In 2009, Time magazine hailed School of One, an online math program piloted at three New York City public schools, as one of the year's 50 best innovations. Each day, School of One software generated individualized math “playlists” for students who then chose the “modality” in which they wished to learn — software, a virtual teacher or a flesh-and-blood one. A different algorithm sorted teachers' specialties and schedules to match a student's needs. “It generates the lessons, the tests and it grades the tests,” one veteran instructor marveled. It saved salaries, too, thereby “teacher proofing” (as policy wonks say) education in a few clicks.
Although School of One made only modest improvements in students' math scores and was adopted by only a handful of New York schools (not the 50 for which it was slated), it serves as a notable example of a pattern that Andrea Gabor, who holds the Bloomberg chair of business journalism at Baruch College/CUNY, charts in “After the Education Wars.”