Audrey Spalding
It's no secret that the cost of public education has ballooned, with little to show for it. During the past four decades, education spending has more than doubled, even after accounting for inflation. And yet, student achievement has not improved.

Obviously, no single solution can fix the large problem of education in the United States. But, a general strategy that we can use to improve education is to allow more innovation in the classroom so that we can find better ways to help students learn.

This summer, we released Caitlin Hartsell's paper on virtual forms of education that are available to public school students, one type of classroom innovation. Digital learning can describe a variety of learning environments, including a student taking a class remotely, or a student working through exercises on a computer with assistance from the classroom teacher.

Hartsell pointed out that digital learning in Missouri is not rare — as a state, we've had some forms of digital learning for more than a decade. Rural schools, for example, share courses via interactive television as a way to offer courses (like foreign language and upper level math courses)  they otherwise might not be able to offer students.

But there's much more that could be improved. According to Digital Learning Now's report card for Missouri, state law does not stipulate that student achievement data be used to evaluate the quality of individual online courses, nor does state law require that failing individual course providers be closed.

If you have been following calls to close failing charter schools here in St. Louis, the lack of such requirements certainly seems troubling.

Somehow, it seems appropriate that the announcement of Digital Learning Day, a national campaign to highlight innovative and successful uses of digital technology in public education, came during the same week that the new iPhone update was announced. We are increasingly using technology to improve our lives. It makes sense that we should extend the use of technology to the classroom.

Digital Learning Day is Feb. 1, 2012. Read more about that effort here. And, of course, stay tuned to the blog. We will continue to update you with more news about education policy.

About the Author

Audrey Spalding