Archives for category: On-Line Education

Wouldn’t you know that the narrative of “bad teachers cause low scores and failing schools” would produce new contenders to prepare “great” teachers?

The regular ratings published by the National Council of Teacher Quality in U.S. News claim that almost every teacher education program in the nation stinks. They reach that conclusion not by visiting campuses but by perusing course catalogues and give demerits based on their own criteria.

But what to do?

The answer (to some): online teacher education.

Many online “universities” already offer degrees to teachers, who presumably never interact with a real child until they enter the classroom. Online universities are the biggest producer of masters’ degrees for teaching.

Now, Emily Feistritzer has created an online company called “TEACH-NOW,” which will offer degrees to those who want to teach. She has already awarded degrees to 600 teachers but plans to expand the number of students to 10,000.

The newly rebranded TEACH-NOW Educatore School of Education (taking the go-big-or-go-home approach to capitalization) was founded in 2011 by Emily Feistritzer, a long-time analyst of alternative-certification programs. TEACH-NOW is a traditional certification program, however—it takes at least nine months to finish, leading to certification. The first class began in March 2013.

While the school has commenced or completed training more than 600 teaching candidates, it announced this week ambitious plans to prepare 10,000 new teachers over the next five years, and establish a master’s degree program. To help with the expansion, TEACH-NOW has hired Philip A. Schmidt, former dean of the teacher-training program for Western Governors University, a major nonprofit online school. At WGU, Schmidt helped oversee a similar scale-up over the past 14 years.

“It’s true that we’re in the relatively early years of this school of education [TEACH-NOW], but everything about what I see and hear tells me that the jury is no longer out,” Schmidt said in an interview. “This pedagogical approach is the real thing.”Emily-feistritzer-phil-schmidt.jpg

That approach involves a cohort-based, activity-based model with a focus on group work and early exposure to the classroom, starting by week three of the program, Feistritzer said. There’s also emphasis on candidates understanding several forms of education technology.

I admit I am skeptical of most online learning programs for children and for professionals, but I am willing to be convinced. Has any reader earned a degree online? What do you think of your preparation to teach?

Here is the handbook of the for-profit education industry (although it does advise you to drop the label “for-profit”).


Here are some basic facts that it recites. The world spends many billions on education. The United States spends close to $2 trillion on education, nearly $900 billion on K-12.


This is a huge market for investors seeking to make a profit.


And then it launches into spin about how terrible the American public education system is, never mentioning that our students (white, Black, Hispanic, and Asian) now have the highest test scores ever on NAEP, the highest graduation rates in history (for all groups), and the lowest dropout rates (for all groups). It is the usual “sky-is-falling” hokum, all intended to persuade the public to turn their public schools over to hedge fund managers and equity investors and hucksters who know nothing at all about education.


There is also no mention of the many scandals that have surrounded the charter industry, as fly-by-night operators cash in on a newly deregulated industry.


The main point, the same point that Michael Moe of GSV Investors has been making for nearly 20 years, is that the education industry offers the opportunity to clean up for the canny investor and entrepreneur, by siphoning off taxpayer funds that were supposed to go to children and classrooms.


If you love Teach for America, charter schools, consultants, for-profit schools and colleges, online universities, and technology, you will love this report. If you loved No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and “Waiting for Superman,” you will love this report.


If you think that corporate reform is a pox on American education, read it and arm yourself for the battles ahead.





This cartoon summarizes Jeb Bush’s education record. He is best known for championing high-stakes testing, A-F school grades, supporting Common Core, charters, vouchers, third-grade retention, and anything that. Strips away job protections from teachers. He boasts of the “Florida miracle,” but it refers mostly to 4th grade NAEP scores, which are likely boosted by third-grade retention and by the state’s class-size reduction policy, adopted by popular referendum but opposed by Bush. The miracle disappears by high school, as Florida’s high school graduation rate is below that of Alabama, which had no miracle.


David Sirota reported in International Business Times that Jeb Bush steered Florida’s pension funds toward campaign contributors. He also pressed for legislation to shield these contributions from public view.


Sirota wrote:


Jeb Bush received the request from one of his campaign contributors, a man who made his living managing money: Could the then-governor of Florida make an introduction to state pension overseers? The donor was angling to gain some of the state’s investment for his private fund.


It was 2003, still a few years before regulators would begin prosecuting public officials for directing pension investment deals to political allies. Bush obliged, putting the donor, Jon Kislak, in touch with the Florida pension agency’s executive director. Then he followed up personally, according to emails reviewed by the International Business Times, ensuring that Kislak’s proposal was considered by state decision makers.


Here was a moment that at once underscored Jeb Bush’s personal attention to political allies and his embrace of the financial industry, which has delivered large donations to his campaigns. Email records show it was one of a series of such conversations Bush facilitated between pension staff and private companies at a time when his administration was shifting billions of dollars of state pension money — the retirement savings for teachers, firefighters and cops — into the control of financial firms.


Florida officials say Kislak’s firm was not among the beneficiaries of that shift. But verifying that assertion is virtually impossible for an ordinary citizen by dint of another hallmark of Bush’s governorship: At the same time that he entrusted Wall Street with Florida retirement money, he also championed legislation that placed the state’s pension portfolio behind a wall of secrecy.


The anti-privatization organization “In the Public Interest” filed a public records request and obtained emails between Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence and public officials. Read them here.

The Network for Public Education shares the widespread sentiment that testing has gotten out of control, consuming too much time in the classroom and narrowing the curriculum.


In this post, NPE endorses a new initiative to protect children from invasions of their privacy by online testing, which these days is collecting confidential information that may be shared with vendors and other third parties without parental consent.


Last weekend brought exciting news from our friends at United Opt Out and Student Privacy Matters. Recently Student Privacy Matters, an organization comprised of a national coalition of parents, co-chaired by NPE Board Member and Class Size Matters Executive Director Leonie Haimson, and Colorado parent Rachael Stickland, released information related to the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).


COPPA states that parents of children under the age of 13 not only have a right to know what online information is being collected from their children, they have a right to opt them out of any online program that their child participates in at school, including online testing.


UOO believes that COPPA may be the key to a national opt out strategy. Last weekend UOO’s Peg Robertson, also know as blogger Peg with Pen, wrote the following:


This has serious implications for the Opt Out movement. As PARCC and SBAC and other online tests roll out we have a national strategy that can be used, for all children under age 13, as we opt out/refuse the tests. Currently, any other online programs and online testing in use for under age 13 can be halted. We know that there will be many questions to answer as we move forward with this strategy – understand that the only way to get our questions answered is to try it. Let’s do this.



Student Privacy Matters has provided sample letters to send to your child’s school to get information regarding what on-line programs are in use, as well as to opt them out off those programs. UOO recommends using the sample opt out letter to opt children under 13 out of the upcoming PARCC tests, which will be mostly administered online.


NPE will follow developments on this exciting potential opt out/refusal strategy, and provide updates as they become available.


For more information, open the link and read more about the organizations and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

When I was writing my book “Reign of Error,” I wrote about Jeb Bush’s plan called “Digital Learning Now!” It made bold promises about how technology would bring about a wonderful new world of learning and equity and why every district should open their doors to online schools and deregulate them. they need not even have a physical office in the state. Then I went in search of the research on which the report relied. Some was drawn from higher education, some from industry, some from the military. There was no research to support the claims of the Jeb Bush machine. The report was sponsored by the usual philanthropies but also by a bunch of tech companies, who would win big contracts if the recommendations were enacted.

Now Newt Gingrich has written an article lambasting our 19th century schools and recommending the brave new world that lies in front of us, in which technology replaces teachers.

He writes:

“The results of this method of teaching have been astounding, especially in charter schools that have adopted it early, like KIPP Empower Academy in Los Angeles. Nestled in an impoverished neighborhood where most students receive free or reduced lunch (a proxy for poverty), KIPP Empower has adopted blended learning and has seen progress that was once unthinkable. It recently scored an amazing 991 (out of 1,000 possible points) on the California Academic Performance Index. That makes KIPP Empower the top-performing school in Los Angeles County and one of the best in the state of California.

“Traditional public schools have also benefited from this model. Oakland Unified partnered with the Rogers Foundation to set up a similar program in a handful of inner-city schools in that district. The results are far fewer discipline problems and much better scores. At one of the pilot schools, the number of students reading at grade level actually doubled.

“Promising blended learning programs are underway in settings as wide-ranging as Washington, D.C., South Carolina’s Horry County Schools, and Middletown, New York, according to the Lexington Institute’s Don Soifer.

“In addition to these achievement gains, blended learning is also proving to be more cost-effective for taxpayers than the traditional model.

The cost of educating each student declines in blended-learning environments, in part because schools require fewer teachers to manage the classrooms. With fewer discipline issues, students become more engaged in the material and as a result, learn better. Additionally, teachers have more free time to spend with each student. This makes classroom size rules obsolete, and since compensating teachers has been the main cost driver in education, it is a big breakthrough.”

Isn’t technology wonderful! Fewer teachers, no more discipline problems, larger class sizes, reduced costs. What did he leave out? No more teacher certification? A vastly expanded gross national product. An end to poverty and inequality.

The usual narrative about the politics of Common Core describe it as a split within the Republican Party. On one side are the extremist members of the Tea Party, fearful of a federal takeover. On the other side are “moderate” Republicans like Jeb Bush, eager to make American students globally competitive.

The Southern Poverty Law Center thinks that the grassroots radicals want to use Common Core to destroy public education. Glenn Beck ‘s new book displays equal contempt for Common Core and public education.

But what is Jeb Bush’s role? He is no moderate. He is an avid proponent of vouchers, charters, tax credits for private schools, and virtual charters. He is as eager to destroy public education as any member of the Tea Party.

In this 2012 speech to business leaders, Bush said that the rigorous standards, if linked to rigorous assessments, would show the public just how bad our schools really are. He said,

“Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush captured the scale of the challenge when he told the gathering on the first morning that states are heading for a “train wreck.” He noted that when the new standards and assessments come fully online in 2015 that many communities, schools, and families are in for a rude awakening.”

Furthermore, “Bush warned that such bluntness about the poor health of American education and student achievement will trigger serious political backtracking. He said, “My guess is there’s going to be a lot of people running for cover and they are going to be running fast.”

Jeb Bush, in short, looks forward to the inevitable collapse of test scores on Common Core tests. The public, he expects, will be so shocked by the scores that they will be open to the choices he advocates. Suddenly, there will be a public clamor for vouchers, charters, online learning.

So the great divide within the Republican Party over Common Core is not between the “moderate” Jeb Bush and the “radical” Tea Party, but between factions that are both hostile to public education.

Donna Garner is a retired teacher in Texas. She is conservative, politically and pedagogically. She is furious that the State Education Department is expanding the virtual charter school K12. Her commentary below shows what a hoax K12 is. Imagine getting credit for two years of Spanish in only eight weeks, and credit for one year of Environmental Science in only two days! Meanwhile, K12 gets full state tuition for enrolling these students. The corporation will use some of its profits to pay handsome executive salaries (its most recent CEO was paid $5 million a year), and it will use taxpayer dollars to advertise heavily for new students and to pay lobbyists to win entry into new markets or assure funding equal to that of real schools. This is about as close as one can get to a Ponzi scheme in education.

Donna Garner’ s post reminds us that the operative principle here is profit, not ideology.


[After I wrote and published the following article about the Texas Virtual Schools Network (5.18.14 – “Texas Virtual Academy: Another Failed Education Experiment” — ), a frustrated parent posted her comments on Facebook telling about her son’s experiences in TXVSN in their local school district.

Please read these comments from the bottom of the page upwards. I have removed the identifiers to protect this parent and her son. – Donna Garner]

8:00pm May 18
From S. Oh, and the grades were 90’s or better

Comment History

From S.
7:59pm May 18
Donna, I questioned the curriculum dept, the virtual academy facilitators, teachers, school board and superintendent. I was made out to be the bad guy for questioning the program. How can a kid get a YEAR of Environmental Science in 2 days and 2 YEARS of Spanish in 8 weeks? My son will tell you he knows nothing about Spanish yet he got 2 credits for it.

Donna Garner

7:43pm May 18
I can’t tell you how furious S.’s message makes me. I taught Spanish I and Spanish II for many years. When I think how hard my students had to work day in and day out for a full year to get that course credit, and then S.’s son finished those courses in a matter of weeks, I want to say bad words. How any school district could approve of such a plan by the Texas Virtual Academy [TXVSN] shows how truly lacking in concern for academic excellence many of our school administrators really are.

From R.
6:17pm May 18
So who decided to have the virtual business academy at XXXX High School?

From S.
5:56pm May 18
My son took several classes through the virtual academy [TXVSN]. He finished Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 in just weeks and Environmental Science in 2 days. I brought up this issue and NO ONE in the district seemed concerned but me.

Donna Garner

Mercedes Schneider here reviews the transcript of a board meeting of Pearson in April 2014. Anyone can read the transcript but is allowed to quote only 400 words. That was Mercedes’ challenge.

What struck her was that Pearson’s business plan is heavily tied to adoption of CCSS. In this case, contrary to the assurances of Bill Gates, national standardization promotes monopolization, not competition.

What struck me was that the leaders of this behemoth, now taking control of large sectors of American education, had nothing to say about education. The discussion, not surprisingly, was all about profits and business strategy. Who decided to outsource American education?

The NCAA recently announced that it would not recognize credits from 24 virtual charters, all run by K12. One of them is the Ohio Virtual Academy.

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coslition writes:

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA): Will not accept credits from Ohio Virtual Academy after 2013-2014 school year

The credits from Ohio Virtual Academy, (OVA) operated by Michael Milken’s K-12, Inc., will no longer be accepted by the NCAA. (Michael Milken is the former “junk bond” guy). This year, OVA is extracting $85,171,828.28 from Ohio schools for students whose credits will no longer be accepted by the NCAA.

Why did the Governor, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Board of Education and the legislature not discover this fraudulent educational programming before the NCAA did? The report card of OVA has been available to these state officials for several years.

By the way, the CEO of K-12, Inc. had been paid in the range of $4-5 million annually before leaving the job a few months ago. This was in addition to several million dollars in company stocks.

There are other privately-operated, for-profit online schools in Ohio that have a similar report card to the OVA operation. The NCAA may wish to look at those operations. State officials should be first in line to investigate the efficacy of all of the for-profit online charter school operations.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A |
Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

A report from “In the Public Interest,” an organization that tracks privatization.
The outlook for the profiteers is not so bright. That is good news. So is the news from Alaska and Maine.

“National: As U.S. revenues of for-profit education companies slump, they look overseas for greener pastures. “Outside the U.S., it’s a wide-open area to run in without as much scrutiny,” says Michael Moe, chief executive officer of GSV Capital Corp. There is speculation that as part of a reshuffle of the Washington Post’s parent company, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway may acquire Kaplan. Kaplan International teachers will be rallying this Thursday at Kaplan’s New York office to demand a fair contract. “A year-and-a-half after voting overwhelmingly for Guild representation, Teachers at Kaplans International Colleges are still fighting for a contract that provides basic benefits for the 90% of the workforce that is part-time. Management refuses to budge. Kaplan ESL instructors, backed by their students, say enough is enough.”

I was also happy to learn from this site that school voucher legislation is stalled in Alaska because two Republican senators are worried about how vouchers will affect public schools. I testified by telephone to the Slaska legislative committee, and I am pleased to see that the committee is thinking through the consequences of this reckless proposal. Many realize it has nothing to do with education.

In Maine, a state legislative committee voted 11-2 to impose a moratorium on virtual charter schools, which is a priority of Governor Paul LePage, a disciple of Jeb Bush. There is interest in a virtual charter controlled by the state, not by external for-profit corporations. Legislators may have been thinking of the 2012 award-winning news story about the political and financial interests–the profit motive–behind the push for virtual charters in Maine.

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