In those days, there’re quite a bunch of articles published on the relation of K 12 online learning during that shift in formal education towards classroom alternatives. This post is about the question what might be most attractive in the future: K 12 online learning, K 12 private schools, or public schools.
Areas Where Educational Shifts in K 12 Online Learning are Likely
In this post Douglas N. Harris summarizes what happened after the Katrina hurrican in New Orleans area (Louisiana) in 2005. It impacted the whole school system in the region for the better.
Let’s resume some of the implications. First, so many public schools were destroyed or at least, affected by the hurrican. This was of course, not good. However, from one day to the other education still had to be secured for so many children even though schools could not function as formerly. That gave way to the rise and – success of charter schools. The success is owed to the brave policy decisions on the part of the superintendent in charge back then.
Coming back to Douglas N. Harris piece. He makes rather general suggestions about tools in school policy decisions. And as for types it’s clear that he favors ‘Charters’ and not so much their competing alternatives. Sure, he’s possibly impressed of the positive effects of charter schools in Louisiane, as just mentioned.
However, the pandemic might notably shift formal education in the following areas (adapted from his list and enhanced):
- The use of online tools – in general, and so in K-12 education;
- Homeschooling – with distance learning and online learning resources;
- Virtual instruction – and this happening in K12 formal education, too;
- Private schools – preparing the way for online learning integration;
- Competency-Based Education (CBE) – which is apt for online learning integrations;
- Different roles of parents, students, and teachers.
The question is if the consequences of a hurrican on education in one region can be compared with the impact of a pandemia on education of a whole nation or even beyond. Who knows that? What is true is that big shifts sometimes accompany unforeseen circumstances. Life will become different. The course of individuals and societies may re-direct itself. That can result in others taking action for better circumstances now with long-term effects in the future.
K12 Schools and Their Future in the USA
Charters. In New Orleans charter schools had become increasingly effective and therefore popular. Therefore, ‘charters’ especially must become a serious threat in economic crisis for private schools in those places. Or said differently, private schools need to focus on learning outcomes to being able to compete in the field of student success even more than ever.
Private schools. In regions where private schools are already estabilished as the prefered option to any public equivalent it’s reasonable to assume that they can keep their attractiveness. This is only true if they keep being able to ensure higher learning outcomes, as before the pandemic. Learning outcomes are independent of economic pressures. Private schools are more flexible to adjust to new challenges, like that of integrating online learning, just because they’ve got more money at hand. Currently, this money is ceasing, though throughout the globe. That has an impact on private schools, as an article published by an organization called Civil Beat shows. In May, 2020 they showed how the pandemic challenged on fundings of private schools in Hawaii.
Homeschooling. Those who’ve been homeschooling for years will be sticking to homeschooling even the more in times where onsite learning is regarded as threat to anyone’s health. Maybe, even accidental homeschoolers have learnt about some advantages of homeschooling and might prefer the option before private or charter schools now.
Public schools. Children who have been in public schools to the day do highly depend on policy decisions in education. If policy takes into account that learning does not only take place in the context of a formal schedule, parents might be thinking about alternative forms of learning and switch to homeschooling. That’s maybe the case when they were accidental homeschoolers during a school lockdown, and made it a success. So, public schools might become less attractive for those families who could try out alternative learning. Therefore, school agencies or school boards are challenged now to think of how to increase the attractiveness of public schools, for example train staff in teaching online.
K12 Schools and Their Future in Germany
When the issue is lifted to an international level, in countries like Germany public schools will always be the prevalent option. This has to do with policy decisions on formal education. I’ve stressed the exclusiveness of public schools in Germany in this section of a post on homeschooling, and also in a related post on German online schools, right at the end.
However, private schools do have a right to exist but it’s being a tough beginning upon founding. There’s a supportive amount by the State within the nation for each student at a private schools, which school agencies save on their public schools’ expensive.
The per-student rate in the first 3 years of running the private school is on proprietary capital only. From then on, the private school receives some 70-80% of the estimated cost per student, depending on the State / ‘Bundesland’ where the private school is located. It starts from the 4th year on.
However, the consequences on how competitive a private school remains are less threatening. Sometimes, parents choose a private school not so much because of better learning outcomes but out of consideration for the peer group, or the teaching body. This will keep private schools attractive in Germany even during and after the pandemic, in my opinion.
Times of a Shift in Education and Private Schools
The question of the capacity of online learning to removing public schools from their spaces of authority depends actually not on the power of ‘online learning’ itself. Online learning rather is a habbit than an accepted institution.
Online learning is a means to an end, it’s not a school. And it’s neither a guarantee for career readiness. Therefore, the question if the exitence of private schools is thretened during the pandemic rather needs to be switched. It’s not so much about the economy. Nor is it about online learning that possibly threats private schools. It’s not so much about charter schools that have been a thread to private schools in the past.
Instead, the question is if private schools under the current challenges of an environment of insecure economy are able to adjust to this new situation of social distancing in the learning context. In if they’re able to doing so in such a way that their results are prevalent. That their students’ learning outcomes are competitive to the alternative learning options. Sure, they might lose some customers just because parents of kids in private education lose their jobs and cannot afford tuition anymore.
However, private schools need to remain relevant in times of financial scarceness by offering alternative solutions. This actually is the core value of private schools and their mere priviledge for existence. If they fail to offering valid learning solutions whatever the circumstances they are responsible for families questioning this status quo and drawing consequences from it.
How might private schools catch up then, in competing with public financial resources. Private schools are usually leaner than a public school. A private school could easily adjust and switch its entire teaching style to the online teaching realms with regard to (less dependency to) policy issues. This is even more the case when hierarchies are low and decisions can be made quickly.
In fact, once modified step-by-step from an on-site only into a hybrid private school with both options onsite and online the private school might not only save on expenditures for qualified staff in the long run. One idea is to offer an X percentage of online-only teaching moduls and have them accredited. A recorded course is acknowledged by Harvard scientist Paul E. Peterson to being much more economic in that sense in the final lesson of a free online course on Saving Schools. See more on free MOOC here.
In addition, such hybrid private school might increase highly in relevancy once it is able to also add offering online degrees to their portfolio in the long run. This is already the case with acknowledged online schools for formal education i.e. in the State of Florida. They attract global clients just because of the A-level degrees they offer for international students from homeschooling families or those wanting an additional international degree. Read more on virtual schools, or check the top 10 posts of Flexonedu 2020.