Report: Online learning needs quality assurance

Graduation rate

Obtaining a high school diploma or equivalent (such as a GED) represents an important milestone for students and is an indicator of future economic and social success. Graduation rate, however, has some drawbacks that must be addressed if it’s to be used effectively as a performance indicator of online-learning programs.

Often this measure does not consider student mobility and credit deficiencies when students move into a new school. In many cases, graduation rate does not include an accommodation for extended time, and in some cases schools’ graduation rates are based on cohorts instead of individual students.

College and career readiness

Definitions of college readiness vary. Regardless of the specific definition, there is a growing gap between students having a high school diploma or GED and being fully prepared with knowledge, skills, and dispositions for postsecondary education or to enter the workforce.

Closing the achievement gap

Closing the achievement gap must include quality assurance provisions to ensure all students are held to high standards of college and career readiness and provide equity and excellence for all students.

“The ability for teachers and students to access immediate data opens up the possibility for the opportunity to know where a student is in their learning, and what is needed to move them forward, guiding and supporting students as they move at their own pace, demonstrating mastery, lesson to lesson,” said Patrick.

“The ability to support student-centered progress and demonstration of content knowledge is one of the most powerful aspects of online learning. Understanding what makes a learning environment for students most effective is desperately needed to ensure student attainment, content mastery, knowledge, and success. These core concepts can help move the field towards thinking more about outcomes-based performance metrics for quality assurance for any learning environment, as well as online schools.”

“High-quality education providers—whether public schools, nonprofit organizations, or private companies—want to be able to demonstrate positive student outcomes, but are often limited in their ability to do so by state data and assessment systems,” said John Watson, founder of the Evergreen Education Group. “The recommendations in this report will help states move toward being able to better assess a wide range of educational organizations.”

In the United States there are nearly 2 million students taking single online courses and 275,000 students in full-time online schools, the report says. Twenty-eight states offer online courses through a statewide virtual school providing students with supplemental online courses; 31 states have full-time online schools for students in K-12 education.

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