Sam Contis, Eric Benson | The California Sunday Magazine
It’s easy to see Deep Springs College—a tiny, highly selective two-year liberal-arts institution just outside Death Valley—as a bastion of tradition. The school was founded in 1917 by the electricity tycoon L.L. Nunn to create service-oriented leaders, and in many ways it can seem like a finishing school for intellectual cowboys. The 25 or so students are all male. They spend their days engaging in both manual labor (the college is a working cattle ranch) and classroom discourse (syllabi skew toward the Western canon). Alcohol and drugs aren’t permitted during the seven-week academic terms, and the community enforces a strict isolation policy that prohibits students from leaving the Deep Springs Valley except in cases of emergency or religious observance. Even the drive to the college evokes cinematic scenes of frontier outposts.
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Zoë Kirsch | Slate
What has happened in Gadsden, [Florida], shows how the push to rank schools based on measures like graduation rates—codified by the No Child Left Behind Act and still very much a fact of life in American public education—has transformed the country’s approach to secondary education, as scores of districts have outsourced core instruction to computers and downgraded the role of the traditional teacher. It also offers a glimpse into what that shift means for the students who are increasingly dependent on online courses to help prepare them for college and the workforce. Spoiler: The view from the ground suggests that many online credit-recovery courses are subpar substitutes for traditional classroom instruction.