereafter…. to where we are today. We HAVE the wherewithal to provide the kind of individualization needed to assure that all students master the hierarchical foundational skills at their own rate. But everyone– including the “reformers”— seems to believe school needs to be formatted in age-based cohorts and that students need to progress from one “grade level” to the next in a fixed time sequence. That is the underlying premise of the standardized tests used to assess the effectiveness of schools and the progress students make and, evidently, the underlying premise of those who support public education and oppose any form of “innovation” that is linked to technology.

At the elementary level the community school concept, whereby public schools house social workers, medical care providers, pre-school programs, and before-and-after-school child care services, redefines the purpose of school facilities in a manner that would help break the 1920 industrial age model that reinforces social service silos. To be most effective, these providers would need to share information on children to ensure seamless services and avoid duplication of efforts. Technology can facilitate that exchange.

There are many promising developments at the policy level that can free public schools from the lockstep methods we currently use. Both Vermont and New Hampshire, for example, have abandoned the Carnegie Unit as the means for determining high school credits. This opens the door for the kind of de-schooling that some commenters decry… but it also promises to make high school far more relevant for those who do not aspire to college. Again, technology can facilitate this development.

I think that critics of “reform”, “innovation”, and “edu-prenuers” should also recognize that profiteering has long been present in public education. The sale of textbooks, workbooks, audio-visual equipment, and office supplies predates the event of computer technology. What IS different is the conglomeration of these formerly independent enterprises, the establishment of a testing-technology-content complex that limits competition, limits diversity of resources, and stifles the creativity of teachers. I believe it is possible to isolate this corporate consolidation from technology and innovation and, in so doing, find ways that technology can be used to individualize instruction without dehumanizing it, to de-school society without eliminating public education, and break away from the age-based cohorts that are based on the premise that children develop in lockstep.



“Assembly Line Justice”: an Apt Metaphor for a Department of Education Driven by Efficiency

June 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Late yesterday I read an article by Erica Green of the NYTimes titled “Education Department Says It Will Scale Back Civil Rights Legislation”. The overarching purpose of  the “scaling back” is to reduce the backlog of cases in the department that are primarily the result of former President Obama’s directive to perform thorough and comprehensive investigations where they were warranted.

The office’s processing times have “skyrocketed,” the Education Department spokeswoman, Liz Hill, said, adding that its backlog of cases has “exploded.” The new guidelines were to ensure that “every individual complainant gets the care and attention they deserve,” she said.

In the memo, which was first published by ProPublica, (the acting head of the department’s office for civil rights, Candace) Jackson emphasized that the new protocols were aimed at resolving cases quickly.

“Justice delayed is justice denied, and justice for many complainants has been denied for too long,” Ms. Hill said in a statement.

But to civil rights activists, the real problem isn’t that justice will be denied to complainants. It’s that justice will not be rendered at all.

But civil rights leaders believe that the new directives will have the opposite effect. They say that Education Department staff members would be discouraged from opening cases and that investigations could be weakened because efficiency would take priority over thoroughness.

If we want to have assembly-line justice, and I say ‘justice’ in quotes, then that’s the direction that we should go,” said Catherine Lhamon, who was the assistant secretary of the Education Department’s civil rights office under Mr. Obama, and who now heads the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Ms. Green’s article explores the difference between the approaches Ms. Lhamon took in her civil rights investigations and those advocated by the incoming staff, describing how one particular case in a public school district required the district to dig into it’s disciplinary records for past years, an exercise that resulted in the district gaining a better understanding of its practices that resulted in a disproportionate number of harsh actions taken against minority students. This kind of in depth analysis requires staff time at the USDOE level as well, and as cases like these accumulated the backlog accumulated as well. In the name of efficiency, though, these kinds of thorough investigations will be a thing of the past.

In the concluding paragraph of the article, Ms. Green describes the budgetary gambit Betsy DeVos is using to facilitate the “judicious approach” the department will implement.

In the administration’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins in October, the Education Department has proposed cutting more than 40 staff positions from the office for civil rights, which would require the office to “make difficult choices, including cutting back on initiating proactive investigations,” the department wrote.

In effect, Ms. DeVos is submitting a budget that will ensure the necessity for limiting the thorough investigations… a budget that will require “assembly-line justice”. For a department that is enamored of algorithmic on-line learning it seems fitting that they would adopt algorithmic justice. Students, after all, are widgets that require periodic quality control via standardized tests and periodic attention from teachers who make sure the robots are providing sufficient knowledge. Who needs a thorough education when an efficient one is sufficient?

Educational Choice vs. School Choice vs. the Implicit Mission of Public Schools

May 22, 2017 Leave a comment

Christensen Institute’s article on last week’s blog by Michael Horn made a distinction between educational choice and school choice, noting that while school choice is getting a lot of publicity (and notoriety), the real change in the format of public education might be emerging in educational choice. And what is educational choice? It is a method parents can use to access some aspects of schooling in traditional public schools while accessing other aspects on line or in other venues. Here’s Michael Horn’s description:

…rather than have the school control the educational experiences, as occurs in course access, a subset of parents, particularly at the elementary school level—both public and home-school—are opting to manage their children’s education and customize a mix of public brick-and-mortar school, online school, home school, and even some private school (such as private music lessons) experiences. In other words, a student might take her core academics online at home, come in to the local elementary school for arts and physical education, and then enroll in a music academy for private piano lessons. Or the core classes could be at the public school and extracurricular activities could be delivered online. All of this is possible in Florida because of FLVS’s Flex program, which allows students to attend part-time.

After describing the technological change process in detail, Mr. Horn posits that what is happening in Florida with an increasing number of parents opting for this “customized mix” of educational models is also emerging as a trend nationwide:

Outside of Florida, the emergence of a wide variety of micro-schools points to a similar phenomenon. The families who send their children to micro-schools often want an option other than home schooling that will personalize learning for their child’s needs. And they are often thrilled if it’s a stripped-down, small school that students attend a couple days a week where they can customize their children’s experience around the edges, in areas like music, science, engineering, sports, and so forth. In other words, it’s perfectly fine that the school itself offers something limited in an area because the parents will find another way to provide students with that experience. This is actually something parents of home-schooled children have done for years, but increasingly some seem to be saying that they would like some of the benefits of the local public school, for which they are paying with their tax dollars, as they do so.

Having just spent the week-end at an Air BnB site that is located in the home of two individuals who operate a small private school that fits the description of the micro-school described above, I can see one problem with this trend. If parents are allowed to access public funds to attend a school that effectively reinforces the values of the parents, it could lead to a further Balkanization of our country. The school in question reinforces that value I would like to see in all public schools. It espouses harmony with the environment; collaboration, and cooperation among students; independent thinking and learning by individual students; and and ethic of multiculturalism. But around the corner from this school, it is conceivable that another school with a militaristic, survivalist curriculum could be created. In effect you would be fragmenting the population into micro-value systems where one school would be wearing tie-dyes and another wearing camouflage and neither group would be exposed to the other. One of the implicit purposes of public education is to reinforce the notion that our country is a melting pot. That is, we are united as a nation despite our differences of religious and secular beliefs and that unity is an overarching value we share. While the housing patterns and district borders might work against this notion and might even lead cynics to declare that unity is a myth as opposed to an aspiration, I fear that encouraging the dissolution of public schools through this kind of educational choice will lead to even more Balkanization than we already have in place.

In the end, I find that Mr. Horn’s justification for moving in this direction is even more disturbing: it could save taxpayers money!

The net impact on public financing… was actually positive to the tune of roughly $400 to $500 saving per student, not insignificant in a state where total per pupil funding hovers around $8,500 in any given year.

In his closing paragraph Mr. Horn DOES acknowledge that the ultimate consequences of implementing widespread educational choice are indeterminate:

If programs like this expanded, could those savings be redirected to students most in need? And how do the students of families who avail themselves of this choice do academically, socially and from an extracurricular perspective? Many questions to be asked and answered, but this development is an intriguing wrinkle that takes us well beyond the national theme of school choice.

I like the idea of micro-schools, but only if there is some assurance that they do not isolate children from others who hold different values and beliefs. We need to maintain (or perhaps restore or even impose) economic, racial, ethnic, and religious diversity in public schools if we hope to change the national trend of corrosive divisiveness. If we hope to make that change in the future, we need to make it happen in public schools today.

Google Making Inroads in Inequity, Innovation, and Instruction… AND Making Profits…

May 14, 2017 Leave a comment

I remember the first time I came in contact with Google. I was working as Superintendent in the late 1990s in an Upstate NY district and had recently hired a Director of Technology to a position I created in order to coordinate our efforts to move ahead in that area. The newly minted administrator came into my office and asked me to enter one word next to the cursor that was blinking on the screen of my terminal… a word he spelled out for me: “G-O-O-G-L-E”. A message box appeared on my screen. He then asked me to type in a question or a phrase. Because we were both Red Sox fans in Yankee territory I typed in the words “Boston Red Sox”… and a series of links to articles about the Boston Red Sox appeared on the screen. We both spent the next half-hour using Google to help us find all kinds of arcane information from journals and periodicals on the web… and since both of us had earned doctoral degrees in the mid 1970s we could immediately see that the world of research was going to change and began forecasting how this kind of rapid access to information could transform schooling.

It’s taken nearly two decades to have some the ideas we came up with come into being… but based on Natasha Singer’s article in today’s NYTimes it appears that Google IS transforming public education and teachers and administrators are making that transformation happen… and the transformation is making it conceivable that despite the lack of an equitable technology infrastructure (roughly 20% of students do not have access to high speed internet in their homes) and despite concerns about data privacy and despite budget challenges, Google is finding a way to meaningfully integrate technology into the classroom.

The article describes how Google circumvented administrative and political roadblocks by working directly with tech savvy teachers and technology directors, providing them with free apps and tools for their schools and classrooms. Those teachers, in turn, recruited colleagues and administrators to use Google applications instead of those clunkier and costlier ones made by Microsoft.

The real breakthrough for Google occurred only five years ago: the Chromebook.

By then, Google had developed a simplified, low-cost laptop called the Chromebook. It ran on Google’s Chrome operating system and revolved largely around web apps, making it cheaper and often faster to boot up than traditional laptops loaded with locally stored software.

Although Google had a business audience in mind for Chromebooks, reviewers complained that the devices were of limited use without internet access.

But there was one interested audience: public schools. In the fall of 2011, Google invited school administrators to its Chicago office to meet (Google’s “evangelist”) Jamie Casap, hoping to interest them in Chromebooks.

Mr. Casap didn’t talk tech specs. Instead, he held the audience spellbound as he described the challenges he had faced as a Latino student growing up on welfare in a tough Manhattan neighborhood.

His message: Education is the great equalizer, and technology breaks down barriers between rich and poor students.

Some critics, me included, would caution against technology as a means of providing the equalizing effect because of disparities in internet access… but Google was aware of that reality and had an answer:

Google was already working on offline capabilities, Mr. Casap said, and ultimately modified its education apps so that students could take their work home on Chromebooks, then upload homework the next day using school Wi-Fi.

Indeed, based on Ms. Singer’s account, one of Google’s greatest attributes was its willingness to listen to concerns of educators and adapt accordingly. Based on her account, Google’s “build-it-first-and-tweak-it-later culture” has adapted to the “bureaucratic school districts with student-protection rules to uphold” and has now understood that before launching a major change it needs to be mindful of the way democratic organizations like school districts function.

The marked increase in the use of technology is remarkable… Now comes the tough change: can the gurus who developed the software making it possible to individualize instruction unlock the age-based grade levels that prevent educators from meeting the unique needs of each child because they must ensure that age cohorts progress in lockstep? Stated differently, can they break the stranglehold of standardized testing that grips the mindsets of politicians from school board members to the USDOE? Here’s hoping they can help launch a grassroots effort among parents in the same way they did among teachers.

On-line Preschool Looks Like a Convenient Way to Save Money… and Save Face… But NOT Save Children

March 15, 2017 Leave a comment

Having worked as a consultant for several school districts in Vermont, I know that one of the challenges district in that state face is how to implement a recent legislative mandate to provide a quality preschool  for all children. In trying to provide Universal Preschool, school districts face physical and political problems— geographically remote students, undersized and outmoded schools, and pre-existing “Nursery School” programs operated out of private homes— and fiscal problems— the price tag for teachers, aides, and other support staff can be daunting.

A recent article by Thomas Arnett in ESchool News has a possible solution to these thorny issues: online pre-school. Mr. Arnett reports that Utah instituted such a program called Upstart over six years ago and the result are promising:

In the six years since it launched, Upstart’s results have shown students in the program to demonstrate strong gains in early literacy that significantly exceed those of students in matched control groups.

As these cohorts of Upstart students progress through their first few years of school, they continue to outperform their peers on state exams. Most noteworthy is the fact that special education students, low-income students and English learners have the largest gains relative to their comparable peer groups.

Given that Upstart costs just $725 per student, it is a more-than-sensible solution in states where universal preschool does not exist.

A variation of the caveat phrase, “in states where universal preschool does not exist” appears again at the end of the article, with another caveat on top of it regarding affordability:

But for parents who cannot afford private preschool and who do not live in a region with state-funded preschool options, these programs offer valuable access to early learning opportunities.

As many states rush to provide universal preschool education, I would not be at all surprised to see this model expand rapidly. Why? Because politicians realize that getting parents used to the idea of delivering instruction through computers as opposed to having live human beings provide instruction will save millions of dollars over time… and the fact that it can be done for a fraction of the current cost will enable them to keep their promise to expand programs without having to raise taxes, hire hundreds of new teachers, or worry about transportation logistics or facility limitations. A restatement of the last paragraph with a slightly different slant will indicate why these online preschools are likely to spread:

But for politicians who are unwilling to raise taxes to cover the costs of public preschools that are the equivalent to private preschool and who govern a region with NO state-funded preschool options, these programs offer valuable way to claim they are offering access to early learning opportunities.

You can call something a “preschool”… but if it consists of “…15 minutes per day, five days per week, (where) students log into the curriculum to engage in adaptive lessons, digital books, songs, and activities designed to develop their knowledge and skills in reading, mathematics and science.” it doesn’t warrant the name— especially when it is overseen by an untrained parent. Watch, though: in the next five years I am willing to wager that at least ten states will launch online preschools based on “The Utah Model”— unless they use their $725 voucher to help underwrite the cost of a bona fide preschool or a sectarian preschool that offers Bible instruction.