Archives for category: On-Line Education

California Attorney General Kamala Harris reached a settlement of $168.6 million with mega-virtual charter K12 Inc. This settlement reflects the good investigative reporting of Jessica Calefati of the San Jose Mercury News, whose investigative reporting led to Harris’ review of K12’s finances and practices.

There are two more investigations underway: one by the California State Department of Education and the other by the State Controller. Now that virtual charters have been discredited by studies and thrown under the bus by the rest of the charter industry, this aspect of the industry may finally be on the skids.

“California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Friday the state Department of Justice has reached a $168.5 million settlement with for-profit online charter school operator K12 Inc. over an array of alleged violations of false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.

“The settlement comes almost three months after the Bay Area News Group published a two-part investigative series on the publicly-traded Virginia company, which runs a network of profitable but low-performing online charter schools serving about 15,000 students across the state.

“Harris’ office found that K12 and the “virtual” academies it operates across the state used deceptive advertising to mislead parents about students’ academic progress, parent satisfaction and their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California State University admission.

“The Attorney General’s office also found that K12 and its affiliated schools collected more state funding from the California Department of Education than they were entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data and that the company improperly coerced the non-profit schools it operates to sign unfavorable contracts that put them in a deep financial hole.”

Politico reports that K12 Inc. disagrees with the characterization of the settlement:

– Speaking of charter schools, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Friday that virtual charter school operator K12 Inc. will pay $168.5 million to settle [http://politico.pro/29NP6eM] alleged violations of the state’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws: http://politico.pro/29nJ0Nj . But K12 pushed back on the settlement amount – preferring not to include $160 million in financial relief that Harris’ office says will be provided to certain schools that K12 manages. Instead, K12 CEO Stuart Udell said the company will only pay $2.5 million to settle the case, and another $6 million for Harris’ investigative costs. Udell said his company admitted no wrongdoing. “The Attorney General’s claim of $168.5 million in today’s announcement is flat wrong,” Udell said. “Despite our full cooperation throughout the process, the Office of the Attorney General grossly mischaracterized the value of the settlement, just as it did with regard to the issues it investigated.”

– The settlement is another black eye for the virtual charter industry, which just last month had three reform-minded groups calling for it to be improved, or else problems such as low graduation rates will “overshadow the positive impacts this model currently has on some students.” [http://politi.co/1tyKbnt] More from Kimberly Hefling: http://politico.pro/29ImzF8

Gary Miron and Charisse Gulosino have prepared a guide and analysis of the growing online cyber schooling sector.

Nearly 300,000 students are enrolled in these schools. Their performance is unimpressive, decisively worse than public schools. Their graduation rates are abysmal. Yet they are profitable, which means their owners will continue to seek a greater market share.

The authors recognize that this secor produces inferior education.

What is to be done? I would say that these schools should not be allowed to operate for profit. They should not be allowed to advertise for customers. they should be closed if they are bad schools. That would be a start.

The authors recommend that policymakers should slow or stop
the growth of these schools. They should be closely monitored and sanctioned when they fail. They should be required to devote more resources to instruction and limit class sizes.

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?

While teachers across the nation have salaries lower than those of other professions and often need to take a second job to make ends meet, the executives at Michael Milken’s cyber charter chain K12, Inc. are faring very well indeed.

Their schools have high student turnover and low graduation rates, but it is a very profitable business.

The chairman of the board and CEO made $4.2 million last year.

The former CEO made $4 million.

The executive vice-president and chief financial officer made $824,000.

The president and chief operating officer made $5.5 million.

The executive Vice President, secretary, and chief counsel made $1.1 million.

The executive Vice President and manager of school services made $854,000.

Numbers are rounded.

Remember: It is all about the kids.

Stephen Dyer of the Innovation Institute was sure that the Ohio legislature would pass a bill to reform the state ‘s unaccountable charters. But he was wrong. The Senate passed the bill but it died in the House.

Why?

Money. Lobbyists.

“The Real Politick of Ohio charter school reform stems from big campaign contributors William Lager, who runs the nation’s largest for-profit school – the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow – and David Brennan, who runs White Hat Management, which also has an E-School – OHDELA. Between them, they’ve given about $6 million to politicians since the charter school program began. In return, they’ve collected one out of every four state charter school dollars ever spent.”

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.

 

 

 

 

Jeb Bush created the “Foundation for Educational Excellence” with two goals in mind. First, to burnish his credentials as a “reformer.” Second, to serve as a vehicle for advocating vouchers, charters, online learning, and high-stakes accountability.

Peter Greene writes that we now know who contributed large sums to Jeb’s FEE. We may safely assume that they shared Jeb’s policy goals.

He writes:

It is not an exact list in that donors are organized by ranges. So we know that Bloomberg donated somewhere between $1.2 million and $2.4 million, which is quite a margin of error. But it’s still a chunk of change, either way.

Joining Bloomberg Philanthropies in the Over a Cool Million Club are these folks, a completely unsurprising list:

Walton Family Foundation (between $3.5 mill and over $6 mill)
B&M Gates (between $3 mill and over $5 mill)
Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation (between $1.6 mill and $3.25 mill)
News Corporation (between $1.5 mill and $3 mill)
GE Foundation (between $2.5 mill and over $3 mill)
Helmsley Trust (at least $2 mill)

The Might Have Hit a Million Club includes

The Broad Foundation
Jacqueline Hume Foundation
Robertson Foundation
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Kovner Foundation
The Arnold Foundation

Beyond those, we find Florida businesses and a fair sampling of folks who have a stake in the FEE mission, like McGraw Hill and Renaissance Learning.

For the most part, it is a familiar list of billionaires and mere multimillionaires. What Greene notes is that there is no evidence of a grassroots base for Jeb’s activities. It is the same old, same old super-rich people–the 1%, if you will–fattening one of their favorites spokesmen.

Or, as he writes:

The truth about FEE is a reminder– for the gazillionth time– that we have yet to see an actual hard-core full-on grass roots movement in support of reformster policies. It’s also a reminder that if education issues were being decided on merit, or if all the Rich Person money just dried up tomorrow, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Ed reform is a big delicate rosebush in the middle of the desert, and money is the water that keeps it alive. Shut off the water, and it’s done.

Since there have been no positive results for any of the billionaires’ favorite Big Ideas, there is always the chance they will get bored. Never underestimate the power of boredom among the glitterati.

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.

Thanks to Valerie Strauss for reporting that the University of Phoenix is experiencing a huge enrollment decline and a consequent drop in its profitability and stock price. I am not at all sorry to see this, as I am not an aficionado of online “colleges” or for-profit education institutions.

 

She writes:

 

The University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit university in the United States, has lost a few hundred thousand students in the last five years, according to its parent company.

 

Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, announced Wednesday that revenues and enrollment had fallen in the last quarter about 14 percent compared to the same period in 2014. What’s more, the school’s enrollment five years ago was 460,000 students and now it is 213,000, CNN Money reported. The news on Wednesday sparked a 30 percent drop in Apollo’s stock. (Apollo stock was at $19.57 a share in Thursday morning trading, down 2.4 percent.)

 

The University of Phoenix, which started in 1976 in the Phoenix area, delivers education largely online but also has brick-and-mortar classrooms. In recent years it has been forced to close some of its classrooms and has faced competition from traditional universities that have started their own online courses.

 

Studies have shown that many of the for-profit institutions are predatory and concerned more with profit than with learning. Education should be profitable but intellectually and spiritually, not on the stock exchange.

 

 

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).

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