Archives for category: On-Line Education

West Virginia recently passed a charter school law, breaking its promise to the state’s teachers. A new board was created to authorize charters. That board just approved two for-profit online charter schools. One is run by K12 Inc., which changed its name to Stride. The other will be run by Ron Packard’s Accel, which operates low-performing charters in Ohio. Packard was the first CEO of K12 Inc., where he was paid $5 million a year.

Online charters are known for low academic performance, low graduation rates, and high attrition. A study by CREDO found that students in online charter schools learn almost nothing.

While findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their traditional public school peers. To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180-day school year. This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial-ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.

John Thompson writes here about yet another virtual charter scam, this one in Oklahoma.

He writes:

After years of failing to regulate charters, especially online and for-profit charters, Oklahoma is just one state that illustrates how hard it is to catch up and hold virtual schools accountable for either education outcomes or financial transactions.

In July 2019, according to an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation search warrant, “[Epic’s co-founders] enticed ghost students to enroll in Epic by offering each student an annual learning fund ranging from $800 to $1,000.” This was despite the fact that Epic knew that the parents of many homeschool students “enrolled their children . . . to receive the $800 learning fund without any intent to receive instruction.”

Epic’s recruitment of “ghost students,” who were technically enrolled but received minimal instruction from teachers, allowed the company to legally divert state funds for their own personal use, while simultaneously hiding low graduation rates to attract more support.

This year, Epic has received over $100 million in taxpayer money. And the company, in an exposé by the Tulsa World, admitted that over the years its “Learning Fund”—which is shielded from public scrutiny—received $50.6 million from the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

Tulsa World estimates the Learning Fund could cost the state about $28 million for 2019-2020. Moreover, the private management company Epic Youth Services receives a “10 percent cut” of the charter’s student funding. Also, state appropriations pay for the millions that Epic spends on advertising and generous contributions to elected officials.

If nothing else, Epic is helping to nail down the case that charters are a tool for privatization.

March 9, 2018

For more information contact:
Carol Burris, NPE Executive Director


Kew Gardens, New York – Today the Network for Public Education (NPE) released a new report, Online Learning: What Every Parent Should Know, in response to the growing dependence on technology in K-12 education. Schools are increasingly implementing digital instruction, often requiring that students use online programs and apps as part of their classwork. Many students even attend a virtual, full-time charter school, never meeting teachers or classmates face to face.

Yet there is scant evidence of educational technology’s success and growing concerns regarding its negative impact. This guide presents a frank assessment of the intended and unintended consequences of online learning in K-12 school and offers questions parents should ask principals if their child’s school adopts computerized programs to deliver instruction, assessment or behavior management.

Rachel Stickland, Co-Chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, had the following to say about the report: “NPE’s Online Learning report is essential reading for anyone questioning the research behind the national push toward digital education. With this report in hand, parents can discuss their concerns with online learning confidently with school leadership – whether it’s the lack of evidence showing that it actually works, the political and moneyed interests advancing it, or how it places student privacy at risk.”

Dr. Faith Boninger of the University of Colorado Boulder researches and writes about commercial activities in schools. Commenting on the importance of the report she said, “As much as companies are eager to sell digital technology to schools, and schools are eager to increase children’s achievement, research does not support claims that shifting to digital educational platforms achieves the desired goals. What a growing body of research does indicate, however, is that excessive computer use by children leads to negative health effects such as vision and sleeping problems, social-emotional disturbance, and addiction to digital devices. NPE’s report on on-line learning is an important, timely, resource for parents. In plain language, its review of what we know about online learning shows that parents would do well to not accept promises or bland reassurances, but rather be extremely skeptical consumers. Armed with this report, parents will be able to ask administrators the very hard questions that must be answered adequately in order to justify the use of digital technologies to teach children.”

The 18-page guide is a parent-friendly review of the research on virtual schools, online courses, blended learning and behavior management apps. It also includes a discussion of the student privacy issues that arise when highly sensitive personal student data is collected by online programs and then distributed to third-party vendors without parent knowledge or consent.

The guide’s harshest criticism is reserved for virtual charter schools, whose academic ineffectiveness, coupled with fraudulent attendance practices, resulted in NPE’s recommendation that parents refrain from enrolling their children in online charters.

Based on the report’s findings, NPE President Diane Ravitch advises parents to “be wise consumers.” According to Ravitch, “Technology can be used creatively in the classroom by well-prepared teachers. But most of what is sold as ‘digital learning‘ is a sham that allows vendors to mine student data. Worse, online charter schools are educationally worthless. Students learn best when there is human interaction between teachers and students and among students. Parents must beware of false promises by profiteers.”

Online Learning: What Every Parent Should Know is available online at

The Network for Public Education (NPE) was founded in 2013 by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody. Its mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools for both current and future generations of students. We share information and research on vital issues that concern the future of public education. For more information, please visit:

William Lager owns the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), which according to the New York Times, has the lowest graduation rate in the nation. ECOT is a virtual charter school, where students take instruction online. The state recently reacted to public criticism and decided to audit ECOT. It found that the school’s enrollment was vastly overstated, which meant that ECOT was receiving millions of dollars each year for nothing. ECOT went to court and argued that the state had no right to audit participation rates (attendance), but the court did not agree. Unless the decision is overturned on appeal, Lager will have to refund $60 million to the state.

Since 2000, ECOT has given $2.1 million in campaign contributions. Since 2010, 99% of Lager’s contributions have gone to Republican legislators. In the brief period when Democrats controlled the House, Lager gave them nearly $200,000. Since 2000, ECOT has received nearly $1 billion in state funds for its perennially failing school.

Think of it: an investment of only $2.1 million in campaign contributions generates nearly $1 billion in state funding for a low-performing school. What a bargain!

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 [] alleged violations of the state’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws: . 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.” [] More from Kimberly Hefling:

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.


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.