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Spreading Carpe Diem-Like Learning Success Requires Colorado Policy Changes

Back in April I brought your attention to Arizona’s cutting-edge, outstanding-results “blended learning” charter known as Carpe Diem. While you might have found my post and Ben DeGrow’s School Reform News feature story interesting, this 9-minute marketing video really brings it home:

Carpe Diem Marketing Video – Final Cut from Nicholas Tucker on Vimeo.

Let’s be honest: Carpe Diem’s success didn’t happen overnight. It has taken plenty of careful design, hard work, skill and dedication. But it’s all definitely worthwhile when you ponder the results. With comparable student demographics, the stats that jump out of the video are the 92 percent academic proficiency the school has attained (vs. 57% local and 65% state averages, respectively) while spending thousands of dollars less per student than in the nation or Arizona.

Carpe Diem founder and executive director Rick Ogston wraps up the video with this compelling conclusion:

So we can scale this and replicate this around the state and around the country. A good education that leverages whatever a student needs to succeed needs to be available for all students. As you can see, Carpe Diem is working. And now it’s your turn to seize the day.

Now we’re not talking about making Carpe Diem cookie-cutters all over the USA. Blended learning is on the rise here in Colorado, but nothing that really follows all the major successful elements of Carpe Diem. At least not yet. Why not? Part of the problem is a set of antiquated state policies that dictate school inputs over outcomes.

Following in the wake of the groundbreaking recommendations from the national Digital Learning Council is the new Innosight Institute report Moving from Inputs to Outputs to Outcomes. Co-authors Michael Horn and Katherine Mackey lay out a series of essential policy changes to make possible more Carpe Diem schools and other productive and effective blended learning innovations:

  • Pay online providers not just for serving children, but also for student performance.
  • Reward not just for output-based performance—as in, when a student completes a course—but for real learning outcomes independently verified.
  • Reward operators for individual student growth that takes into account formative and summative assessments.
  • Allow students to demonstrate competency through assessments, portfolios, or other means anytime they complete a course, not just at limited fixed times throughout the year.
  • Eliminate input-based rules, such as student-to-teacher-ratios, seat-time, and teacher- certification requirements.
  • Give school operators control over their budgets and allow them to have significantly more freedom in how they allocate dollars.
  • Ensure the proper infrastructure—Internet access and Internet-access devices—is in place.

The full Innosight Institute report with more specific examples and documentation is available here (PDF). Like running the successful schools themselves, getting there is neither easy nor simple. But these elements at least are top education priorities for Colorado policy makers in the near future? Right? I certainly hope so.