State should back virtual charters

The fact that New Mexico’s education system is in dire need of reform is not lost on citizens of our state. Recent polling found that 75 percent support the simple act of holding back third graders who can’t read.

This is good news! People clearly want to see reform — and our children deserve the best education possible for them.

While eliminating the social promotion of third-graders who cannot read would be a good start for the Legislature next session, we need to use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that kids can read and their schools are successfully teaching them to do so.

Hopefully, voters focus on this issue in the upcoming election and weigh support for such modest education reforms in deciding who they wish to represent their interests in Santa Fe.

The reality is that banning third-grade social promotion is not enough to improve our schools. In fact, no single education reform is going to solve the problems that have been with us for generations.

One reform that is sweeping the nation — but is being hindered here in New Mexico — is the fast-growing virtual/digital learning model.

Why is New Mexico, once again, falling behind in education?

We do have the state’s first full-time virtual charter school up and running in Farmington because an innovative school district saw the possibility of virtual education. But, New Mexico Connections Academy, a proposed full-time, statewide public virtual school that applied for another charter for the 2013-2014 school years, was denied on a 6-3 vote by the Public Education Commission.

Despite strong interest from parents, a thorough application, committed volunteer board, and no opposition voiced at a public meeting, the PEC turned down the New Mexico Connections Aca-demy charter application.

The application is now on appeal to Education Secretary-designate Skandera.

There are countless examples of how technology has positively impacted virtually every aspect of our lives. It is only now getting started in truly changing education.

The PEC’s decision was based in part on a Richardson-era legal opinion that questioned the legality of “virtual” charters. With such a mind-set, it is a wonder that New Mexico students are not forced to use only an abacus to learn math, or a wax tablet to learn how to write.

Michael O’Leary is an adjunct scholar with New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, a limited government proponent.

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2 Replies to “State should back virtual charters”

  1. If children are not reading at the third grade level in third grade, how will they ever get up to reading at the ninth grade level when they enter high school?

    Then how will these students reading below grade level graduate from high school, and if they do, will they be able to do college work?

    Without a college degree, either four year or two year, what kind of a job, and income, can be expected?

    So, perhaps summer school, special tutoring, or parental involvement is needed, other wise their future life will be difficult.

    The county offers high school programs to inmates at the MDC as without a high school degree or GED, it is very hard to find meaningful employment. Further, the county also has over 200 employers who will employ a felon.

    But graduating from high school in four years, and then further education is the best option.

  2. You are mixiing apples and oranges. There is a BIG difference between not being able to read to an acceptable standard and the technology used for teaching.

    The widely recognized study titled, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning, released by the U.S. Department of Education in September 2010 clearly states that the blended learning approach is the best. It also states that on-line learning is NOT effective for young children K-8. Further, the best results lie in supplemental usage NOT full time usage by high school students. Although virtual education has a place, I do not believe it belongs in elementry schools.

    Also, dropout rates are 20% higher for online courses college courses than face-to-face. Although it may be the rage in other schools one needs to look at who is going to profit from it.

    According to Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning, a 2010 study completed by the U.S. Department of Education, there is very little proof that virtual learning is cheaper or more effective.

    A “blizzard of hype” surrounds virtual education, said Alex Molnar, a professor at the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado. But, he added, “there’s simply no support in the research for the kind of frenetic policymaking” taking place. “The research legs underneath it are spindly and weak and inconclusive,” Molnar said. The hype comes from both those who can make money off virtual education, Molnar added, and those, like former Gov. Jeb Bush, who view it as another piece in the school-choice movement.

    A major issue surrounding our society is polite social interaction. I believe that the virtual/digital learning model would futher harm and isolate students much like the TV has done to American families.

    Lastly most virtual/digital learning has been EXEMPTED from educational standards which will make the problems of third graders not reading at the third grade level worse instead of better.

    I believe the answer is more parent involvement and holding the teaches to good educational standards. Like requireing teachers to make and follow a performance based cirruculum.

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