When I was writing my book “Reign of Error,” I wrote about Jeb Bush’s plan called “Digital Learning Now!” It made bold promises about how technology would bring about a wonderful new world of learning and equity and why every district should open their doors to online schools and deregulate them. they need not even have a physical office in the state. Then I went in search of the research on which the report relied. Some was drawn from higher education, some from industry, some from the military. There was no research to support the claims of the Jeb Bush machine. The report was sponsored by the usual philanthropies but also by a bunch of tech companies, who would win big contracts if the recommendations were enacted.
Now Newt Gingrich has written an article lambasting our 19th century schools and recommending the brave new world that lies in front of us, in which technology replaces teachers.
“The results of this method of teaching have been astounding, especially in charter schools that have adopted it early, like KIPP Empower Academy in Los Angeles. Nestled in an impoverished neighborhood where most students receive free or reduced lunch (a proxy for poverty), KIPP Empower has adopted blended learning and has seen progress that was once unthinkable. It recently scored an amazing 991 (out of 1,000 possible points) on the California Academic Performance Index. That makes KIPP Empower the top-performing school in Los Angeles County and one of the best in the state of California.
“Traditional public schools have also benefited from this model. Oakland Unified partnered with the Rogers Foundation to set up a similar program in a handful of inner-city schools in that district. The results are far fewer discipline problems and much better scores. At one of the pilot schools, the number of students reading at grade level actually doubled.
“Promising blended learning programs are underway in settings as wide-ranging as Washington, D.C., South Carolina’s Horry County Schools, and Middletown, New York, according to the Lexington Institute’s Don Soifer.
“In addition to these achievement gains, blended learning is also proving to be more cost-effective for taxpayers than the traditional model.
The cost of educating each student declines in blended-learning environments, in part because schools require fewer teachers to manage the classrooms. With fewer discipline issues, students become more engaged in the material and as a result, learn better. Additionally, teachers have more free time to spend with each student. This makes classroom size rules obsolete, and since compensating teachers has been the main cost driver in education, it is a big breakthrough.”
Isn’t technology wonderful! Fewer teachers, no more discipline problems, larger class sizes, reduced costs. What did he leave out? No more teacher certification? A vastly expanded gross national product. An end to poverty and inequality.