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Independence Institute Shares Colorado’s Own Digital Learning Roadmap

Do you ever get lost, driving around a big city and missing your destination? Maybe you pass the same landmark two, three, or even four times, getting more frustrated along the way. Maybe your GPS is malfunctioning, or maybe you just wish you had a GPS! For me, the feeling comes as I search for the pirates’ buried stash of gold doubloons (okay, it’s really some of those chocolate candies wrapped in gold foil, but please play along). What makes it so much easier to find the treasure?

That’s right, a map. A treasure map. X marks the spot. Now it isn’t exactly the same, but today my Education Policy Center friends officially released “The Future of Colorado Digital Learning: Crafting a Policy Roadmap for Reform.” A quick read with some pretty graphics (thanks, Tracy!), it lays out the main policy changes that many of the state’s online education leaders see as important — including some of the important changes Center director Pam Benigno highlighted in an op-ed last fall.

From the media release sent out this morning:

The nine key policy changes were embraced at a January 23 Independence Institute gathering by a diverse group of 50 Colorado online education leaders and policy experts, including personnel from school districts and charter schools. Most of the changes were adapted directly from the national Digital Learning Now! campaign’s Roadmap for Reform.

“We’ve been encouraged by the strong consensus for these student-centered policies,” Benigno said. [link added]

The January 23 event — which the Independence Institute and Donnell-Kay Foundation sponsored together — featured iNACOL’s Susan Patrick as keynote speaker and facilitator. CDE Assistant Commissioner Amy Anderson and former State Board of Education member Randy DeHoff were co-facilitators.

To find out more about the process behind the roadmap and some of its key themes, you can listen to a 20-minute podcast discussion between a couple of my Education Policy Center friends and Donnell-Kay’s Matt Samelson. Of course, you also should read the publication for fuller detail, background and related resources, but here are the leading consensus policy items that emerged:

  • The public school student enrollment count system should allot funding based on multiple attendance count dates.
  • Schools should have ready access to a statewide system that tracks assessment, graduation and other learning data for student cohorts, giving proper clarification and direction to the policy that records belong to the student.
  • All schools should have high-speed broadband Internet access.
  • The school finance system should enable fractional funding to be allotted in smaller increments than full-time or half-time only, breaking up per-pupil revenues (PPR) by student and time to reach the course level.
  • Instructional seat time should be eliminated as defined criteria for determining whether a student earns academic course credit.
  • Internet access devices should be available to all students and teachers.
  • School finance dollars should be delivered through “backpack funding” (also known as weighted student funding), in which per-pupil revenues (PPR) directly follow a student to the school and courses of his/her choice.
  • Individual online course providers should be rewarded based on a system of performance-based (or competency-based) funding, providing the final installment of state dollars when a student successfully completes a course.
  • Secondary students should be required to demonstrate competency, primarily on standard end-of-course exams, to earn course credit. AND Students should be provided multiple opportunities throughout the year to take end-of-course exams.

Those nine important policy changes won’t exactly lead me to buried treasure, or even to a box of chocolates. But the new roadmap does show what Colorado can do to effectively allow technology to enhance the work of great teachers and to foster innovation and students’ ability to customize their educational opportunities.

I’ll take that kind of change any day. But then again, why can’t I have student-centered digital learning AND eat my chocolate candy, too?