Archives for category: On-Line Education

Far-right Governor Pat McCrory has brought in an aggressive leader for his strategy to privatize public education and dismantle the teaching profession. That is Eric Guckian, the governor’s tip advisor on demolishing–re, transforming –North Carolina’s education system.

Guckian is a TFA alum with long experience in the corporate reform movement. He wants “an aggressive K-12charter school environment in the state.”

At a meeting of the governor’s task force on education (which has no teachers on it), “Guckian presented five pathways for education in North Carolina that included a call to dismantle walls and textbooks for “digital online solutions;” having the business community play a larger role in developing educational pathways; job-embedded professional training for teachers; and basing teachers’ salaries on their “outputs in the field.” You can see where this is heading: profits for corporations, a welcome mat for for-profit virtual providers, and no professional preparation for teachers.

A proposal–Senate Bill 337–is already in the works in the ALEC-dominated Legislature to set up a charter commission that takes supervision and authorization of charters away from the State Board of Education and gives it to a new charter-friendly board. This charter board will be able to authorize charters over the opposition of local school boards. Senate Bill 337 is extreme in its commitment to deregulation. Charters would be able to take any unused public space for only $1. They would not be subject to conflict of interest laws. Their employees would not be required to pass criminal background checks. Their teachers would not require certification of any kind. High school teachers need not be college graduates. They would be relieved of diversity requirements.

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President Obama will unveil his technology plan for American education today in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Joy Resmovits reports on Huffington Post:

“President Barack Obama imagines a country where teachers know what’s happening in their students’ brains.

“He wants “teachers to have an ability to assess learning hour by hour and day by day,” a senior White House official said Wednesday. “That vision … is really not possible with the connectivity we have today.”

“That’s why on Thursday Obama will speak at a school in Mooresville, N.C., to unveil an initiative that aims to give 99 percent of America’s public schools high-speed connectivity over the next five years.”

Mooresville has won national attention because it provided laptop computers to every student in fourth grade and above, and its graduation rate shot up. The superintendent says there were other reasons for the increased graduation rate.

A few things about North Carolina: the Democratic Party held its 2012 National Convention there. It is a right-to-work state. The state spending on public education is 48th in the nation. Teachers’ salaries are 46th in the nation. Legislation introduced this spring by the president pro tem of the state senate would strip teachers of all tenure rights. At the same time that the legislature is attacking the pay and tenure of career educators, it allocated $6 million to hire inexperienced Teach for America teachers. The legislature also plans to expand the number of charters, free of conflict of interest regulations, free of diversity requirements, and free to hire uncertified teachers.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and all schools should be connected to the Internet.

But I would respectfully suggest to President Obama that there are far larger issues he should tackle right now, like defending the very existence of a teaching profession, defending academic freedom of educators, supporting the nation’s public schools, resisting privatization, and helping states provide equality of educational opportunity, with enough resources to meet the essential needs of students.

The good work of many parent organizations and local school boards achieved a positive result yesterday when the Legislature passed a bill reducing the number of tests needed to graduate high school from 15 to five.

Public sentiment was strongly opposed to the massive testing regime that had grown out of control and beyond reason.

More than 80% of the state’s local school boards had passed resolutions opposing high-stakes testing.

And the parent groups led the charge to persuade the legislature that testing had become a burden, not a means of improving student achievement.

The parent group called TAMSA (Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment) was also known as “Moms Against Drunk Testing.”

However, do not believe for a minute that the Texas Legislature has turned wobbly overnight. At the same time that they passed House Bill 5 to reduce the number of tests needed for graduation, they also passed a bill that will vastly increase the privatization of Texas public education by lifting the cap on charter schools. Another bill opens up the state to unlimited expansion of online corporations, the predatory companies that take dollars away from public schools while providing inferior education.

This is the language opening the door to exploitation of public dollars by the online industry:

7:13 p.m. by Morgan Smith

Legislation expanding online education in Texas public schools is heading to the governor’s desk. Both the House and Senate have adopted the final version of HB 1926 from Rep. Ken King, R-Hemphill.
The bill opens up the state’s virtual school system — which is now restricted to school districts, charters, and colleges — to nonprofits and private companies. Currently, many course providers within the virtual school systemalready subcontract with private companies. Starting in middle school, HB 1926 also requires all districts to offer students a chance to take online courses, though it limits the number of those classes students can take to three per year.
The Texas Education Agency would authorize course providers, renewing their approval every three years depending on student performance.
The online industry is powerful in Texas, and it lobbied hard to open the door to its inferior products. There is no evidence to support the value of online courses or homeschooling online at the government’s expense. There is a wealth of evidence that these courses and virtual schools are a waste of money.
So, score this legislative session as a victory for the critics of high-stakes testing, and a victory for the vultures who want to suck money out of the public system for their own enrichment.

TAMSA issued the following press release after the testing bill passed:

Dear TAMSA Members:
Today, legislators in the Texas House and Senate voted to adopt House Bill 5 as recommended by the Conference Committee. TAMSA commends this effort and would like to specifically thank Speaker Joe Straus, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Representative Jimmie Don Aycock, Chair of the House Public Education Committee, and Senator Dan Patrick, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, for their extraordinary leadership and commitment to shepherding HB 5 through the legislative process. Rep. Aycock and Senator Patrick and their committees personally listened to days of parent and student testimony on how the excessive focus on state-mandated standardized tests is negatively impacting Texas schools and student learning. These leaders met with stakeholders and other members of the legislature to diligently craft HB 5. Rep. Aycock and Sen. Patrick have set a new threshold in Texas for legislative access and transparency.
HB 5 has been extensively debated and amended during this legislative session. This much-needed legislation reforms and reshapes public education at the high school level, in particular revising the testing, curriculum, and accountability regime in Texas. Under HB 5, state-mandated STAAR exams required to be passed for high school graduation will be limited to five:  English 1 and 2 (reading and writing combined into one test), Algebra 1, Biology, and US History. HB 5 also eliminates the provision that required 15% of EOC scores to count in students’ final grades, as well as the cumulative score requirement. Two additional state-designed standardized tests, Algebra 2 and English 3, can be administered at the school district’s option. Further, HB 5 provides flexibility in high school curriculum that will allow Texas students to pursue their interests, while retaining rigor and allowing all high school graduates to be eligible for admission into Texas public colleges and universities. This bill also modifies the school accountability rating system.
“Texas parents have been extremely active and involved in the legislative process for the last two years since realizing the detrimental impact of the new STAAR tests,” said Dineen Majcher, President of TAMSA. “Parental involvement significantly helped legislators to understand the dire, albeit unintended, consequences of the current system. We have worked together to craft meaningful solutions.”

On behalf of parents across the state, TAMSA expresses its deepest appreciation to the House and Senate leadership and members for taking bold and positive action on behalf of Texas students.


The writer of this article, Colin Woodard, recently won the George Polk award, one of the highest honors in journalism.

The article is bout a sordid effort to promote technology as a for-profit enterprise in Maine schools. To introduce a Maine virtual charter school, to require online courses for graduation, and to follow a script written not by educators but by lobbyists.

This is a classic. Don’t miss it.

A new report reviews the advent of online courses for community college students.

It was prepared by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Online courses are popular because they seem to be a way to take courses at home, whenever it is convenient.

This is especially valuable for community college students because they are adults with multiple responsibilities.

What are the results?

Community college students who take online courses perform worse and persist less than those who take face-to-face classes.

This is the conclusion in the study:

“CCRC’s studies suggest that community college students who choose to take courses online are less likely to complete and perform well in those courses. The results also suggest that online courses may exacerbate already persistent achievement gaps between student subgroups.”

Online courses are not for everyone. They may actually be demotivating because of the lack of a personal relationship with an instructor. Once again, the hype is greater than the reality.

Cyber charters are profligate in wasting taxpayer dollars. A recent article on the Huffington Post reported that they spent nearly $100 million on advertising over a five year period. The biggest cyber charter, K12, spent more than $20 million in the first eight months of 2012.

In Ohio, home of rapacious and ineffective cyber charters, it costs the cyber operator $3,600 per student. But the corporation collects $6,300 per student. This leaves lots of dollars for profit and advertising.

Would it surprise you to know that the owners of the Ohio cyber charters give major campaign contributions to the governor and legislators?

In this article, the author predicts that technology will make the university obsolete.

He asks, why should anyone pay for a degree from Nowhere State University when they can go online and get a degree from an elite university for free? Or go online and learn whatever they want for free?

The underlying idea, at least for me, is the commodification of the higher learning.

If all we want from a university is a credential, we can buy it without going to the trouble of actually learning anything.

Inspired by this article, I logged on to Yale Online and picked out a course that interested me, offered by a very distinguished professor whose works I have read and admired. After 15 minutes, I found my attention waning, then wandering. I got so bored, I turned it off.

There are many good reasons to use technology to learn things that we can’t get out of a book or a lecture.

But technology is no substitute for human contact.

You think it can’t happen here?

You think your state is immune?

Read about the war on public education in Texas and think again.

Some part of this radical agenda is being promoted in almost every state.

Yours too.

This comment was written by Bonnie Lesley of “Texas Kids Can’t Wait”:

“I worry a lot whether public schools will continue to exist in some states. Our organization, Texas Kids Cant Wait, has felt overwhelmed at times this legislative session about the sheer number of privatization bills, all either sponsored by Sen. Dan Patrick or by someone close to him. We have been battling a big charter (what is in reality the gateway drug to privatization) expansion bill, a parent-trigger bill, opportunity scholarships, taxpayer savings grants, achievement district, “FamiliesFirstSchools”, home-rule districts, vouchers for kids with disabilities, online course expansion, numerous bills to close public schools and turn them over to private charter companies, and on and on. A friend said it is as if they threw a whole bowl full of spaghetti at the wall, believing something would stick.

Every one of the ALEC bills we have seen introduced in other states has been introduced in Texas this year.

The privatizers have also held hostage the very popular bills such as HB 5 to reduce testing significantly unless their privatization bills advanced, and advance they have. So lots of folks are playing poker with kids’s lives and futures.

What keeps many of us fighting 20 hours a day and digging into our own pockets to fund the work is our understanding that these bills are not the end game. We’ve read the web sites, beginning with Milton Freidman’s epistle on the Cato Institute’s website, that lay out the insidious plan we are seeing played out. We have also read Naomi Klein’s brilliant book, Shock Doctrine.

First, impose ridiculous standards and assessments on every school.

Second, create cut points on the assessments to guarantee high rates of failure. (I was in the room when it was done in the State of Delaware, protesting all the way, but losing).

Third, implement draconian accountability systems designed to close as many schools as possible. Then W took the plan national with NCLB.

Fourth, use the accountability system to undermine the credibility and trust that almost everyone gave to public schools. increase the difficulty of reaching goals annually.

Fifth, de-professionalize educators with alternative certification, merit pay, evaluations tied to test scores, scripted curriculum, attacks on professional organizations, phony research that tries to make the case that credentials and experience don’t matter, etc.

Sixth, start privatization with public funded charters with a promise that they will be laboratories of innovation. Many of us fell for that falsehood. Apply pressure each legislative session to implement more and more of them. Then Arne Duncan did so on steroids.

Seventh, use Madison Avenue messaging to name bills to further trick people into acceptance, if not support, of every conceivable voucher scheme. The big push now as states implement Freidman austerity budgets to create a crisis is to portray vouchers as a cheaper way to “save” schools. The bills that would force local boards to sell off publicly owned facilities for $1 each is also part of the overall scheme not only to destroy our schools, but also to make it fiscally impossible for us to recover them if we ever again elect a sane government. Too, districts had to make cuts in their budgets in precisely the areas that research says matter most: quality teachers, preschool, small classes, interventions for struggling students, and rigorous expectations and curriculum. See our report: Click on book, Money STILL Matters in bottom right corner.

Eighth, totally destroy public education with so-called universal vouchers. They have literally already published the handbook. You can find it numerous places on the web.

Ninth, start eliminating the vouchers and charters, little by little.

And, tenth, totally eliminate the costs of education from local, state, and national budgets, thereby providing another huge transfer of wealth through huge tax cuts to the already-billionaire class.

And then only the wealthy will have schools for their kids.

Aw, you may say. They can’t do that! My response is that yes, they most certainly will unless you and I stop it!”

A new report from the state auditor general shows how charters and cyber charters are overpaid, while the public system–which most children attend–get the short end of the stick.

“PA cybercharters avg cost of $10,145 was $3,500 more than national average of $6,500.

“PA charters spent avg $13,411 per student, about $3K more than national average of $10K.

“Fixing PA’s Charter School Formula Could Save $365 Million a Year in Taxpayer Money.”

The K12 cyber charter in Virginia may close.

The school enrolled 350 students.

The county “hosting” the school decided it was too much of a bother, and only five students from the host county were enrolled.

There have been persistent questions about the quality of virtual charter schools, but their profitability has never been in doubt.

K12 will go looking for another partner or the governor will find another way for them to make a profit by providing inferior education to students in Virginia.


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