Four months ago, Michael Horn and Heather Staker released a white paper, “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning.” In it, they warned policymakers of the need to support blended learning—education that splits students’ time between the teacher-led classroom and the digital realm—lest it get stymied by current statutes around seat time, class sizes, life-long teacher contracts, etc. This follow-up paper profiles forty organizations engaged in blended learning of some sort, offering specifics to readers seeking a clearer picture of what blended learning actually looks like for the student and teacher. Along with this framing, the paper offers some smart, concrete policy recommendations to push for easier expansion of the blended-education approach. Some have been voiced in other reformer circles—things like relaxing “highly qualified teacher” mandates (to bring content experts into online classrooms) and completing the transition to the Common Core (to avoid tension between them and state standards). Others are out-of-the-box, but merit serious consideration. For example: those programs able to educate students for less money than the state allotment should be allowed to bank the extra funds in education savings accounts, from which students may pull to pay for tutoring, college tuition, and the like. As blended-learning policy and understanding begin to take shape, this paper—and the original in the series—do well to frame the issue.
Heather Staker, “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning: Profiles of emerging models,” (Mountain View, CA: Innosight Institute, May 2011).