Ohio Budget Expands Digital Learning Opportunities for Students; National Digital Learning Experts, Former Governors Bush and Wise, Laud State Action

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The legislation allows Ohio, which has been a national leader in providing full-time electronic school options, to catch up with states like Florida that have provided for all students options to take courses and use material on line in their regular school day or in place of and in addition to traditional courses in their schools.

The U.S. education system currently operates as an 8-track tape in an iPod world

Ohio has turned an important corner on the road to expanding high-quality, student-centric learning opportunities by including in the new state budget bill changes and initiatives that will expand the use of digital learning for primary and secondary school students, Ohio Education Matters said in a statement released today.

With the signing of House Bill 153, Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly have put Ohio onto a path to bring the future of learning one step closer by calling for the availability of digital learning opportunities for all of Ohio’s students, Ohio Education Matters said. National digital learning experts reacted positively to the state’s legislation.

"The U.S. education system currently operates as an 8-track tape in an iPod world," said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and co-chair of Digital Learning Now! "Because of the bold leadership of Governor Kasich and House and Senate members, more students in the Buckeye state will have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential. Ohio is on a path to transform education for the 21st century and give more students access to a customized education through digital learning.”

"The digital learning provisions of this legislation will greatly expand learning opportunities for students and teachers," said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, former governor of West Virginia, and co-chair of Digital Learning Now! "Today, the best learning is a result of high-quality teaching joined with high-quality technology."

Digital Learning Now!, created last year by former Govs. Bush and Wise, is a national digital learning advocacy group composed of more than 50 leaders from education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and think tanks.

The legislation allows Ohio, which has been a national leader in providing full-time electronic school options, to catch up with states like Florida that have provided for all students options to take courses and use material on line in their regular school day or in place of and in addition to traditional courses in their schools.

Key Ohio education stakeholders recognized the new opportunities that will now be available to Ohio’s students.

  • “Digital learning is transforming how education works. It is providing greater opportunity while improving taxpayer value. The digital initiatives contained in the budget will put Ohio on the forefront of digital innovation,” said Dr. Robert Sommers, director of the Governor's Office of 21st Century Education.
  • “This legislation provides the opportunity for Ohio to offer an array of education options that will serve the best interest of Ohio’s 1.8 million students. If our intention is to fully prepare our students to compete successfully in the 21st century in higher education and the workforce, expansion of digital learning is a critical element to accomplish this goal,” said Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar.
  • “Digital learning is going to bring about some dramatic changes in education in the years ahead. Ohio has taken some important first steps in the process of integrating digital learning into traditional classrooms, and it is going to be exciting to see where this leads,” noted Senator Peggy Lehner, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.
  • "Education is about children first and foremost. We have lost sight of this priority on occasion and adding digital educational capabilities will give parents a dynamic means that ensures their children can access high quality, contemporary material. The U.S. has fallen behind other countries in education results, and I believe digital education will help us regain our number one standing,” said state Rep. Craig Newbold, who is vice-chair of the House Education Committee.
  • "This budget is another step towards improving education in Ohio. Technology has become so interwoven into our everyday lives; it's great to see that we will be bringing more of its benefits to the classroom. Increased quality without increased cost - this is just what we need for Ohio's students," said Sen. Bill Coley, member of Senate education committee.

Of special note, House Bill 153 allows for an expansion of digital learning in traditional and charter public schools by providing the following:

  • Ohio students will have access to high-quality online courses at any point in their educational careers.
  • Students will be able to fulfill state curriculum requirements through online courses to supplement courses taken in a traditional classroom setting, at any time during the calendar year, without a limit on the number of credits received online.
  • All students will be able to customize their education through individual online courses – allowing them to access course-level options in addition to the already established full-time e-schools.

H.B. 153 also establishes the Ohio Digital Learning Task Force, which is charged with developing a strategy for the expansion of digital learning that enables students to customize their education, produces cost savings, and meets the needs of Ohio's economy.

“This legislation is consistent with a view of education that centers on the needs of learners, not those of institutions. As digital learning evolves, teaching and learning will become increasingly tailored to Ohio’s students’ needs and abilities,” said Lisa Duty, Ph.D., director of External Affairs for KnowledgeWorks, of which Ohio Education Matters is a subsidiary. “These changes are important as technology can create unprecedented access to a high-quality education, but historically policies have arbitrarily limited or controlled access to digital learning.”

Ohio Education Matters and KnowledgeWorks joined Digital Learning Now! to host Learning Unbound, a summit of national digital learning experts held in Columbus in January, to explore ways digital learning can improve student performance and lower education costs. The summit was an outgrowth of the foundation’s research, the 2020 Forecast – a tool for thinking about, preparing for and shaping the future of education by identifying trends and forces of change over the next decade.

“The 2020 Forecast illustrates a vision and demands a reengineered public education system that transcends parties, budgets, and elections. Digital learning is a key driver in recreating our education systems,” said KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Brian Ross.

The digital learning proposals are part of a nine-month study conducted by Ohio Education Matters in order to identify strategies the State of Ohio could follow to improve K-12 student achievement and reduce education spending. That work, under the banner of Ohio Smart Schools, was consistent with several aspects of the agenda of the Administration of Gov. Kasich and was included in portions of the budget bill addressing shared services by school districts, pooling public employee health-care insurance purchases, and improving the efficiency of local schools and districts.

The reports are available at http://www.ohioeducationmatters.org and http://www.ohiosmartschools.org.

Ohio Education Matters, subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, is a statewide, public policy research organization that focuses on connecting the dots between great innovations and those in the community who can make change. As a non-partisan entity, Ohio Education Matters acts as a catalyst of an education transformation in the state by conducting research, advocacy, engagement and policy development that inspires others to make the system changes needed today to prepare Ohio’s children for the future.


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