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Online Learning Ideas Get Needed Boost From State Educators

As I alluded to in the previous post on the Education Innovation Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz., a number of digital technology programs today give kids and teachers a leg up on learning. They can provide instant feedback on what pupils are learning, customize content to a student’s achievement level, teach English as a second language in novel ways and help kids keep up with assignments.

Coursera, the university-based distant-learning system, has just announced it’s going to help K-12 schools, too.

There were hundreds of new digital ideas on display at the summit. Also, charter-school operators offering competition to public school systems — which can make them better if they will rise to meet the challenge. There’s even now a New Schools Venture Fund providing money for startup charters in poverty areas.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, has published a Digital Learning Report Card rating the states on how well they are taking up the new opportunities. The leading state? Utah, reddest of the red.

Meantime, the Common Core standards idea was adopted to correct the problem that, according to the ACT test, only about 25 percent of college seniors applying for admission were actually ready for college work.

The Common Core was a creature of the state governors, later backed by the Obama administration’s Education Department. Both George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program and Obama’s Race to the Top allowed states to set their own standards for what kids learn.

States often low-balled to look good. The Common Core is designed to have all kids learning a world-class curriculum, starting with reading next year. Of course, high standards are a threat to people mired in mediocrity, so there’s now pushback against them from the left and right.

Twenty-odd years ago, the idea of getting computers in the classroom was deemed the perfect fix for what ailed American education. It wasn’t. But  digital learning, plus charters, plus Common Core really could be the combination that makes us, finally, no longer a nation at risk.

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