One of the big promises of Ohio's charters schools, free from regulation and oversight, was to be their capacity to innovate. However, that lack of regulation and oversight has led to constant reports of failure and fraud. But what of the original promise of innovation?
A new report, published by The Learning Accelerator and the Clayton Christensen Institute, casts doubt even on this. The study aims to analyze the current state of blended learning on Ohio, and looked at both traditional schools and charters. This is how the writers describe blended learning
Blended learning entails the fundamental redesign of learning models. Educators around the world are adopting it to help all students be successful in realizing their full potential in college, careers, and life thanks to its ability to enable personalized learning and mastery and its potential to increase access and equity and control costs. Educators want to create a student-centered learning system for all students, and blended learning is the most promising way to do so at scale. Schools are using it to rethink how teaching and learning occurs and to redesign schooling structures, schedules, staffing, and budgets.
With such a bold description you would think Ohio's charter schools, whose mission it is to innovate, would be all over blended learning and leading the way.
Not so much. The study finds that it is traditional public schools that are out front, and by a significant margin, with two-thirds (66%) of school districts using blending, but less than half (42%) of charter schools.
Looking deeper into the study data, the disparity becomes more revealing, and alarming. It appears that charter schools and traditional schools are implementing different blended learning solutions. Traditional schools are using it to expand opportunities and offerings for students, whereas charters appear to be offering a model to reduce teaching costs.
Charters can be seen to heavily rely upon a flex model of blended learning. In the Flex model, online learning is the major aspect of the students path. Students primarily learn online, while being seated in a brick-and-mortar structure. The teacher or aide is available for face-to-face support/structure and facilitates offline activities and group/whole-class discussion on a discretionary or need-be basis.
Whereas, traditional schools using a la carte models allow students to take one or more specific online courses while also taking traditional offline courses. For instance, a student may take an online math course while also taking science, language arts, and P.E. in a traditional offline setting.
The only true innovation Ohio's charter schools have perfected is profit taking, along every other dimension of measure they are being out-schools by traditional public schools.