“More American Parents Customize Their Coffee Than Their Child's Education”

Give K12 Inc. credit for a creative headline and opening to the press release about its recent poll: 39% of parents in the U.S. customize their coffee, and only 29% customize their children’s education. I expect that some people will dismiss the findings, because of the source, and perhaps because of the methodology, which is explained as an “online survey…not based on a probability sample.” Other readers will question whether only 39% of adults customize their coffee. Does that mean that 61% of coffee drinkers take their coffee however it’s handed to them? I find that hard to believe.

Still, many of the other findings ring true and provide a valuable reminder that online courses, and fully online schools in particular, are not well recognized and understood by many educators, families, and policymakers. Only about one in four survey respondents recognize that fully online high schools exist, and the percentage of respondents who know that fully online elementary schools exist is even lower, at 16%.

In our current research for Keeping Pace, we are documenting a slowing of the growth of the number of fully online students. The number is still increasing, but not at the same rate as in previous years. There’s no doubt that some of the slowing is because there is likely a natural cap—and a relatively low cap—on the number of students and families who will choose a fully online school. But some of the slowing is because fewer states are changing their laws in 2013 to allow fully online schools than in past years. And part of the reason that policymakers in those states are not choosing to allow such schools is because they are not familiar with how those schools operate, or that collectively online schools are serving several hundred thousand students.

Blended learning is receiving the bulk of the attention given to digital learning in recent years, and perhaps for good reason. But it’s necessary not to lose sight of the fact that fully online schools are an important part of the mix. They are certainly not for everyone, but they are the best choice for a small subset of students and families.

Disclosure: K12 Inc. is not an Evergreen Education Group client or a Keeping Pace sponsor, but Evergreen professionals have addressed K12 Inc. events in past years.