NEPC Again Directs Criticism at Fordham Institute Series

By Ian Quillen — April 03, 2012 2 min read
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The National Education Policy Center has published another critical review of a paper from the Fordham Institute’s series exploring issues in online learning.

This time, Luis Huerta of the Teachers College at Columbia University responds to a paper from Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel of Public Impact, a Chapel Hill, N.C.-based education consulting firm that focuses significantly on charter schools.

Hassel and Hassel’s paper is the only one in the series to focus specifically on the teaching force’s relationship to educational technology. It envisions a future world of education where teachers are less numerous and more highly compensated experts in their field of instruction, supported by a larger number of paraprofessionals. (This is a version similar to that shared by School of One founder Joel Rose, among others. Rose has likened it to a hospital where the number of nurses far exceeds the number of doctors.) The paper also argues that many state policies regarding funding, compensation, certification, and class size must shift substantially in order for such a vision to take hold.

But Huerta, who has told Education Week that many claims of research supporting online learning for K-12 students are disingenuous, cautions that the paper is only the authors’ vision, and not one with empirical evidence to back it. Huerta adds, however, that the makeup and size of the future teaching force—as well as the letter of the policies that govern said teaching force—is one of most important topics in education going forward.

The review is the latest analysis published by the NEPC asking questions of the Fordham Institute’s five-paper series, though it strikes a less combative tone than Wayne State University professor Michael Barbour’s criticism of a paper by former Edison Learning founding partner John E. Chubb. (Barbour suggested Chubb wrote his paper pushing for more state control of education with the ulterior motive of opening more school districts to for-profit ed-tech companies.)

It’s important not to get sucked into the tyranny of either/or here. While, in general, the Fordham Institute has appeared to support expansion of online learning, and in general, the NEPC has cautioned against doing so without solid evidence to back it, their published works on the subject perhaps lie more on a spectrum than merely on two sides of a divide. Because, as NEPC director Kevin Welner reminded us, both organizations are publishing the work of outside authors, who enter the fray with their own unique vantage points.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.