Archives for category: Online Education

Peter Greene taught high school students in Pennsylvania for 39 years. Now he blogs and writes about education for Forbes, where people in the business world get schooled about education realities.

In this article, he makes clear that a Bill Gates has a horrible record in education policy and should butt out of New York.

Greene points out:

Nobody has expended more money and influence on US education, and yet even by his own standards for success—raising reading and math test scores—Gates has no clear successes. Nor are there signs that he is learning anything from his failures. Reading through years of the annual Bill and Melinda letter, and you find acknowledgement that their latest idea didn’t quite pan out, but the problems are never located within the programs themselves. Teachers didn’t have the right resources or training. The Foundation’s PR work didn’t properly anticipate resistance. After years of failed initiatives, the latest Gates newsletter concludes not that they should examine some of their own assumptions, change their approach, or invite a different set of eyeballs to look over their programs—instead, they should just do what they’re doing, but do it harder. “Swing for the fences.”

Currently the Foundation is focused on factors like curriculum and in particular computer-delivered education. This may seem like just the ticket for a governor who also questioned why his state is still bothering with brick-and-mortar school buildings. But regardless of what you think of the policies and programs that Gates is pushing, it’s important to remember that while he may be great at disruption, he has yet to build anything in the education world that is either lasting or which works the way it was meant to. And he can always walk away, having barely dented his fortune.

It is perfectly obvious that Cuomo’s invited Gates to “reimagine” education in New York because Cuomo’s wants to make distance learning permanent. Parents hate the idea. Students long to be back in school with their friends and teachers. Teachers want to see their students really, not virtually.

Cuomo should back off. He hasn’t talked to parents, students, or teachers, only to Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt of Google.

It’s also important to remember that the Constitution of the State of New York gives the governor zero authority over education. That power belongs to the Board of Regents.

Cuomo should take care of reimagining the economy, getting people back to work, and leave education to the appropriate state and local officials.

Naomi Klein coined the iconic book Shock Doctrine, about the way that the powerful elites use emergencies to expand their power because of the crisis. New Orleans was one of her prime examples of “disaster capitalism,” where the devastation of a giant hurricane created an opportunity to break the teachers union and privatize the public school system.

In this brilliant essay, published in The Intercept, Klein describes the many ways in which the plutocrats of the tech industry are turning the pandemic into a gold mine for themselves and planning a dystopian future for the rest of us.

Please read this provocative and frightening essay, which has numerous links to support her argument.

What she details is not just a threat to our privacy and our institutions but to our democracy and our freedom.

It is no coincidence, she writes, that Governor Andrew Cuomo is enlisting a team of tech billionaires to reimagine the future of the Empire State. They know exactly what they want, and it’s up to us to stop them.

She writes:

It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the “Screen New Deal.” Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.

Anuja Sonalker, CEO of Steer Tech, a Maryland-based company selling self-parking technology, recently summed up the new virus-personalized pitch. “There has been a distinct warming up to human-less, contactless technology,” she said. “Humans are biohazards, machines are not.”

It’s a future in which our homes are never again exclusively personal spaces but are also, via high-speed digital connectivity, our schools, our doctor’s offices, our gyms, and, if determined by the state, our jails. Of course, for many of us, those same homes were already turning into our never-off workplaces and our primary entertainment venues before the pandemic, and surveillance incarceration “in the community” was already booming. But in the future under hasty construction, all of these trends are poised for a warp-speed acceleration.

This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors, and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants, and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploition. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable, and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.

If all of this sounds familiar it’s because, pre-Covid, this precise app-driven, gig-fueled future was being sold to us in the name of convenience, frictionlessness, and personalization. But many of us had concerns. About the security, quality, and inequity of telehealth and online classrooms. About driverless cars mowing down pedestrians and drones smashing packages (and people). About location tracking and cash-free commerce obliterating our privacy and entrenching racial and gender discrimination. About unscrupulous social media platforms poisoning our information ecology and our kids’ mental health. About “smart cities” filled with sensors supplanting local government. About the good jobs these technologies wiped out. About the bad jobs they mass produced.

And most of all, we had concerns about the democracy-threatening wealth and power accumulated by a handful of tech companies that are masters of abdication — eschewing all responsibility for the wreckage left behind in the fields they now dominate, whether media, retail, or transportation.

That was the ancient past known as February. Today, a great many of those well-founded concerns are being swept away by a tidal wave of panic, and this warmed-over dystopia is going through a rush-job rebranding. Now, against a harrowing backdrop of mass death, it is being sold to us on the dubious promise that these technologies are the only possible way to pandemic-proof our lives, the indispensable keys to keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Maybe this won’t seem like a big deal to you, but it’s a portent of the future. It’s not a lot of students or teachers, but it signifies what’s coming down the pike.

A small alternative school in Avondale, Michigan, is going to be converted to a full-time virtual school.

All seven teachers will be replaced.

The district pretends that the decision was for the sake of the students, but in reality, it’s to save money. The district and the state of Michigan just could not afford to educate these students anymore so they settled on a cheap strategy. The kids will get an inferior digital education with no personal interaction with real teachers, but, hey, the state can’t afford to give them a real education.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week – but, for the seven teachers at Avondale Academy, they just found out they’re being laid off.

On Monday, the Avondale Board of Education voted to close Avondale Academy and to restructure it as the Avondale Diploma and Careers Institute Virtual School – a fully online alternative high school.

Social studies teacher Paul Sandy said he is horrified by the board’s decision. He created the petition “Save Avondale Academy” and, as of Tuesday evening, it has more than 500 online signatures.

“It’s a central truth that all children deserve real teachers – not virtual teachers who can’t see them, talk to them, hand them fruit snacks out of their big Trader Joe’s bag, buy them art supplies or talk to them out in the hallway between classes,” said Sandy. “All students deserve an education that is hands-on and involves physical activity, social interaction and authentic, real learning…”

As part of the decision, the Diploma and Careers Institute will provide all Avondale Academy students with their own Chromebook, and a resource center would be open Monday through Thursday, staffed with an adult mentor, for students who need in-person support. There would continue to be opportunities for breakfast and lunch, transportation and counseling for the students.

According to Frank Lams, assistant superintendent for Financial Services, this decision will save the district a substantial amount of money.

“The district would pick up 20 percent of the enrollment (from per-pupil state funding) and the net revenue. DCI would pick up the cost for the counselors and mentors, as well as all the hardware and software necessary for the program. So, there’s a shift of about $180,000 positive. This is based on 115 pupil enrollment for the Academy,” said Lams.

The online board meeting attracted nearly 150 attendees – a record number for the board. Teachers, parents, students and experts from Michigan universities and organizations all joined together to argue for the future of the 115 students at Avondale Academy.

Paul Sandy, the social studies teacher at Avondale Academy, wrote this about the school in his petition to save the school:

Avondale Academy is an alternative public high school in the Avondale School District that serves approximately 113 students from Pontiac, Auburn Hills, and Rochester Hills, Michigan. It is intended for students who have either struggled to succeed in a mainstream high school or for students who want a smaller school setting with more social-emotional support and a community style education approach.

Avondale Academy currently provides students with a positive educational experience through social-emotional supports to students, mentor groups that reinforce community norms, creativity through art and music endeavors, a mental health peer-to-peer group, project-based learning, and reading and math intervention. All of those things are made possible with teachers.

The board decided: These kids are expendable.

“In The Public Interest,” a nonpartisan organization that supports a healthy public sector, has identified eleven warning signs that privatizers are targeting your school district.

Read them and be prepared to defend your public schools from privatizers and profiteers!

Here are the first six. Open the link and learn about the other five:

As students, parents, educators, and school districts struggle to adjust to the Covid-19 pandemic, others see the crisis as an opportunity to escalate their efforts to further privatize public education. For years, “education reformers,” private companies that want to profit from public education dollars, and others have worked to undermine public education by privatizing all aspects of it—from charter schools, to contracted out bus services and cafeterias, to private testing companies, to software and hardware providers touting the benefits of virtual/online education.

With the current need for districts to rapidly switch to distance learning, many of these same privatization advocates and corporations are using the crisis and the resulting confusion as an opportunity to greatly expand their privatization agenda by offering to help solve some of the problems that the crisis is creating.

The pandemic is creating a fiscal crisis for state, local, and school district budgets and these same forces are also offering up privatization as the solution to these longer-term economic problems. Consequently, we are seeing a major push now by online (virtual) charter schools to greatly increase their number of enrolled students. We are also seeing a major push by “EdTech” companies (education software providers, online pre-packaged classes and tests, computer hardware, cloud computing companies, and others) to peddle their goods and services. These companies seek to offer their services as a way to radically reshape education and education budgets for the long term by dramatically cutting back on qualified classroom teachers and overhead expenses of brick-and-mortar schools.

What to watch for:

Public education advocates need to be vigilant to ensure that during this crisis no long-term commitments are made that increase the privatization of public education.

Below are eleven warning signs and some follow-up questions to help advocates determine whether and how privateers may be trying to make inroads in your school district.

1. Emergency powers have been requested, given, or exercised by superintendents that circumvent normal oversight rules.

• Have emergency powers been granted to district or state superintendents of education? What, if any, are the limits to those powers? When will the emergency powers end?
• How are school boards informed of decisions being made, contracts being entered into, etc., under those powers? Does the board have the authority to review or overturn those decisions?
• Are other emergency orders being put in place? What do they waive or change?
• Are there efforts to suspend open meetings and public records laws?

2. Procurement rules and processes are being suspended, overruled, or ignored.

• In response to the crisis, has your district, locality, or state suspended normal procurement rules?
• Are procurements being made outside the normal process?
• Are there guarantees ensuring that the district isn’t entering into long-term contracts?
• What, if any, transparency is there in the procurement and contracting process?
• Who is responsible for the contracting process and what monitoring and oversight is

3. Virtual/online charter companies are expanding their outreach and recruitment of students.

• Have online charters increased their advertising and recruitment activity in your area?

4. Charter schools and their advocates are pushing to change or ignore authorization and oversight rules.

• Are charter schools attempting to change or relax authorization, oversight, and renewal guidelines?
• Are charter schools requesting or being granted increased funding or extensions on funding or renewal periods?
• Are existing charter schools seeking to expand enrollment caps?
• Are districts providing additional services or technology to charter schools?
• Are there efforts to suspend or disregard open meetings and public records laws for
charter schools?
• Are there efforts to create long-term distance learning contracts with charters?
• Who is monitoring charter schools for compliance with all legal requirements? Are all
the services being delivered?
• Are charter schools ignoring requests for information?

5. Existing charter schools and new charter schools are pushing for immediate charter expansion.

• Are charter school chains or management organizations seeking expansive contracts to provide larger scale education services or replace schools struggling before the crisis?
• Are charter schools advocating for new or additional facilities, or changes in rules regarding facilities?
• Are homeschool charters aggressively marketing payments to families to be used to pay for educational and enrichment programs or services?

6. Education technology companies (hardware and software companies, online testing and lesson planning companies, etc.) are aggressively soliciting the district offering immediate solutions.

• Are education technology companies approaching the district to provide services during the crisis? Which companies? What services? Will those services be needed after the crisis has passed?
• Are companies that already have contracts with the district being allowed to expand those contracts?
• Are companies offering free introductory contracts that are tied to long term obligations?
• Are educational technology companies offering free hardware that requires the district to purchase or lease software or other services?
• All students do not have equal access to the Internet. What—if anything—is being done to ensure equal access?
• Who evaluates education technology software for cost and effectiveness? Are new contracts for education technology being executed? What are the durations and terms, and who is providing oversight?
• Is there a protocol for ensuring that student and educator data is secure? What is the policy for responding in the event of a data breach?

I earlier posted Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s outspoken criticism of Secretary DeVos for diverting CARES (coronavirus relief) funds to her pet projects (anything but public schools). DeVos wants to liberate America’s students from public schools, despite the fact that the legislation does not authorize her to follow her own wishes. DeVos has this wacky idea that learning online is “student-centered,” when it is not. We already know from experience and research that virtual charter schools are typically the worst schools in every state that has them.I should have first posted the DeVos announcement:

April 27, 2020
Contact: Press Office
(202) 401-1576 or

Secretary DeVos Launches New Grant Competition to Spark Student-Centered, Agile Learning Opportunities to Support Recovery from National Emergency

States can compete for more than $300 million to rethink education by creating flexible K-12 models, developing postsecondary tools that aid economic recovery

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today more than $300 million in discretionary grant funds will be available for states to use to create adaptable, innovative learning opportunities for K-12 and postsecondary learners in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. The grants will be funded through the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF), authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

“If our ability to educate is limited to what takes place in any given physical building, we are never going to meet the unique needs of every student,” said Secretary DeVos. “The current disruption to the normal model is reaffirming something I have said for years: we must rethink education to better match the realities of the 21st century. This is the time for local education leaders to unleash their creativity and ingenuity, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do to provide education freedom and economic opportunity for America’s students.”

The CARES Act provides $307.5 million for these discretionary grants, which the Department will divide between two competitions: $180 million for the Rethink K-12 School Models Grant and $127.5 million for the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant.

The Rethink K-12 School Models Grant is aimed at opening new, innovative ways for students to access K-12 education with an emphasis on meeting students’ needs during the coronavirus national emergency. The competition is open to state educational agencies which can apply for funds in one of the three categories:

Microgrants for families, so that states can ensure they have access to the technology and educational services they need to advance their learning
Statewide virtual learning and course access programs, so that students will always be able to access a full range of subjects, even those not taught in the traditional or assigned setting
New, field-initiated models for providing remote education not yet imagined, to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives
The full Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) will be available online today.

The Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grants are designed to expand short-term postsecondary programs and work-based learning programs in order to get Americans back to work and help small businesses return to being our country’s engines for economic growth. The full NIA for this competition will be issued later this week.

Secretary DeVos continued, “Current students and displaced workers will be navigating a very different job market and economy once America reopens. This competition is a tremendous opportunity for states to think creatively and strategically about what their workforce needs will be and how to support entrepreneurs and small business in order to get the economic engines in their states firing on all cylinders again.”

Application packages for these competitions will be available within two weeks. Applicants will then have 60 days to apply. As with most of the Department of Education’s discretionary grant competitions, applications will be evaluated by a panel of independent peer reviewers, and the highest-scoring applications will be funded. For additional information about how to apply, please visit

The Department continues to update with information on COVID-19 for students, parents, educators and local leaders.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the following websites:,, and

Talk about taking advantage of a crisis!

The rightwing extremist Heritage Foundation has issued its own report on how to recover from the pandemic. They cover it with patriotic glitz to make it appear like a government report, which it is not. It calls itself the “National Coronavirus Recovery Commission. But it is just a self-aggrandizing report from a rightwing think tank funded by the usual suspects.

The Task Force consists of people who share the Heritage view that government is evil, as are public schools.

Tucked into its recommendations is this: eliminate public schools and certified teachers.

That will help America sink back at least a century in educating its children, perhaps even two centuries.

Perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that the lead person on education was Kevin P. Chavous, CEO of the notorious for-profit K-12 Inc. online charter chain, noted for high attrition, low graduation rates, and low test scores–and above all, high profits! In 2019, Chavous’s total compensation was $4.3 million for his estimable services. But in the nature of for-profit enterprises, there are always new worlds to conquer, new markets to open up.

On page 5:

The Commission recommends that states help families return to work with access to K–12 education by making existing education funding student-centered and portable. Many parents and guardians who now find themselves in charge of teaching and monitoring their children’s educations are unable to access the public schools they pay for through their taxes and are looking for continuity in their children’s education. States should immediately restructure per-pupil K–12 education funding to provide education savings ac- counts (ESAs) to families, enabling them to access their child’s share of state per-pupil funding to pay for online courses, online tutors, curriculum, and textbooks so that their children can continue learning. Students are currently unable to enter the K–12 public schools their parents’ taxes support. They should be able to access a portion of those funds for the remainder of the school year in the form of an ESA. Parents would receive a por- tion of their child’s per-pupil public school funding in a restricted-use account that they could then can use to pay for any education-related service, product, or provider of choice. Additionally, state restrictions on teacher certification should be lifted immediately to free the supply of online teachers and tutors, allowing anyone with a bachelor’s degree to provide K–12 in- struction online. Research suggests that there is little if any difference in student academic outcomes between teachers who are traditionally certified, alternative- ly certified, or not certified at all. States should work with school districts to reopen districts based on data about where the disease is prevalent or waning. Deci- sions about whether to keep schools closed should be medically determined by zip code, tied to districts. Dis- tricts that have low incident rates should begin plans to
reopen, and all school districts should have emergency response plans (including quick transitions to online learning) if they are forced to close again.

The Commission recommends that states remove occupational licensing requirements. States have im- posed numerous occupational licensing requirements that in many instances are simply artificial barriers to entry that can inhibit individuals’ ability to pursue en- trepreneurial work. These should be eliminated. Simi- larly, states should extend reciprocity so that licensed individuals in one state are not subject to additional requirements in the new state. Eliminating or signifi- cantly reducing occupational licensing requirements can help to get people back to work and can also provide a state with access to individuals with high-demand skills. For example, Massachusetts created a one-day approval process to license doctors with out-of-state licenses as a means to expand access to medical care in response to the virus.

Peter Greene also saw this phony “commission report” that pretends to be an official document but is just another anti-government, anti-public school self-aggrandizing piece of propaganda.

He writes:

While Trump has announced a variety of groups he wants to gather together to charter a pandemic recovery for the nation, there’s one group that is already on the job– and their plans for public education suck.

The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission– doesn’t that sound grand? It sounds like a real official government thing, only it isn’t, exactly. It’s the project of the Heritage Foundation, a right-tilted thinky tank that has been a major policy player in DC since the days of Ronald Reagan.

He notes the presence of one Kevin P. Chavous, who has made good money by running with the rightwing crowd, a sector not known for their devotion to racial equality and civil rights.

Well, look. It’s Kevin Chavous, the big cheese at K12, the 800 pound gorilla of the cyber school world, the one funded by junk bond king Michael Milken and founded by a McKinsey alum (anoter early investor– Dick DeVos). They’ve had more than their share of messes (like the time the NCAA decided K12 credits don’t count). But the Trump administration has been good times for them. And Chavous used to help run the American Federation for Children, Betsy DeVos’s dark money ed reform group, from which he called for the privatization of post-Katrina New Orleans education. Do I need to add that he has no actual education background?

Want a reason to vote for Joe Biden? Read the Heritage Foundation report with their plans for a dark future.

A wise reader, who is anonymous, posted this comment a few days ago. I thought it was wise because we hear so many Disrupters cheering about “the end of schooling as we know it” when the reality is that most parents and students can’t wait for real school to start again. You don’t hear those same voices saying that no one will ever work in an office again; no one will every go to a concert or a play; no one will ever go to a physical store. They clearly have an agenda, and their predictions are their wishes, but they fly in the face of reality. Life goes on. It is never the same after an earth-shattering event such as a pandemic. But many things will not change. Who knows? Schools may even change for the better as parents show their gratitude to teachers and their public schools, and as the backlash against distance learning grows stronger, based on experience.

He or she wrote:

No one is calling for the end of grocery stores for Instacart, restaurants for takeout, church buildings for live streaming, physical stores for their online versions, theatre/sports/concerts for streaming, conventions for talking heads on video, clubs for solo dance parties on Zoom, renting office space for work at home, theme parks for Virtual Reality machines, etc. in the advent of COVID-19. But, so many think that this is a “great opportunity” to shift students away from school buildings.

“But education is broken.” Talk to people in any other industry, and they’ll tell you about the broken parts of those too. But they aren’t using COVID as a means to COMPLETELY change it. Yes, there will be a permanent uptick in grocery delivery, online shopping, a day or two a week to work from home, and videoconferencing as some people fall in love with the platforms and get used to them. There may even be a parent in a two-parent household where one was laid off, and they figured out that they could live on one income by getting rid of one of their car payments and so they decide to do virtual school.

BUT, society will be itching to get back into going to concerts, stores, conventions, theme parks, airplanes, sitting inside of restaurants, church, to the office, and SCHOOL!

David Deming, director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Kennedy School at Harvard, warns about the possibility of substituting online learning for real teachers.

He writes in the New York Times:

As the coronavirus pandemic forces schools and college campuses to go online, the delivery model of education — largely unchanged for centuries — has suddenly been disrupted.

This may seem like the acceleration of a permanent shift toward online learning, but I have my doubts. In fact, economics tells us that technology will make in-person education more valuable than ever.

At the moment, teachers from kindergarten through graduate school are struggling to take their classes online, and the initial results are, understandably, spotty. But the longer this mass experiment continues, the more familiar remote learning will become. And, has been predicted for many years, online performances by superstars are increasingly likely to replace more pedestrian in-person lectures.

This can go only so far, because other important aspects of education are best done by teachers in more intimate settings. Educators will increasingly be tutors, mentors and role models, and economics also tells us that these features of a great education will not scale up.

Therefore, I worry not about the future of teachers but of students. I fear that on-campus learning will become an increasingly important quality differentiator, a luxury good that only students with means can afford.

Consider that online education has been around a lot longer than Covid-19. According to the latest estimates from the Department of Education, 35 percent of college students took at least one course online before the pandemic, and this share has been growing steadily for more than a decade.

This spring, schools and universities had to move courses online with only a few weeks’ notice, and the results have often been ugly. Students face significant challenges, such as spotty access to the internet or an unstable living environment.

Yet the long-term prospects for online learning are good — up to a point. Many universities already offered high-quality lectures online before this crisis, sometimes through partnerships with organization like edX and Coursera. Khan Academy has offered free courses for younger learners. The increased flexibility of online learning has been especially important when students need to balance burdens like jobs or, right now, to care for themselves or relatives who have fallen ill.

After this crisis ends, online lectures will still be increasingly valuable, because they are known in economics as “nonrival goods,” meaning they are not used up as more and more people view them. For this reason, the very best lecturers can teach everyone at the same time. This could make lesser lecturers obsolete and should, at least to some degree, generate much-needed productivity growth in education.

This seems grim for teachers, but I don’t think it will make us obsolete, for two reasons.

First, demand for education is a moving target, and as people become more prosperous they typically want better education, not worse.

So while cost is important, it’s not everything. Bending the higher-education cost curve through online lectures may seem appealing, but the point isn’t to enable everyone to learn on the cheap. Rather, people will want better education for the money, and online lectures alone won’t do it.

This explains why massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, have largely failed to disrupt traditional education despite the hype. Lectures are part of education, but they are not the best part.

Second, as online lectures become better and cheaper, the other essential components of education will take more time and energy.

Within economics this is known as unbalanced growth: the tendency for resources to shift toward parts of the economy where productivity growth is lowest. It is partly why the bulk of U.S. employment has moved away from manufacturing and into the service sector and, in education, why tuition and salaries keep rising. Precisely because they are personal, services are hard to scale up — few people are interested in mass-produced child care, for example.

The personal services provided by educators include tutoring, individualized feedback and mentoring, and numerous studies, as well as countless individual experiences, show that such services are essential for learning.

Good teachers work with students individually or in small groups to diagnose and remedy specific learning gaps. A survey of nearly 200 educational experiments found that “high dosage” tutoring — defined as groups of no more than six students meeting at least four times per week — was one of the most effective ways to improve learning. High-frequency individual feedback also greatly improves student performance.

Teachers are critically important as mentors and role models as well, the studies show. Students are more likely to complete a college degree when teachers have high expectations of them. A female instructor greatly increases the performance of women in math and science courses and their subsequent interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.

Furthermore, racial gaps in course performance are smaller in classes taught by professors from underrepresented groups. Yet the implications of this research extend even beyond race and gender. Mentors matter for everyone, and they can have a powerful impact on students’ life choices and career success. There is simply no technological substitute for these aspects of great teaching.

Because of unbalanced growth, efficiency gains in online instruction will cause educators to shift toward more personal forms of education. Moreover, what economists call “cost disease” tells us that the price of tutoring, mentoring and direct personal intervention will rise, even as lectures are provided more efficiently online.

If these trends continue unchecked, on-campus learning and intensive interaction between teachers and students may eventually become unaffordable for all but the wealthiest institutions and, probably, the wealthiest families.

Two changes are necessary to avoid this tragedy.

First, we must broaden access to institutions that can afford a high-quality on-campus experience. Second, universities under budgetary pressure should resist the temptation to think of online learning technology only as a means of cost reduction.

It is wonderful that technology has enabled millions of students to keep learning even when direct contact is impossible. But once this crisis ends, we will be better off if technology frees up precious class time so that educators and students can engage deeply with each other and build personal connections that will last a lifetime.

During her tenure as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos has taught the public many lessons, most of which she did not intend. Her radical agenda educated the public about the privatization movement and its ambition to cripple public schools. She taught us that there really are people who put the profits of for-profit colleges above the students who were defrauded by them.

PeterGreene says she taught us why the Secretary of Education should be an educator.

He quotes a recent conference call that’s head with reporters. One thing is clear: she has no empathy or understanding of those who work in the schools. She is utterly indifferent to their knowledge and experience.

He writes:

Meanwhile, privatizers are chomping at the virtual bit to get students shoved into more profitable avenues of education-flavored products, like her old friends at the Heritage Foundation who are cheering her on to keep pushing the product because this is ed tech’s Katrina and by God they are going to cash in or know the reason why.

The Koch-funded Mercatus Center has more of the same. “Leverage the near-ubiquity of cellphones and internet to deliver instruction online,” but near-ubiquity is a lame measure, indeed. I imagine that none of these deep thinkers would like to be shot into space in a rocket that contains a near-ubiquity of oxygen tanks nor live in a home with a near-ubiquity of food. Worried about students with special needs? Senior policy analyst Johnathan Butcher reads the fed instructions as saying, “Give it a shot, but hey, if you have to leave them, leave them with our blessing.” Butcher adds “Parents, taxpayers, and policymakers should not allow traditional schools to claim they do not have the resources or expertise to deliver instruction online” based on God only knows what. And he touts the Florida Virtual School, Florida’s experiment in cyber-schooling that just keeps failing upward because Florida’s political leaders would rather finance a profitable turd than support public education.

In short, the amateurs are out in force, yammering about how schools should now see things their way, even though they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

It would be great, in the midst of all this, to be able to turn to a secretary of education who actually knew something–anything– about the inside of a classroom, who actually had a grasp of the many issues involved in the current crisis. I don’t mean to pick on DeVos, who is basically the Herbert Hoover of education right now– I can’t think of any secretary of education, not Arne “Katrina is super-duper” Duncan, not John King, not Rod Paige, not any of them, who would be worth a spoonful of rat spit right now.

But we could really use someone who knows what they’re talking about and isn’t just salivating at the chance to push some more anti-public ed policies. Of course, what any classroom teacher would know includes this– that when times get tough and crisis rear their heads, you can absolutely depend on the government bureaucrats to be largely useless, and you’d better figure out how to navigate this on your own. Which sucks, but it’s one of the many “hard things” that teachers already do, all the time.

We have known for a long while that the worst scandals in the charter sector are intertwined with online learning and cyber charters. Consider the bankruptcy last year of ECOT (the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow) in Ohio, whose owner collected $1 billion from the state over nearly 20 years, but declared bankruptcy rather than pay the state $60 million for inflated enrollments.

Then there is the infamous A-1 scandal in California, where the owners and several cooperating school districts were indicted in San Diego nearly a year ago for the theft of $50 million from the state, a scheme that involved phantom students.

Yet here we are in the midst of a pandemic and most schools have been shutdown to protect students and staff from exposure to the coronavirus. Almost overnight, millions of students were required to continue learning by going online. The platforms are different, but tens of millions of students are engaged in distance learning.

Kathleen Porter-Magee of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute sees this asa fortuitous moment, an opportunity to revolutionize education. She calls it “A Revolution in Education, Born of a Necessity.”

She says, seize the moment.

She writes:

Said more simply: Those working “in the arena” to run great schools and support great teachers are charging full steam ahead to make the most of this period of remote learning. Those who have been quick to dismiss distance learning as “ineffective” are looking in the rearview mirror and imagining a world where past must be prologue, rather than embracing the innovation that this moment may well have sparked.

You will not be surprised to learn that I disagree. From what I see and read and hear, I believe that parents want to get back to their own work. They don’t want their children home all the time, learning at a screen. Those who want to home school are already doing it. More important, I think that students must miss their friends, their teachers, their social life, their teams and activities. Home Alone is a drag.

And then there is the inconvenient CREDO study of 2015, which found that students in virtual charter schools fell behind their peers in brick-and-mortar public schools. In a school year of 180 days, the online students lost 44 days in reading and 180 days in math.

If you want our whole society to go backwards, distance learning and cyber schooling will do it.