Introduction: The problem
Students in America are not receiving the education they need in traditional brick and mortar public schools. High-performing students’ potential is often stifled as the current system holds them back and low-performing students often become frustrated and discouraged. My experience in a Virginia Title I elementary school offers specific anecdotal evidence of this. For example, a majority of my Kindergarten students (16 out of 20) were considered ESOL (i.e. English for Speakers of other languages). Most of the teachers employed by the school were unable to effectively communicate ideas with a number of students because of the language barrier. This should raise concerns for policymakers about the sustainability of the current education model as Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently reported that the majority of students in public schools will be minorities by this fall.
On another occasion, a high performing student in class wanted to read an advanced level book but was not allowed to do so because it was “not on the lesson plan for that day.” Additionally, a neighboring Kindergarten teacher had a student in her class who excelled at drawing and other artistically demonstrated skills. Unfortunately, he would regularly have to be pulled away from his work, despite his deep interest, skill, and focus to work on something else that did not inspire the same passion in him.
A final example of the failure of the current model to meet individual student needs is student mobility across school districts. According to U.S. Census data (Schachter, 2004, pg. 3), 14% of school age children (5-19) changed residence between 2002 and 2003. Students who experience high levels of mobility are more often minority or low-SES (Craig, 1998). The problem with this is that when a student moves to a new school, teachers and administrators know little about that student’s academic strengths, weaknesses, interests, and behavioral temperaments. An unfortunate consequence of this is that disadvantaged students who experience high mobility likely receive a sub-par education within the range of education they could have possibly received.
The long and short of these examples is that the current model of public education is failing to effectively meet the academic needs of individual students. Hence, policymakers should take it upon themselves to structure the public education system in a way that is geared towards the needs and interests of individual students. Virtual learning is a relatively new concept in the K-12 education policy world. Policymakers debate the merits and demerits of virtual learning versus traditional learning in brick and mortar public school institutions, yet there is unfortunately little discussion concerning a hybrid or blended model of the two. Under the implementation of a virtual-traditional hybrid model of education, efficiency, adequacy, and educational effectiveness will be more readily achieved for individual...