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 Response Page - Young  Interview -      


These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Julie Young Interview of
12-16-2011.
 

Overview

Julie Young, founder, president and CEO, Florida Virtual School (FLVS), a statewide online public school operated by the state of Florida, contends that traditional schools have failed to put the needs of individual students first. "It is our organization's goal to remember we are shaping and teaching one-of-a-kind people, each with different needs, interests, learning styles, likes, values, and homes. No two are the same," Young says on the FLVS website. "At FLVS our goal has always been to reinvent education, not replicate it."

For the complete interview summary see:  http://bit.ly/wi8yxK

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Young. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Individual needs met by online courses. (8.0 average response) Online education makes it possible to customize the curriculum for each individual student's specific needs.

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize. (5.1 average response) It is less likely the traditional school, as contrasted with online education,  can be as successful in meeting the needs of each student, individually.

3. Anticipate likely work environment. (7.5 average response) To anticipate an adult environment where individuals inevitably will encounter repeated experiences with online training and education, states should require all students to receive some form of online education during the K-12 years.

4. Proof of effectiveness lacking. (4.5 average response) Online education has yet to prove itself. The traditional school does the best job of serving all students.

 

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Individual needs met by online courses.

0%

4%

13%

48%

35%

23

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize.

17%

9%

30%

35%

9%

23

3. Anticipate likely work environment.

9%

9%

4%

35%

43%

23

4. Proof of effectiveness lacking.

13%

26%

30%

26%

4%

23

Individual Responses:

Bert LeMunyon  (10)  (5)  (7.5)  (2.5)

Pat Barnum  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize. Not cost effectively anyway.

Joe Lampe  (10)  (10)  (5)  (0)

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize. One size definitely does not fit all -- learning styles differ enormously.

David G. Dillon  (10)  (2.5)  (10)  (5)

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize. Businesses have seen that traditional bricks-and-mortar approaches and online efforts are synergistic rather than an either/or proposition.  (That said, it should be noted that the traditional businesses, even after years of trying, are not as competent at the online environment.)  The education establishment and unions may make this hybrid thinking more difficult, but I'd like to see the two approaches not framed in questions as either/or.

4. Proof of effectiveness lacking. I am huge fan of online activities in general.  And, Online Education clearly has benefits, which will continue to grow as the technology evolves and as we better learn to use the tools.  Still, it's a bit soon for blanket statements either way.

Peter Hennessey  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)

1. Individual needs met by online courses. How do you determine each prospective student's specific needs? This concept is more appropriate at the college level. People learn many different ways -- some by reading, some by listening, some by discussing, some by doing. That is why we have textbooks, visual aids, teachers, classrooms, notebooks, labs and special projects.     I hope this guest's presentation included a description of how on-line education has provisions for all of these learning pathways. I am guessing there is little, if any room for live, in-person interaction or even video conferencing with teachers and students in a lecture or discussion group, and certainly no lab work with real hands-on objects. I hope this guest has mentioned, listed or described the subjects that are appropriate for on-line learning, and others that are not.

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize. Especially in the age range K-12, when we are struggling to impart a basic level of education and factual knowledge to all students, what does it even mean to have specific needs?    As we can see in the political process playing out in real time in recent years and again this year, already we are much too "diversified" -- balkanized -- into many special-interest groups based on race, nationality, class, culture, ideology, religion, profession and other interests. Our schools have stopped teaching our kids about America, what it means to be an American, what makes America a nation, what makes America special in the world. Indeed most of our educators are openly hostile to the very concept, and they are waging a propaganda campaign against anything and everything even remotely related to the Constitution, our Founders, our traditional American values, and the religious and philosophical foundations of those values -- if they even mention them at all. As a result, our young people are tragically unfamiliar with their most fundamental birthright. My concern is that, if carried to an extreme, a completely individualized on-line curriculum would encourage even more fragmentation of society, leaving people with very little in common with their neighbors, let alone with people a continent away. America is not just a bunch of Star Trek freaks assembled here for no other reason than a chance to make some money. We are, or at least we used to be until recently, a nation, one nation; but I don't know if our young people have even the foggiest notion of what that means.

3. Anticipate likely work environment. Yes, we also have to teach people how to learn on their own. There is nothing new here; my teachers always said, they are only giving us a push in the right direction, and it is up to us to carry on, on our own, after school and after graduation. Lincoln, after all, taught himself law by doing nothing more than reading and studying on his own.    But isn't this recommendation just a (little) bit … self-serving, coming from the founder and CEO of a virtual school? There is nothing special about being online, except that it is easier to Google something than go to a library and roam the stacks.

4. Proof of effectiveness lacking. I don't know if on-line education is still so new as to still have to prove itself. Score "neutral" on that one. And we know that traditional state schools are tragic failures for many students, especially inner city minorities; they fail to achieve the very mission that public school advocates cite as their most important reason for existing in the first place. Score "strongly disagree" on that one.

Ralph Brauer  (5)  (0)  (2.5)  (7.5)

1. Individual needs met by online courses. I had to count to ten several times before writing this, and I hope these comments will be constructive. To start with, this is one subject where even a small bit of research would have helped to better frame the discussion. The big picture is this: the Florida Legislature passed a law mandating class sizes. Since most schools do not have the funds to hire additional teachers (this was yet another unfunded mandate thrust on education) many schools in Florida opted to use online education to meet the mandate. This has created a firestorm in Florida of angry parents and students who find themselves enrolled in online courses they did not choose to be in. An enlightening New York Times article covered this last year. (NYT January 11, 2011). One student interviewed told the Times, "None of them [the students] want to be there, and for virtual education you have to be really self-motivated. This was not something they chose to do, and it’s a really bad situation to be put in because it is not your choice.” Admittedly this is only one student, but the larger point raised about imposing online courses on students and parents who did not choose them is unsettling. I would not want to see this in Minnesota.   

Another source to check is Glassdoor.com, which reviews corporations, their salaries and treatment of employees. Young received a 30% approval rating. That site contains links to several articles on the Florida Virtual School.   

As for online learning in general, as might be expected, studies are mixed because there are so many variables: subject matter, the degree of teacher involvement, the quality of the course software, student computer literacy. A group of us fought mandatory online testing in Minnesota precisely because studies did show online testing and online learning are not a level playing field. Given the lack of computers in low-income households, online testing and learning puts those students at a disadvantage. 

Should Minnesota think about duplicating the Florida Virtual School it should review the sample legislation proposed by the University of Colorado's National Education Policy Center. The accompanying study on online education should be required reading for everyone concerned about the future of education and should have been read by the interviewers before this interview.  Available online at http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/online-k-12-schooling, it concludes:   "In sum, beyond the narrow evidence focused on short-term results on standardized tests, focused overwhelmingly on reading and math, and focused exclusively on supplemental online education, the research in this area is extremely limited. Those making policy should be clear on this key point: there exists no evidence from research that full-time virtual schooling at the K-12 level is an adequate replacement for traditional face-to-face teaching and learning."    

Some of the abuses outlined in the Colorado report were sobering. The Arizona Virtual Academy outsourced its courses to low paid workers in India. In Colorado students taking online courses learned to "beat the test" by using cell phones to access answers. In Ohio only 3% of African American students enrolled in online learning graduated. The Vilas Colorado system had 17 teachers for 3,800 online students!    

I see that Chancellor Rosenstone is on your list of upcoming interviews. I would suggest you discuss online learning with him and ask him about the threat it poses to both K-12 and higher education. That threat was outlined in a bill the Obama administration tried to get through Congress to require more rigid standards for any online institution receiving federal funds. Unfortunately, lobbyists for the online learning industry succeeded in watering down the bill. Among those was none other than Rupert Murdoch who sees online education as a billion dollar sector "that is waiting desperately to be transformed."   

I am not opposed to online learning as a tool. The genie is out of the bottle and there is nothing we can do to put it back. However, like any tool it can be abused as it has by places such as Phoenix University. It is enlightening to read the Florida audit of the Virtual School. For fiscal year 2010, out of $119.5 million in expenses, $62.5 or 52.3% went for "instruction." If a Minnesota district spent only 52% on instruction there would be an outcry.    

Curiously my daughter in law, who coaches college basketball, was home over Christmas. She told me about an online college in Oklahoma that will give athletes 3 credits for ten hours of online work over the midwinter break. The whole operation is set up to make college athletes eligible who flunked their regular college courses. Apparently the NCAA is looking into this and similar ventures.     

As your report notes, the Florida Virtual School is now an international for-profit venture. By giving it a voice without providing a context you unwittingly helped to provide it with a free advertisement.

Chris Brazelton  (5)  (5)  (10)  (5)

1. Individual needs met by online courses. This could be done in classrooms as well, and is often done in alternative schools.

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize. They each have their strengths and weaknesses.  Face to face learning allows body language to be seen for monitoring whether or not a student "gets it".

4. Proof of effectiveness lacking. Some students will thrive in a traditional school setting, others will do better focusing on learning via the online courses.  Both have their place and it sounds like the Florida system has evolved into a viable alternative for those that would benefit from it, full time or for individual course offerings.

R. C. Angevine  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (5)

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize. I think the idea of a mixture of the two approaches is a great solution.

3. Anticipate likely work environment. As long as the usage is productive.

Dave Broden  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Individual needs met by online courses. Online definitely provides for individual focus in education for each student. To be effective the tailoring must be of high quality and integrity and yet provide the flexibility for each the individual. The online tailoring should not be only "canned" courses but allow for clear flexibility down to a low level --if this is not done the value will be reduced significantly.

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize. For the traditional school to be individual-focused would likely require smaller class size--more teachers and also segregation of classes by skill level—i.e., high achievers, average, and low—and still would likely not be individual-focused.

3. Anticipate likely work environment. This innovation would enable the student to have experience and understand the learning process with online courses, and this could be continued for life-long learning. There is a recognized need for adult education links to all citizens, and this could be a link to begin and expand this capability.

4. Proof of effectiveness lacking. Like all new technology or institutions, start-up is a evolutionary process of growing and adapting to meet the needs of the users and (adapting) to the users’ scenarios to add and change in process. Online education has moved ahead rapidly, and is adapting to "lessons learned.” It is an experiment in process but being applied and compared in its various forms. As it evolves the traditional schools will evolve, together with online, to provide a "hybrid system' that links the quality and content with the social interactions and group dynamics that must be part of the education process.

Paul Hillmer  (2.5)  (2.5)  (0)  (7.5)

1. Individual needs met by online courses. On-line education presupposes that each individual is capable of pursuing educational opportunities well on his/her own. Quite often this freedom translates to failure as students fall by the wayside, just as they can in face-to-face environments.  On-line education is no panacea.

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize. See above.

3. Anticipate likely work environment. I think this is hokum.  Students already have tons of on-line, peer-to-peer, and other experiences that isolate them from each other.  Their poorest skills are in interpersonal realms.  The real failure of public schools is in squandering its opportunities to teach social and interpersonal skills that will help them in life and in the workplace.

Bruce A. Lundeen  (7.5)  (0)  (10)  (10)

1. Individual needs met by online courses. Customizing education for specific student needs should not be the objective; customizing education for the student to become an effective citizen is.  Two very different things.  Yes, online education provides some flexibility not available in the traditional school, but we are to never forget that the purpose of schooling is to create an educated person, not cater to specific likes and dislikes.

2. Traditional schools less apt to individualize. Traditional schools will always have their place, especially with respect to practicing socializing, negotiation, conflict, and leadership skills.

3. Anticipate likely work environment. It appears that online activities will continue to increase for all, at least for the present.

4. Proof of effectiveness lacking. It is telling that FLVS is of the opinion they should have the same state aid per pupil for online education, as does a traditional school with a physical asset to maintain.  Somehow the educators are too quick to get back to their objective of lining their own pockets with taxpayer money, in my opinion.

Rick Bishop  (8)  (7)  (10)  (2)

Relative to the last question (4), education should incorporate a number of venues and opportunities; online, hands on, experiential, and inquiry.  As I've noted in past discussions here, pieces of John Taylor Gatto's ideas about changes in education are most relevant.

Virginia Eernisse  (7)  (6)  (10)  (5)

For students with ID/D this may meet some needs; but many times their need is to learn what to do on the coffee break in order to keep a job.

Wayne Jennings  (7)  (5)  (10)  (4)

I love that you did this interview. I heard her speak the year before the program opened and imagined that what she described today would come to pass. A difference between FLVS and the other providers of online instruction is that it had the resources of the state to develop the program and a nonprofit motive. I love their “our job is to reinvent education not replicate it” although I know most of their courses are titled the same and cover the same material.

Ruth Hauge  (8)  (5)  (7)  (6)

Robert J. Brown  (8)  (5)  (10)  (2)

Done correctly online education can serve many students very well. However, much online education is merely correspondence courses using technology and not really individualizing instruction. Exposing all students to online learning is useful, but some students still will do better in a traditional setting. Understanding each student's learning style can help provide the best education for all.

Bert Press  (10)  (0)  (0)  (5)

Fred Senn  (8)  (5)  (9)  (5)

A fascinating experiment. I believe we will all need to be successful online learners.

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (9)  (6)  (7)  (5)

Carolyn Ring  (8)  (7)  (8)  (8)

As in all education, parents' involvement and cooperation is necessary.  Florida has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the country and, so far, online education has not addressed that problem satisfactorily.

Shari Prest  (5)  (0)  (3)  (6)

I must address the first assumption first: Schools have failed to put individual students first. The schools of today have made huge changes from the old models and taken some risks to assure they are putting students first while also respecting the needs to be efficient and to help kids develop ways to grow socially, environmentally, and cooperatively. Julie Young makes the leap that on-line learning is “the way” to do that. Making these changes to grow the most learned, responsible, and collaborative citizens for the future will require careful balancing.

This is not a new concept in Minnesota. Since the late 80’s Mindquest has had an online diploma program, which was supported by 7 metropolitan school districts and available to others. Students completing the required work were awarded a local or Bloomington public school diploma. There were counselors, teachers, etc. available most of the time. The curriculum focused on the basics and prepared learners to graduate from high school with a credible diploma. Learners could participate from around the globe. I think this was the first online diploma program in the U.S.  The program was ideal for many circumstances: high school age mothers that did not have daycare available so that they could attend class, young people that had to work during the day to make ends meet, kids short of required credits for spring graduation, children of adults who were transferred out of the country but who wished to complete their diploma program from home, those who were bed-bound for some reason, those that had to be at home for an aging or disadvantaged adult, etc. Great care was taken to maintain academic expectations and provide flexibility.

Questions about the all-around efficacy of this route remain. For most kids socialization, collaboration, structure, interpersonal skills, group dynamics, etc. are as important as instruction. Sometimes the learners that least like structure most benefit from it.

Finally, the traditional system is growing and developing ways to differentiate instruction, i.e. School of One.  You might be interested to talk to someone from TIES (an education technology collaborative) in St. Paul or Cunningham Architects in Minneapolis who are heavily involved with School of One, to learn some of the progress and partnerships they are forming not only to put students first but also make schools responsive to individual learners’ needs and to make schools more efficient and effective.

Al Quie  (10)  (9)  (10)  (4)

Roger A. Wacek  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)

The mission of education is to prepare our children for life. The traditional grade 1-8 one-room country schools used to do this. Give the 8th grade students of today the test the traditional grade 1-8 one room country school students took if you want to see how poor a job our traditional schools do today!

    

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 


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The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.  civiccaucus@comcast.net
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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