|Probably not going to end well
Now they anticipate “reforming” districts internally through online “personalized learning” programs. For more information see my prior post on blended learning, and how it’s being used to charterize public schools from within.
I've had some trouble getting folks to see any threat from CBE. After all, as with Common Core, it seems as if there are aspects to like (also, as with Common Core, some objectors are... um... extremely passionate and agitated to the point of being a little off-putting for civilians). CBE provides an alternative approach to assessment that could conceivably do away with PARCC-type testing. The personalization seems like it could be a really good thing for students.
But wrench is right-- it's charterization from within.
The modern charter strategy has been pretty straightforward. Target a public school (you can use Big Standardized Test scores to target it, or you can chronically underfund it so it's an obvious collapsing mess). Build a new charter school across the street. Take the students and the money that you want. Ka-ching.
But what if there were another way? What if you didn't have to get your hands on a building, or set up a whole new administrative structure? What if you could just take over a public school a piece at a time.
So this year you buy the CBE/Personalized service to provide remediation to your low-score students. Then you shift more students into that "class"? Then you hand over an entire department to the service, and so on, until a huge portion of your curriculum is purchased and delivered via internet-based software, beamed straight into your school. Meanwhile, the school could also outsource janitorial services, alternative education, the cafeteria, transportation, and maybe even the actual staffing. You'll still have some teachers, but their main job will be Management By Screen-- checking student progress charts on the monitor and intervening if anything seems off. By the time you get here, most of your school "managing" is being done by the companies you've hired, not your front office. Ka-ching.
Instead of building a complete new charter school, you simply take a public school and slowly swap out all the parts. At what point does it become a charter school and not a public one? The vendors don't care-- you can call it a blue cheese school if you want, as long as a ton of that sweet, sweet public tax money is headed for private corporate coffers.
CBE is a great way for folks to get into the charter school business without having to bother with so much of the actual business of running a school. They can just slip into an already-running school from the inside, replacing the heart of the school with their own proprietary software. Perhaps there will be sufficient pushback along the way as parents hear the disgruntled student tales of spending much of the day at a screen, rarely being taught by a live human. Or perhaps the public won't figure out what's happening until it's too late to put everything back that has been lost. I do have my doubts about whether or not CBE will ever really fly.
But in the meantime, this is a useful way to understand what's so bad about CBE and how to recognize that it's happening. It's the wolf devouring the sheep from the inside, until there's nothing left but a well-fed wolf in what remains of the sheep's clothing.