From this online learning update from Board member Pam Knowles, it appears that the Board and administrative staff are still stuck on the ridiculous notion that online courses require PPS teachers, thus the focus on the ratio of students to teachers and the inability to generate any cost savings. I’ve communicated as clearly as I can that online courses can both expand opportunities and save money. As I recently blogged, and sent to PPS Board members (here):
Second, there clearly can be savings using online education for high school students. But PPS needs to get over the mentality that every high school student needs to have their hand held by a teacher in a classroom. Some students have the motivation and discipline to pursue independent (from brick-and-mortar classrooms, and from PPS teachers) courses (and, of course, PPS should be striving to create more of such students). There are numerous online providers of a wide array of courses, including many of the foreign language courses of particular interest to me. Such courses do not require the involvement of a PPS teacher. And yes, to get the maximum savings from such online courses, high school students taking such courses would need to be released from class attendance (perhaps coming in one period late or leaving one period early). Change happens.
Third, the use of PPS teachers to actually teach an online course (as in presenting materials to remote students) would probably waste money. Much of PPS staff discussion of online education seems in this context of PPS teachers adapting and teaching content. This would cost more money, not save money.
I don’t understand why PPS is so stuck on using PPS teachers for online courses. Perhaps it is the influence of the Oregon Education Association and the Portland Association Teachers trying to preserve the maximum number of teaching jobs. Perhaps it is an institutional culture that cannot get beyond students needing face-to-face teachers. Perhaps it is just the momentum of the status quo. Perhaps it is the fears, as PPS admistrator Sue Ann Higgins expressed it (here), "about the corporatization of private education and the roles that large corporate online learning companies are playing or trying to play in absorbing public education dollars." Whatever the reason is, it needs to end! It’s wasting money! Potentially, lots of it (here).