00118 Research Based Legislation

Greater Arizona eLearning Association (GAZEL) annual CEO breakfast speaker last week was Arizona Senator John Huppenthal, Chairman of the Senate Education Accountability and Reform Committee

His talk was based on his decade of study to determine what will improve academic performance of Arizona’s K-12 students. His reading of a host of comprehensive research reports and visits to many schools though out Arizona supported his remarks.

Senator Huppenthal recommended four actions:

  1. Hold not just schools but districts accountable for academic performance.
  2. Rank districts on the Arizona Department of Education web site.
  3. Conduct holistic and scientific assessment of reform measures that show significant effects that are over 25% (points) in learning. (This amounts to about ¾’s of a letter grade, for example C to B-).
  4. Check highest districts for reform models and lowest districts for intervention within their 1600 schools.

He referenced a number of very high performing models.  Florida made a significant investment in technology, and their NEAP scores made the largest increase of any state. Vail high schools rejected books in favor of a laptop for every student. Carpe Diem charter school in Yuma has double the 25% learning effect target with digital curriculum and coaches.

Studies are showing only 25% of students do homework in traditional low motivation classrooms. Motivation is rooted in our primitive instincts. Senator Huppenthal believes a critical part of a motivational learning model is the student must a member of a team and maximizing individual status is important. He is working on a program with ASU researchers where the team scores are used as a primary motivational factor.

A critical reason why eLearning works is that the child can stay with his or her social cohort while learning at his or her best pace. Motivation stays high while to learn individual learning needs are satisfied. In Lancaster Monitorial schools, small teams from a variety of grades operate with high degrees of effectiveness in one large classroom.

Senator Huppenthal believes that a “killer application” will emerge. The audience thought that it would be more like a set of killer applications. He also set a vision for the group. The current best application, out of the many dozens he has reviewed, increases learning from 16 to 32 points. He sees 50 points as the target norm. But out there in the future, he expects that we will see the 90 points killer app.

Senator Huppenthal said he could now announcement he will be running as candidate for Superintendent of Education. He suggested that Arizona Department of Education needs an educational “center” to mingle, mix and integrate all of what Arizona knows about technology and education. From a Rand study, he believes that as a middle performing state we are better positioned than others to ramp up to #1.  Many kids start out early with motivation to reach an adult goal but only 3% complete college and enter that profession. With more coordination within Arizona’s multiple-domain pathways that result should be 20%.

Senator Huppenthal is typical of the rapidly increasing number of state leaders that are engaging eLearning to in their efforts to improve K-12 education. Their understanding of critical protocols within this eLearning decade is the reason for optimism in the years to come.

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