Policy | News

States Show Improvement on Digital Learning Report Card

Digital Learning Now has released the 2013 Digital Learning Report Card, which grades K-12 education policy in each of the 50 states against the group's 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning. This year only two states, Utah and Florida, received As, while 14 states received Fs and another 13 received Ds.

"In 2013, more than 450 digital learning bills were debated and 132 were ultimately signed into law, bringing the total of enacted legislation since 2011 to more than 360," according to a news release from Digital Learning Now. "More than 20 states advanced an entire overall letter grade as measured by the Report Card."

"Too often, new education models, including online, blended and competency-based learning, are blocked by outdated regulations and laws," said John Bailey, executive director of Digital Learning Now, in a prepared statement "The Report Card provides a comprehensive analysis of state policy climates that create the necessary conditions to support high-quality, next-generation models of learning and the effective use of technology in the classroom."

Highlights of the report include:

  • Utah, the highest graded state in both 2012 and 2013, passed the Student Achievement Backpack law, which creates online education records, accessible to parents, that follows students across grades and schools;
  • Florida, which improved its grade from a B to an A, passed a law expanding options for online courses students can take for credit, including approved massive open online courses (MOOCs);
  • Texas improved from a C to a B and expanded online course options for students in middle and high school by improving its virtual school network. The state's HB 1926 allows students to take up to three online courses, at a cost of up to $400 each, paid for through per pupil funding, allows providers to be approved on a year-round rolling basis and makes it possible for states to enter reciprocity agreements with other states for online courses;
  • In 2012 Arkansas received an F — only North Dakota and Connecticut received lower scores — but has moved to the middle of the pack in 2013 with a D grade. The state passed HB 1785 in 2013, which requires each student be offered a digital learning course and eliminates seat time for such courses;
  • Nevada jumped two full letter grades from 2012 to 2013, from a D to a B, in part owing to its passage of SB 58. The 2013 law expands student access and eligibility by allowing any student who meet enrollment requirements to take advantage of distance learning programs. Previously students needed permission from their home district and were only allowed to take distance courses within narrow circumstances, such as being at risk of dropping out, unable to attend school because of criminal or disruptive behavior, or if their school did not offer an equivalent course;
  • Louisiana expanded course choice for students with HB 976 and improved from a C to a B. The law allows students at poorly performing schools to enroll in blended, distance or face-to-face courses that are academically appropriate using public education funding. Students at higher performing schools can also have their tuition paid for if they enroll in courses not offered by their school; and
  • "Numerous states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and Texas, also passed legislation advancing competency-based models of learning in which students can earn credit based on mastery instead of seat-time," according to a Digital Learning Now news release.

"What is of paramount importance in digital learning policy is not technological issues but rather ensuring that the technology is used to accelerate important education reforms, better equip teachers with the tools and support they need to succeed and guaranteeing that students are receiving the engaging, high-quality education they need and deserve in order to be ready for college and careers," wrote the reports authors in the executive summary.

The 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning include student eligibility, student access, personalized learning, advancement, quality content, quality instruction, quality choices, assessment and accountability, funding and delivery.

An interactive graphic with each state's score and breakdowns of the 10 Elements is available at the Digital Learning Now site. Go to reportcard.digitallearningnow.com to see the full report.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].