All This Talk about Course Choice Makes Colorado Debates Seem So 20th Century

While the big school finance reform legislation at the Colorado State Capitol explores reshuffling the dollars in a 20th century system — and dashing my youthful hopes along the way — other states continue to plow ahead with the idea of course choice. Students are enabled to customize their education by choosing courses regardless of school and district boundaries, mainly through the use of digital technology.

Well, count Florida among the states seriously looking at revamping a system to promote flexibility and reward student mastery, rather than just continue to fund learning based on seat time. With Utah and Louisiana already pioneering in this area, it’s great to hear redefinED’s Ron Matus talk with national blended learning guru Michael Horn about the new world where the change might lead us and speculate how it might unfold:

Together with other online learning advances, the bills will have repercussions on how, when and where students learn; how they’re tested and funded; and how school districts fare against growing competition from charter and private schools. Things like course choice and MOOCs, Horn said, “just blow up the geographic … scheme we’ve had for where someone goes to school.”

“So actually, wherever you are, you can get the best class for you. And there will always be that for you. Because you may love the MIT course. I may love the one that has a couple Sal Khan videos … But why shouldn’t we have that best experience for us?”

Of course, it’s still “new” and “cutting-edge,” but my Education Policy Center friends were talking about “customized schooling” with a national expert two years ago. Colorado’s Digital Learning Policy Road Map, followed by the paper on course-level funding, lay out what sort of changes the state needs to roll out to accomplish the transformation.

Let me explain. No, let me sum up. We could follow the lead of other key states and embark on a journey that jumpstarts innovation, meets student learning needs at a personal level, and ultimately provides a better deal for all the funding we put into education. At the rate we’re going, though, it seems like Colorado might get there by the time little Eddie is thinking more about retirement plans and a lot less about Legos and video games.

Changing from an October student count to average daily membership for funding schools is a nice start. But can’t our state at least take a bigger step down that path in 2013?