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The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNacol) issued a report Tuesday calling for online schools and providers of online courses to hold themselves to a higher standard than traditional brick-and-mortar schools. The association also said it would launch a pilot project with three to five states to collect data that measures online-education quality.

“We need to start being honest about what’s not working and protect the field,” said Susan Patrick, president and CEO of iNacol at the organization’s annual virtual school symposium in New Orleans. “The current accountability framework is flawed.”

Patrick warned her members that critical media coverage of bad examples of online education could scare school districts and parents away from adopting computer-driven instruction altogether. “Let’s face it, there’s a lot of crappy software out there on the market,” she said.

The report, titled Measuring Quality From Inputs to Outcomes, urges states to collect individual student data in five categories:

  1. Proficiency
  2. Growth
  3. Graduation rate
  4. College and career readiness
  5. Closing the student achievement gap

Patrick said she had no plans to rate or judge online education or note which ones are failing students. Instead the organization is focused on getting organizations to collect data.

One quality problem Patrick has noticed in online education is that often the same company that produces the online curriculum also makes the assessment test to prove whether students have learned the subject. She’s urging her members to use external assessments.

Colorado, Ohio and Louisiana are among the states that have expressed some interest in participating in the data-collection pilot.

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Jill Barshay writes the weekly “Proof Points” column about education research and data, covering a range of topics from early childhood to higher education. She taught algebra to ninth-graders for...

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