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Monday Churn: Blended learning report

Updated: A new report from a local foundation urges Colorado to take a leading role in developing workable models of “blended learning,” which combines online studies with face-to-face teaching and learning.

“Blended learning: The Best of Both Worlds” was released this morning by the Donnell-Kay Foundation (disclosure: the foundation is a funder of Education News Colorado). Some education policy experts look favorably upon blended learning because it allows highly individualized instruction without requiring financially unfeasible staffing ratios, yet provides students with vital face-to-face time with a flesh and blood teacher.

“In order for our kids to be competitive and successful in our global economy,” the report says, “we need to move from a school system that is exclusively “brick and mortar” bound and based on seat time, building schedules, and age-based groupings to one that blends face to face with digital learning and is more student- centered, flexible, and embraces the skills, creativity, and technologies that will best prepare our kids for success in the global economy.”

The report points out several challenges Colorado faces in expanding online or blended learning. One key problem is a lack of broadband internet access in rural communities. Another is that students in Colorado online schools today perform significantly worse on standardized tests than students in traditional brick and mortar schools.

However, the report points out, a significant number of online students are highly mobile or face challenges (pregnancy, already having dropped out) that directly contribute to their poor performance.

The study “strongly encourages education and policy leaders in Colorado to develop a vision and strategy for moving our state to a place where all students have access to high quality learning options, regardless of where they live or the school they attend.”

Among the reports recommendations:

  • The state should examine whether there should be different accountability requirements for online schools than traditional schools;
  • Policymakers should examine whether per-pupil revenue can be split so that some money goes to a student’s brick and mortar school and some to online providers from whom students are taking classes;
  • Experts need to figure out a way to “co-own” student achievement results of students in blended learning;
  • Teacher training needs to be revamped to prepare young teachers to work in an online or blended environment.

Download the full report here.


What’s churning:

This week’s education calendar is packed with events, starting this morning when the Senate gives final consideration to a package of 2010-11 budget balancing bills, several of which affect education spending.

On Tuesday Gov. John Hickenlooper unveils his 2011-12 budget proposals, which are widely expected to contain significant cuts for K-12 education (see story).

Otherwise at the Capitol, the bill to make undocumented students eligible for resident college tuition rates and measures to tighten up school employment of felons, make changes in the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, expand a charter school bonding program and to launch new studies of higher education and of student transitions and remediation are on committee agendas.

It’s expected to be a week that will see some of those bills die and others heavily amended. Full legislative calendar as of this morning

What’s on tap:


The State Board of Education has reserved a 10 a.m.-noon window for a possible conference call about the search for a new commissioner.

The Denver school board has a work session starting at 4:30 p.m. in the boardroom at 900 Grant St. Agenda

The Cherry Creek school board will convene at 7 p.m. at Arrowhead Elementary School, 19100 E. Bates Ave. in Aurora. Agenda


Gov. John Hickenlooper will present his 2011-12 budget proposal to the Joint Budget Committee in hearing room A of the Legislative Services Building, 200 E. 14th Ave.

The Aurora school board meets at 6 p.m. at 1085 Peoria St. Notice of public hearing


A two-day U.S. Department of Education conference on Advancing Student Achievement Through Labor-Management Collaboration convenes at 2 p.m. at the Colorado Convention Center. More information


The Denver school board has a regular meeting starting at 4 p.m. at 900 Grant St. Agenda

The Jefferson County school board has a legislative update session starting at 7 p.m. at 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden. Agenda


The State Council for Educator Effectiveness meets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum, 7711 East Academy Blvd., Denver.

Good reads from elsewhere: