By Ana Tintocalis
California is one step closer to bringing free online textbooks for state college students, a huge step for the open education movement. A historic bill on the desk of Governor Jerry Brown would give college professors, and thereby students, an option to use free online, customizable curriculum rather than print textbooks, for which students spend upwards of $1,000 per year. The measure establishes the first free digital library for the University of California, the California State University and California Community College systems.
If the bill passes, students of 50 most popular lower-division courses could access the content through an online portal at little or no cost. Faculty members would be able to remix and repurpose the digital content as they see fit, rather than having to rely on print textbooks.
A similar effort is underway in the state of Washington, led by the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges, which seeks to create an Open Course Library that will include inexpensive online educational content. [Read more about some of the challenges they're contending with.]
Dean Florez, president and CEO of the 20 Million Minds Foundation, who helped craft the bill for State Senate President Pro Tem Darryl Steinberg, says the content within the digital library would Continue reading
For public school students in California, where you live usually determines where you can learn. To David Haglund, that’s not right.
Last month, Haglund, principal of the Riverside Virtual School, an online independent study program run by the Riverside Unified School District, introduced a statewide ballot initiative [PDF] that would give students unrestricted access to publicly funded courses – wherever they are.
The California Student Bill of Rights Initiative is “designed to eliminate control by ZIP code,” Haglund said.
Under the proposal, schools, districts and county education offices would be required to make available to all students the courses needed for admission to the state’s universities. Those courses, known as A-G requirements at the University of California and California State University, could be offered at a student’s school or district of residence or any other publicly funded school, and they could be classroom-based, online or a blended model of the two.
Nearly 27 percent of California public high schools in 2007-08 offered too few A-G courses for all students to take them, according to an analysis [PDF] by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.
“We in our public school system in California say, ‘If you don’t live within so many square miles of a building, you can’t play,’ and that’s not fair,” Haglund said. “And it’s particularly unfair when the Continue reading
From a press release sent today on behalf of new California Schools Chief Tom Torlakson:
“The law won’t let me call out the National Guard,” Torlakson said. “So I’m saying to every Californian: ‘Your schools need your help. And they need it now.’”
Torlakson said the California Department of Education would do its part, including conducting an independent review to set priorities and find ways to lessen the burden of state requirements on county offices of education, districts, and schools.
“Like our schools themselves, the Department has suffered severe cuts over the last several years, and multiple rounds of downsizing,” Torlakson said. “It’s time to step back and reassess what we can and cannot do and what we should do with the resources that remain.” Continue reading
California’s graduation rate overall has gone up, according to a press release by State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell.
“In 2008-09, 70.1 percent of public school students in California graduated from high school, up from 68.5 percent last year. The adjusted four-year derived dropout rate for the same school year is 21.7 percent, up from 18.9 percent last year.”
In terms of the achievement, gap: “The graduation rate among Hispanic students is 59 percent, a 4.9 percentage point increase since last year. Among African-American students the graduation rate is 59.6 percent, a 1.4 percentage-point increase.” Though the dropout rate in this context is still quite alarming: “The estimated dropout rate among Hispanics is at 26.9 percent and among African-Americans it is 36.9 percent. The percentages for both subgroups are up by approximately 3 percentage points, mirroring the percentage increase in the statewide results.”
Read more here.