Archives for category: On-Line Education

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.

About once or twice a month, In the Public Interest sends out an email newsletter highlighting major issues and the latest news on privatization and responsible contracting. We keep you informed on new resources and efforts around the country to protect democratic control of public services and assets. *We never ask for donations.*

Peter Greene teaches in a small town in Pennsylvania. He hasn’t studied the research on Cybercharters but he can tell you which students they attract and how they are affecting the public schools in his town.

If he read the research, he would find out that Pennsylvania is utopia for virtual charter schools, having 16 different companies advertising for students. Students drop out almost as fast as they drop in. These “schools” are very profitable. The founder of the first virtual charter in Pennsylvania was charged with the theft of millions of dollars; actually, so was another virtual charter founder.

And the research shows that students learn less in virtual charters in Pennsylvania.

Here is Greene’s take, from a teacher’s perspective.

Plunderbund writes here about the largest charter school in Ohio. Its revenues are staggering, its test scores and graduation rates are low, its political contributions to its allies top $1 million.

“The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is the largest charter school in the state of Ohio. The online school is easily the largest charter school in Ohio, is larger than the vast majority of Ohio’s traditional school districts, and received over $88 million in state funding last school year. This year that amount is expected to jump to over $92 million.

“On the latest report cards released by the Ohio Department of Education, ECOT continues to rank below all of the 8 large urban schools that are often-criticized by legislators and in the media for their “sub-par” performance.

“For graduation rate, a key indicator for the long-term success of a school/district, ECOT’s 4-year graduation rate is a paltry 35.3%, while their 5-year graduation rate of 37.8%, which is only slightly higher, was still over 25 points worse than the lowest urban school district, Cleveland, which checked in at 63.3%. While we now see the legislature writing laws to specifically regulate Cleveland and Columbus more tightly, the charter school laws that apply to ECOT continue to be more lax.

“And while the data on performance for this school of 13,836 students (11th largest “district” in the Ohio) is bad enough, the financial games played by the school’s owner/operator are even worse. We wrote a comprehensive piece about ECOT back in 2011, but since then the school has continued to grow and continued to siphon ever larger sums of money away from higher-performing schools.

“On December 8, our post, Ohio’s Largest Taxpayer-Funded Charter School, ECOT, Receives Bonus Check, described how the school was up for approval of an additional $2.9 million dollar bonus from Governor Kasich’s Straight A Fund.

“On December 10, we posted a follow-up, ECOT Founder Living VERY Well Off Ohio’s School Funding Dollars, where we went into greater detail about the financial games being played and won by ECOT’s Founder, William Lager.

“Today, we have another update to the political donations and financial windfall experienced by Lager.”

Keep reading.

A North Carolina Appeals Court turned down K12, the publicly traded corporation that operates virtual charters.

It wanted to open a virtual charter in the state, but the State Board of Education did not act on its request, so it was denied.

K12 sued, and for now, has lost.

When the Legislature goes back into session, we will see whether the rejection sticks.

K12 has a history of astute lobbying and strategic political contributions.

K12 gets very poor marks from researchers and poor results, but that never stands in the way of its expansion.

Besides, the expansion of online charters is a priority for ALEC.


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