Colorado, Be Wary of Reading Too Much into Cyberschool Critiques

One of the education proposals giving me the 5-year-old equivalent of heartburn as Colorado’s legislative session gets rolling is the attempt to add regulations to the state’s full-time online schools. For those who have been following the scene for any length of time, that probably sounds like a broken record (“like a damaged MP3 file” is probably more up to date, but doesn’t have the same ring to it).

Over the past couple years there’s been a lot of controversy in Colorado about cyberschools. No time to rehash here all charges, counter-charges, questions, and concerns. It’s also escalated at the national level with a report from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC). And this week brings a great response from the Brookings Institution’s Matthew Chingos at Education Next. A quick taste:

The measures used in the NEPC report—whether schools make AYP, state accountability system ratings, the percentage of students that score proficient on state tests, and high-school graduation rates—are at best rough proxies for the quality of education provided by any school. Using these metrics to compare one group of schools to another is as potentially misleading as inferring that private schools are better simply because their students score higher than their public-school counterparts on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

For some follow-up to Chingos’ analysis, read this helpful piece as well.

As we venture into choppy legislative waters again, the fact is full-time online schools remain a strong, viable option for some (not all) families. If they make the informed choice to provide this learning program and environment for one or more children, and to stick with that decision because it’s serving them well, who are the state officials who think they know better?

Rather than bring the hammer down on this educational option through unproductive regulations, lawmakers instead should take to heart Colorado’s digital learning policy road map — a year old but as relevant as ever. And parents should continue to do their homework in investigating the many cyberschool options available.

Less than four weeks till the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families has its rally at the State Capitol!