The Orlando Sentinel opinion page ran a “real debate” on virtual schooling in yesterday’s issue. The debate included dueling columns by Jeb Bush and FEA President Andy Ford. The brief introduction to the debate included this: “But critics warn that the rush to maximize digital learning is backed by minimal research that corroborates the benefits.” And Gradebook carried a post about the Sentinel feature, saying “The Times has reported how difficult it can be to measure the actual success of virtual school.”
But at least in some cases it’s really not all that difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of virtual school courses.
Take physics, for example.
The gold standard for assessing a first physics course is a 20-year-old assessment called the Force Concept Inventory (FCI), which is just a paper-and-pencil multiple choice test. It was developed at Arizona State University and has been used all over the nation and in other nations. In fact, in one study the FCI was used to compare the physics readiness of beginning engineering students in the US and China. The Florida Virtual School could simply administer and standard pre- and post-testing using FCI, just like the rest of us do. The normalized learning gain would then tell the story. A “standard” physics course gives a normalized learning gain of 15-25%, and an effective “interactive” course gives a gain of 40-60%. Piece of cake.
There is nothing secret, arcane or expensive about this.