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A Colorado Digital BOCES? Leave the Creative Ideas to Innovative Falcon 49

Intriguing. The Colorado Springs Gazette today reports that some of the region’s leading education innovators have proposed a new idea to provide specialized oversight and support to online learning programs:

The Falcon School District 49 school board is expected to vote Thursday on a proposal that would create a collaborative education organization that could charter and provide services to online schools statewide. The concept was pitched to the board last week.

D-49 would not have oversight of the proposed Colorado Digital Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES), but appeared poised to jump start the organization’s creation. District officials said D-49 would not benefit financially from the entity.

The digital BOCES would focus on blended and online learning programs across the state, said Kim McClelland, D-49’s iConnect Zone Leader. It would charter online schools, instead of districts being responsible, she said.

It is fairly well known that recent years have brought a challenge for virtual schools to equip students with sufficient access and to ensure quality learning outcomes. Part of the problem doubtless has been state policymakers dragging their feet rather than quickly (and deliberately) following needed steps in Colorado’s digital learning policy road map.

But what about also creating a new BOCES that specializes in, and focuses on, enhancing student course access and teacher professional development in digital style? The idea has potential and is definitely worth exploring further. Especially as we’re quickly entering a world where school facilities are being redesigned to meet the demands of digital and blended learning. (Not surprisingly, the innovative Falcon 49 is at the forefront with the 2012 grand opening of the Falcon Virtual Academy campus.)

Two years ago parents and teachers in the El Paso County school district began to convene around innovation. Having re-purposed and downsized its central administration to provide significant savings, many of Falcon’s schools have gone on to secure innovation status from the State Board of Education–including waivers from tenure, in one case.

The district also is forging new frontiers in “backpack funding” to make sure most funds follow students into the principal of the school where they have chosen to attend. Most recently, Falcon has been busy redesigning the teacher career track and the professional options available to them.

So taking on the newly proposed Colorado Digital BOCES by itself likely would be too ambitious for the 15,000-student district. But since you can count on them to guide the way toward student-centered, cost-saving innovation, it isn’t surprising to see them forwarding the idea.

One more good development for little Eddie to keep my eye on….