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So Glad to Find Insights and Direction for HB 1382′s Online Pilot Programs

A somewhat overlooked education policy outcome from this year’s Colorado legislative session was the passage of House Bill 1382. Outside the realm of full-time online schools, where the legislation has real but not overwhelming impact,

HB 1382 generally follows the recommendations of a short-lived K-12 Online Education Commission, which I told you about earlier. As sent to the governor, the bill authorizes the creation of a task force that would work on two major areas:

  1. Craft high-quality standards for authorizers of K-12 online programs; and
  2. Oversee the development of pilot programs to test innovative education policies in the online sector.

The legislative language included some specific recommendations of areas that could be tested. Unfortunately, the final bill left off one area explicitly recommended by the Commission: “Course-level, proportional, & competency-based funding.” The good news is that the bill language says “including but not limited to,” so nothing is stopping this set of ideas from proceeding in the pilot programs.

You may recall course-level and competency-based funding make up a critical part of the collaborative 2012 Digital Learning Policy Road Map facilitated by my Education Policy Center friends. It got even more attention in an issue paper they published touting how an idea Utah set in motion could also come to life and help students here in Colorado.

Coincidentally, I found some helpful insights in a couple recent blog pieces by one of the foremost groups studying and promoting this area of innovation: the Clayton Christensen Institute. (In fact, the K-12 Online Commission successfully recommended some of the language from the Christensen Institute’s blended learning definition be included in the Colorado statutes.)

First, Michael Horn digs into the question of how we can tell if course choice has been successful. He says that a huge enrollment in course choice is not a necessary ingredient if “districts create innovative programs that improve the success of each student.”

Second, Julia Freeland points us to the studied example of New Hampshire’s evolving competency-based secondary education system. As a result of the Institute’s work, we can see how moving from the traditional Carnegie Unit system to one in which students advance at their own pace requires a culture change that takes hard and often slow work.

That’s a lesson North Carolina should internalize as it moves forward, given the fact its State Board of Education just “approved a policy allowing students to earn course credit based solely on their demonstrated mastery of the subject.” Maybe Tarheel leaders also have checked out our own Adams School District 50′s steady and significant progress under its Competency Based System.

What doors might HB 1382 open in Colorado that lead to to effective, student-centered innovation? It’s not entirely clear at this point, but you can bet I’ll be watching and cheering for some real progress and breakthroughs.