Education Week - Sizing Up: Blended Learning - S23
other teacher," Ms. Coleman said.
"That's a big cost-savings, and it
provides more opportunities to
In the 6,500-student Reynolds-
burg, Ohio, district, officials did not
deliberately scrap teaching positions.
However, a sour economy limited the
school system's ability to hire teachers,
and class sizes rose, said Tricia
Moore, the district's director of partnerships
and shared services.
But while class sizes have grown,
particularly at the high school level,
there is a benefit: Blended learning
programs there allow teachers
to personalize learning for a larger
number of students, Ms. Moore said.
"We were going to have larger class
sizes anyway, but this brings more
resources to the table for the kids,"
Across the country, teachers'
unions have raised concerns that
blended learning programs could be
a way to cut teaching positions and
increase class sizes, said Mr. Horn
of the Christensen Institute. However,
a study he conducted of charter
schools in California-where education
budgets have been slashed for
economic reasons-found that charter
school management organizations
said the number-one reason
they pursued blended learning programs
was for educational benefits,
while the number-two reason was
Mr. Horn said he believes those
findings may translate to the more
traditional school district arena.
"You see those concerns from
unions [about blended learning], but
my sense is that when people look at
the models and realize the technology
allows for much more personal
interaction, effectively reducing the
student-teacher ratio, those fears
often subside," he said. "A lot of
unions and teacher groups will see
that that's what they want education
to look like."
Even with the introduction of
blended learning, the Reynoldsburg
district's overall budget of about $54
million has not risen since 2005, Ms.
Moore said. That's partly because the
school system has only gradually increased
its computer hardware and
software, and it has significantly reduced
copying and paper costs.
During the past school year at
the middle school level, with only
one grade going blended, the school
saw those costs fall by 30 percent,
she said. With the blended program
expanding this year, Ms. Moore said
she expects to see greater savings in
copying and paper costs.
Reynoldsburg is working with The
Learning Accelerator, a Cupertino,
Calif.-based a nonprofit organization
trying to boost blended programs, to
help create a business model that
works, Ms. Moore said.
One of the organization's costcutting
strategies is to bring several
districts together to create purchasing
power around blended learning
projects, said Scott Ellis, the CEO of
The Learning Accelerator.
District expenses tend to jump in
blended learning-often requiring
them to take out bonds to cover those
costs-in cases when they need to
overhaul their infrastructure to upgrade
their technology, Mr. Ellis said.
But that expense can be avoided.
"We really believe that every district
in the country can do this," he said.
Adopting blended learning also
may require heavier investment in
professional development, said Lisa
Andrejko, the superintendent of the
5,500-student Quakertown, Pa., district,
which has had a 1-to-1 device
and blended learning program at
the high school level. The district
has a nearly $93 million general
"The professional development is
costly," she said. "We didn't realize
how much was necessary, the first
shot at it."
To offset some of those costs, her
district is getting creative about reallocating
It has partnered with a neighbor-
ing school system that has an online
learning program at the elementary
level. When schedules conflict, or an
elementary student in Quakertown
needs to take an online class, the
neighboring district will allow the
student to tap into its cyber offerings.
In return, Quakertown will allow a
student from that district to take an
online course there.
The biggest savings for Quaker-
town, however, have come from the
district persuading parents to keep
their children enrolled in the school
The district was losing students to
the many cyber charter schools that
have popped up across Pennsylvania.
When a student leaves, state funding
follows, and the district loses
Having a blended program, in
addition to the district's own cyber
school, gives students some of the
things they might be attracted to in
a cyber-charter setting, while also
giving them the benefits of a faceto-face
experience, Ms. Andrejko
said. She estimates that the district
has reaped a savings of $138,000 to
$275,000 annually for the last four
years, through what she calls "cost
avoidance," meaning the loss of students
to cyber charters.
To offset other costs, she's taken a
hard look at reducing expenses by
moving instruction online. For example,
she's considering lower-cost
online social studies curricula and
thinking of "dumping social studies
Ms. Andrejko is also getting inno-
vative with her budget. In the second
year of the Quakertown 1-to-1 initiative,
there were so many observers
who wanted to visit the school and
investigate the program that the
technology director was spending all
his time conducting tours and providing
The district approached the Bucks
County Regional Unit, which provides
educational support to 14 local
districts, and proposed that the unit
add a job to teach other schools how
to create blended learning programs.
The regional unit agreed, and Quakertown
now has a technology director
who can concentrate on his own
"Am I saving a couple of million?"
Ms. Andrejko said of her district's
experience with blended learning.
"No, but there are efficiencies in cost
avoidance and using your infrastructure
EDUCATION WEEK: SIZING UP BLENDED LEARNING > www.edweek.org/go/blended-learning JANUARY 29, 2014
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12/31/13 9:43 AM | S23
Education Week - Sizing Up: Blended Learning
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - Sizing Up: Blended Learning
Education Week - January 29, 2014
Ruling Raises Internet-Access Concerns
Cheating Case Implicates Phila. Educators
Graduation Disparities Loom Large
Business Groups Defend Common Standards
News in Brief
Common Science Standards Are Slow to Catch On in States
Surge in Charter Schools Stirs Concerns in North Carolina
Blogs of the Week
Turnaround Program Receives Makeover In Budget Deal
Some Waiver States Feeling Common-Core Test Pinch
Needy Students, Tech Disparities at Issue
Blogs of the Week
Advocates Welcome New Federal Aid Aimed at Youngest
Collective-Bargaining Case Takes Spotlight at High Court
ANNA E. BARGAGLIOTTI: Statistics: The New ‘It’ Common-Core Subject
BEN ZIMMER & DANIELLA ROHR: Funding Students, Not Bureaucracies, For Early-Childhood Education
CLARKE L. RUBEL: Talking About a Reformation
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
LYNETTE TANNIS: Twice Punished: Education’s ‘Invisible’ Incarcerated Youths
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