Education Week - October 24, 2012 - (Page 9)
OCTOBER 24, 2012
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION > Tracking business trends and emerging models in K-12
As Ed-Tech Market Evolves, CEO of Blackboard to Step Down
By Jason Tomassini
Blackboard Inc. announced last week that its chief executive officer will step down, the latest change for the educational software giant, which faces increasing competition in selling learning-management systems to schools and colleges. Michael Chasen, 41, one of Blackboard’s co-founders and the only one still involved in its day-to-day operations, will leave his job as ceo in December, the company said. Blackboard’s larger business is in higher education, but its products are used widely in K-12 classrooms as well. Its offerings include classroom-management software, collaborative-learning tools, and data-management services. Some educators applaud Blackboard for helping them use technology to improve teaching and learning, but others complain its products are not easy to use and say the company could do a better job addressing those concerns. Since its acquisition in July 2011 by the private-equity firm Providence Equity Partners, based in Providence, R.I., for $1.6 billion, the Washington-based Blackboard has been through dramatic changes and encountered rising competition from open-source software, which is free to outside developers to use and revise. Educators must pay licensing fees for the use of Blackboard products. Mr. Chasen and Matthew Pittinsky, former co-workers in the higher MICHAEL education pracCHASEN is the tice at kpmg outgoing CEO Consulting, of Blackboard. started the company in 1997. “While it has been a great privilege to lead the company for so long, the board of directors and I have decided that now is the right time to bring on a new ceo to help the company take the next steps to carry this vision forward,” Mr. Chasen wrote in a blog last week.
William Raduchel, who has worked in the education and technology fields for decades, stepped down from Blackboard’s board of directors in February, citing disagreements with the company’s direction, according to the Washington Business Journal. In March, the company surprised the educational technology world by acquiring Moodlerooms and NetSpot, two companies that built learning-management systems and provided services around the opensource Moodle software. Both of those companies were seen as competitors to Blackboard, which was not viewed as being friendly to the open-source-software community. Mr. Chasen’s replacement will be Jay Bhatt, the president and ceo of Progress Software, a publicly traded company in Bedford, Mass.,
that provides management software and training services to help companies with their technological infrastructure. Before joining Progress last year, he was a senior vice president at Autodesk Inc., a 3-Ddesign software company. A search for a new Blackboard ceo has been “under way for some time,” said Matthew Maurer, a Blackboard spokesman. He said Mr. Chasen had agreed to stay on for at least a year after the acquisition by Providence Equity. Observers said Mr. Bhatt’s hiring seems to be another step toward Blackboard’s becoming a company that helps schools and colleges implement a wide range of software products, rather than a company selling its own software. “This is simultaneously investing in multiple products, rather than thinking any one approach is going to do,” Blackboard’s chief technology officer, Ray Henderson, said in discussing that strategy in an interview in March. Other educational technology
companies also appear to be taking that path. For instance, Promethean World, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based interactive-whiteboard company that has faced intense competition, is planning to shift to helping schools put in place a wide range of software products, according to company officials. In a blog post last week, Mr. Henderson explained the shift Blackboard is making, though he offered few details about how its direction might change under new leadership. He lauded Mr. Chasen’s tenure, during which Blackboard became publicly traded in 2004, valued at $400 million; made several acquisitions, including control of Edline, a K-12 technology company; and became one of the first educational technology startups to grow into a large corporation.
A grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helps support coverage of the education marketplace and new approaches to schooling in Education Week and on edweek.org.
Catholic Schools Turn to Blended Learning
By Nikhita Venugopal & Michelle R. Davis
As Roman Catholic schools aggressively seek solutions to curb tumbling enrollment numbers, they are turning increasingly to an approach that blends online learning and faceto-face instruction as a way to cut expenses and appeal to new students and their families. This blended approach comes as Catholic schools face competition not only from traditional public schools, but also from a growing number of charter schools, many of which are offering blended learning programs. (See Education Week, Aug. 29, 2012.) Last week, educators, researchers, and religious leaders from Catholic schools and organizations around the country met at the Catholic University of America in Washington to discuss the difficulties these schools are having keeping and attracting students, and the role that approaches such as blended learning might play in tackling that problem. At the conference, Andrew Smarick, a former New Jersey deputy commissioner of education who has written extensively on how public schools can collaborate with Catholic schools, emphasized the importance of adopting new technology in a cautious and thoughtful manner. While he advised educators to be prudent when adopting new educational technology, he urges radical changes in Catholic schools, including the use of blended learning. “It promises to solve many of our problems,” he said. “It can increase our enrollments, it can decrease our costs.” Education Partners, a nonprofit organization that aims to revitalize Catholic schools across the country. The K-8 Mission Dolores school uses blended learning in all grades— students spend about 20 to 30 minutes using online programs in each 60-minute class, and spend the rest of the time on faceto-face instruction. In the last year, the school has seen the average math scores rise from 43 percent of students reaching grade-level proficiency to 59 percent, and reading scores improved from 43 to 49 percent, according to a 2012 report from the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute titled “Building 21st Century Catholic Learning Communities.” Dan Storz, the principal of Mission Dolores, said enrollment has increased from 215 last school year to 231 this school year. Since the program began, Mr. Storz noted a change in classroom approaches, with teachers now having more opportunities to work with smaller groups of students. “There’s a lot more opportunity for building that relationship between students and teachers,” Mr. Storz said. The blended learning program’s biggest impact, however, has been the creation of more differentiated learning for the students, or “meeting the students where their needs are,” Mr. Storz pointed out. Other Catholic schools around the country are taking notice of such successes. In Seattle, St. Therese Catholic Academy, a pre-K-8 school, started a blended program this school year based on the same model. The school’s enrollment was in a free fall—it dropped from a high of about 240 in the 1990s to a low of 90 before the 2011-12 school year— and that prompted the new initiative, said Joe Womac, the executive director of the Seattlebased Fulcrum Foundation, which helps fund Catholic schools in western Washington. The school “needed to attract more families by offering something unique,” he said. The school’s new hybrid approach means teachers have up to 35 students per class, but work with smaller groups that rotate from using laptops to access online curricula to faceto-face instruction. Students spend up to half their days working online, Mr. Womac said. The model has allowed the school to save money by using fewer teachers and has attracted new students. This school year, enrollment is up to 180 and the school hopes to reach 250, Mr. Womac said. But the St. Therese program has had both programmatic and financial support from outside groups, such as Mr. Womac’s, as well as Seton Education Partners, and a $300,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The Gates Foundation also supports coverage in Education Week of the education marketplace and new approaches to schooling.) It’s not a transformation a Catholic school could easily undertake on its own, Mr. Womac admitted. “I wouldn’t recommend a traditional Catholic school do the deep dive to 50-50 blended learning without consultation with multiple experts,” he said. But a school could “pick one or two online content providers and devote significant percentages of the day to that.”
Education Week’s special report “Evaluating What Works in Blended Learning,” the second in a three-part 201213 series on virtual education, examines how a variety of models that mix face-to-face learning and online instruction are emerging and generating lessons learned for K-12 schools.
See the pullout section opposite Page 16.
Other Catholic school systems are laying the groundwork for significant investments in new learning models based on technology. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Faith in the Future Foundation reached an agreement this summer to create an independently managed Catholic school system that would encompass the 17 high schools within the archdiocese as well as its four schools of special education. Faith in the Future is now running those schools. At the conference held at Catholic University, Faith in the Future Chief Executive Officer Samuel Casey Carter said once the founda-
Some Catholic schools have already seen success with blended learning approaches. In San Francisco, Mission Dolores Academy started its blended learning program in fall 2011, after receiving a $500,000 technology grant from San Francisco-based Seton
tion has performed a market and financial analysis of the schools, the organization plans to use blended learning to enhance the offerings for higher-performing schools and improve productivity and assessment methods in lower-performing ones. Lynne Sullivan, a senior program officer for the Boston-based Catholic Schools Foundation, which provides students with scholarships to attend Catholic schools in that city, conceded that Catholic schools have trailed behind public schools in technology investments in the past. But that delayed approach has now given them more flexibility to “leapfrog ahead” in terms of technology use. Since many Catholic schools did not invest heavily in infrastructure such as computer labs and desktops, they’re now free to jump on newer technology trends, such as tablet computing and wireless access. Offering families high-tech ways to save on costs and showing prospective students that Catholic schools are on the cutting-edge is critical, said Christopher Stefanski, the director of technology for the 11,000-student Catholic Schools of the Paterson Diocese, in New Jersey. “Whether or not it is the main reason, technology does play a role” in attracting students, he said. “We want to make sure that if a parent is looking at schools and sees the public school students using iPads, that we’re doing that too.”
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 24, 2012
Education Week - October 24, 2012
‘Smart Pills’ Promising, Problematic
At S.C. School, Behavior Is One of the Basics
Obama Finding Teacher Support Secure, if Tepid
Focus On: Curriculum: Calif. Laws Shift Gears on Algebra, Textbooks
Table of Contents
News in Brief
‘Value Added’ Use at Secondary Level Questioned
National Board Seeks to Revive Impact on Profession
Industry & Innovation
Blogs of the Week
Debates Push Fate of NCLB Waivers to Fore
Policy Menu Varies in State School Board Elections
The Election: Debating Education
Genevieve LaFleur & Scott Poland: Schools Can Be the Difference in Preventing Suicide
Kenneth Wesson: From STEM to ST2REAM: Reassembling Our Disaggregated Curriculum
Top School Jobs Recruitment Marketplace
Erica Frankenberg & Gary Orfield: Diversity or Resegregation? Why Suburban Schools Need a Plan
Education Week - October 24, 2012