Three things to read this weekend

Happy Friday Saturday! Due to technical difficulties, we are posting this a day late, but there’s still plenty of time to check out our picks for the top three things you should read this weekend while you’re out and about enjoying the spring-like weather:

California’s multi-million dollar online education flop is another blow for MOOCs (The Hechinger Report): Three years ago, the University of California system placed a big bet on online courses, directing $7 million toward the creation of an online “campus” that would allow UC students to take courses across the system as well as provide access to non-UC students (for a price). This would turn out to be a bad bet. Only 250 non-UC students finished a class in the first two years of the program, dashing hopes that of a revenue stream to make the program self-sustaining. The article argues the UC experience is symptomatic of larger troubles in the world of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. According to the article, more than half of university administrators do not believe MOOCs are financially sustainable – more than twice the number who said that in 2012. While MOOCs are largely focused at post-secondary level, I wonder what implications these developments have for the growth of online or blended learning at the K-12 level.

American has ‘solved every problem in public education,’ but how are we still failing? 5 questions with John Engler (Real Clear Education): In this interview, John Engler, former three-term governor of Michigan and current president of the Business Roundtable, makes the case that the 21st century “blue collar” job is actually a “blue tech” job that requires a degree of skill and competency that must be learned. The way to do this, he believes, is through higher standards. He points out the disconnect between the education students are receiving and the needs of the workforce: there are between four and five million U.S. jobs that are empty because businesses can’t find people with the right skills, and yet there are also several million young adults who are not working or in school. According to Engler, there are three key components to bridging that gap: ensuring all students graduate from high school prepared for college-level work; give students skills to be successful in a career even if they choose not to go to college; reduce the high school drop-out rate to zero.

Where kids learn more outside their classrooms than in them (The Atlantic): It’s not terribly controversial to argue that the traditional high school model doesn’t work for all students. Pinning down an alternative to that model, though, has proved tricky. In this article, reporter Emily Richmond documents the efforts of one New Hampshire high school to give students more flexibility in designing a high school program that works for their individual needs and interests. Under a framework adopted in 2012, Pittsfield Middle High School allows students to choose to participate in extended learning opportunities that allow them to pursue internships or self-directed projects in lieu of traditional classes. Richmond emphasizes that this program is not a shortcut or a way to get certain kids out of the classroom; students participating in the model still need to meet rigorous guidelines and demonstrate what they’ve learned. However, it does allow students to meet the state’s language arts standards by designing and building a green house, a project that included making an oral presentation to the School Board and completing all required paperwork for building permits. The article notes that it’s not clear how well this model would scale to a large high school (Pittsfield only 260 students in grades seven through 12), but it’s a really interesting approach both to getting students more engaged in their education and to helping them draw connections between what they’re learning and the “real world.”