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線上學習在美國:成效不彰 虛擬學校備受質疑

立報/本報訊 2012.10.10 00:00
策劃、編譯■李威撰讓學生完全透過網路上課的虛擬公立學校,在全美各地受到熱烈歡迎。支持者認為,相較於傳統教室教學,線上課程提供了創新且可負擔的替代選擇。但在政府官員及教師間,卻醞釀一股反彈聲浪,質疑網路學校是否真能達到期望。緬因、紐澤西及北卡羅來納州的官員,以成績表現不佳、學生流動率過於頻繁、資金挹注模式似乎將私部門獲利看得比學生表現還重為由,決定今年不許開設新的網路學校。各州出現反彈聲浪賓州的稽查長也公布一項嚴厲指責的報告,要求改進資助公式。他表示,線上學校每年超收金額至少達1.05億美元(約新台幣30.8億元)。田納西州的教育局長則表示,新成立的田納西虛擬學院的學生考試成績讓人「無法接受」。在佛羅里達州,州教育官員正調查一間虛擬學校,因為該學校被指控錄用沒有證照的教師。9月底,佛州2處地方教育局駁回了成立虛擬學院的提案。包括密西根、印第安納及路易斯安納等幾個州,仍積極擁抱線上學校。網路學校在科羅拉多、華盛頓、俄亥俄及亞利桑納州特別受歡迎,4%的公立學校學生參加全日制網路學校。線上課程有時使用動畫或影片,讓主題能夠生動。但通常的情況是,就像把標準版的課本內容給放置在螢幕上而已。在一般高中英文課的單元裡,青少年被要求去點擊美國詩人惠特曼的生平資訊,並檢視其年表,再閱讀他的4首詩。做功課時,他們被指示寫下對於詩人風格的幾句評述,然後拿自己的答案跟解答做對照。每門課都有安排教師,其角色因學校不同而有異。有些會授課並舉行線上討論,讓遠在天邊的學生也能透過互動軟體參與。其他教師則將多數時間花費在用電子信件回覆個別的提問。▲里拉弗雷德里克領航中學的學生,在教室裡使用筆電,圖攝於2008年6月20日。線上課程、筆電及虛擬教師的出現,改變學生的學習方式。(圖文/路透)網路學校產業的領導者是K12公司,這家公開交易公司的學生註冊人數大量增加,利潤也滾滾而來。該公司最近回報,2012會計年度的營收是7.08億美元,利潤為1,750萬美元。無論是營收或利潤,都比前1年增加超過35%。緊追在K12公司後面的是連線學院(Connections Academy),該公司隸屬於教育出版業者培生集團(Pearson PLC),但培生集團沒有單獨公布連線學院的財務狀況。網路學校的支持者認為,線上教學計畫有它迷人之處,而且高度的個人化,學生可以隨時隨地登入,並按照自己的步調進行。K12公司的執行長派卡德表示:「孩童不應被侷限在一體適用的學校建物裡,過去1百年都是這樣搞的。」但接連數州都傳出,全日制線上學校交出差勁的考試分數及糟糕透頂的畢業率。學校管理人員解釋,他們剛招收進來的學生程度都遠遠落後,需要時間才能追上。如果按照K12所提供的資料以及阿肯色大學最近的一項研究,選擇線上學校的學生,經年累月下來確實是有穩定的進步。但當研究者將注意力放在所有註冊全日制虛擬學校的學生(高度流動性的學生族群)時,他們發現實際上有許多人在核心科目的表現上有退步情形。學生成績低於平均水準根據9月底公布的一份初步報告,幾乎每一間俄亥俄州的網路學校,在課業成績的進步上低於平均水準。史丹佛大學去年的一份研究也發現,相較於就讀傳統公立學校的同儕,賓州選擇線上學習的學生「在閱讀及數學上的進步明顯較少」。線上學校的高級官員表示,衡量進步情形的公式是不公平的,且不具代表性。舉例來說,田納西州只看見虛擬學校25%學生的成績。去年薪水加上股票報酬,年收入達5百萬美元的K12執行長派卡德駁斥,那些對線上學校的批評,是教師工會、教育局及其他現狀的既得利益者所做的「負面宣傳」。派卡德表示:「這就像是馬車皮鞭的製造商在說:『汽車不是解決之道。』」加強管理以及暫緩立案許可「只不過是路上的小障礙。」他說:「我相當地樂觀。」不過其他特許學校的經營者表示,他們對自己的結果感到失望,也歡迎州官員能給予細心建議。連線學院的執行長德雷爾表示:「不要說的好像每件事都很棒,或是這全部都運作的很好,因為這顯然不是事實。」德雷爾表示,連線學院已砸大錢來縮減班級規模、訓練教師及改進課程,但學生的成績卻沒有明顯起色。所以,她的團隊開始分析資料,嘗試找出為何有些孩子表現亮眼,其他人卻一敗塗地,她說:「我們真的有必要理出個頭緒。」(路透)Virtual public schools, which allow students to take all their classes online, have exploded in popularity across the United States, offering what supporters view as innovative and affordable alternatives to the conventional classroom. Now a backlash is building among public officials and educators who question whether the cyber-schools are truly making the grade.In Maine, New Jersey and North Carolina, officials have refused to allow new cyber-schools to open this year, citing concerns about poor academic performance, high rates of student turnover and funding models that appear to put private-sector profits ahead of student achievement.In Pennsylvania, the auditor general has issued a scathing report calling for revamping a funding formula that he said overpays online schools by at least $105 million a year. In Tennessee, the commissioner of education called test scores at the new Tennessee Virtual (1)Academy "unacceptable."And in Florida, state education officials are investigating a virtual school after it was accused of hiring uncertified teachers; in the past two weeks two local school boards in the state have rejected proposals for virtual schools.Some states, including Michigan, Indiana and Louisiana, are still moving aggressively to embrace online schools. The schools are especially popular in Colorado, Washington, Ohio and Arizona, where 4 percent of public school students attend cyber-schools full-time.Online classes sometimes use animation and video to bring topics alive, but often they resemble standard textbook lessons transferred to a computer screen.A typical high school English unit asks teens to click through biographical information about American poet Walt Whitman, review a time line, then read four of his poems. As they work, they're prompted to write several sentences about the poet's style and check their responses against an answer guide.Teachers are assigned to each class, but their role varies depending on the school. Some give lectures and hold discussions online, with far-flung (2) students participating via interactive software. Others spend most of their time answering individual questions by email.The industry leader is K12 Inc., a publicly traded company that has notched huge growth in enrollment - and profits. The company recently reported profits of $17.5 million on revenue of $708 million for fiscal 2012. Both figures are up more than 35 percent from a year earlier.Close behind K12 is Connections Academy, a unit of educational publisher Pearson PLC. Pearson does not break out financial results for Connections.Cyber-school boosters call the programs engaging and highly personalized, since students can log in any time, from anywhere, and work at their own pace. "Children should not be shackled (3) to a one-size-fits-all school building the way they have been for the last 100 years," said Ronald Packard, chief executive officer of K12 Inc.But in state after state, full-time online schools have posted poor test scores and abysmal (4) graduation rates. School administrators explain that their students come in far behind and need time to catch up. Indeed, students who stick with an online school for several years see steady improvement, according to data provided by K12 and a recent study by the University of Arkansas.Yet when researchers look at all students enrolled full-time in a virtual school - a highly transient population - they find that many actually lose ground in core academic subjects.Almost every cyber-school in Ohio ranked below average on student academic growth in preliminary report published by the state last week. A Stanford study last year found cyber-students in Pennsylvania made "significantly smaller gains in reading and math" than peers in traditional public schools. And Tennessee's first virtual school was slapped with the lowest possible score for student growth in recently released state rankings, putting it in the bottom 11 percent of schools.Online school executives say the growth formulas are unfair and unrepresentative. Tennessee, for instance, looked at test scores from just 25 percent of the virtual school's students.Packard, the K12 CEO, who earned about $5 million last year in salary and stock awards, dismisses critiques of online schools as "negative propaganda" put out by teachers unions, school boards and others with vested interests (5) in the status quo."It's like buggy-whip manufacturers saying, 'Cars aren't the solution,' " Packard said. Stepped-up regulation and delays in school authorizations are "just little obstacles in the road," he said. "I'm extremely bullish."But other charter school operators say they're disappointed in their results and welcome thoughtful suggestions from state officials. "Let's not say everything is wonderful and this is all working great, because it's obviously not," said Barbara Dreyer, CEO of Connections Academy.Connections has spent heavily to reduce class sizes, train teachers and revamp curriculum, but student scores have not risen significantly, Dreyer said. So her team is sorting through data to try to pinpoint why some kids flourish and others flounder online. "We really have to figure this out," she said(Reuters)關鍵字詞1. virtual (a.) 虛擬的2. far-flung (a.) 遙遠的3. shackle (v.) 束縛4. abysmal (a.) 糟透的5. vested interest (n.) 既得利益

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