Archives for category: Online Learning

 

John Thompson is a historians and recently retired teacher in Oklahoma.

 

For more than two decades I’ve mourned the loss of opportunities for online instruction to augment and enhance student learning, as opposed enabling a Social Darwinian competition where charters attack traditional public schools. Educators seeking meaningful choices, such as real personalized learning, have been shackled by the need to fight back against “choice” advocate, as well as their spin, claiming to offer “personalized” instruction, measured by impersonal test score metrics.

Above all, I’ve been saddened by the way that beaten-down educators have often been bogged down in a defensive war against test-driven, competition-driven reformers. In order to survive the charter assaults armed with bogus test scores, too many schools merely complied with the corporate reformers’ mandates. In doing so, they robbed the students of the opportunity to be taught and to learn how to make the real choices that can guide them to lifelong learning.

This year’s Oklahoma legislature’s Common Education Committee Interim Studies are revealing a new, brave, and worthy campaign for holistic instruction. Almost all of the legislators who attend these hearings are former educators. Even though the committee avoids mentioning the unfolding Epic virtual charter school scandal, their weekly questioning of state educationleaders and virtual charter supporters make two things clear: today’s accountability for virtual charters is completely inadequate and it’s hard to even visualize a path toward a valid accountability system, much less build and implement one.

These hearings have been especially impressive because witnesses now dare to “keep it real.” They share the lessons learned in their years of experience in developing blended learning, recent experiments in virtual learning in traditional public schools, and their witnessing of the harm they’ve seen imposed by for-profit virtual charters. These efforts have been guided by experienced educators, by cognitive science, and educationresearch, not business people assuming that the market would solve vexing dilemmas.

So far in the interim hearings, charter advocates have kept their cards close to their vests and ducked the most important questions. A common refrain is that many charter leaders now agree that more accountability is necessary. An unknowable number of online students “hide out,” pretending that they are enrolled in school.

When asked how we got to the point where at least 18,000 students are enrolled in virtual charters, although we don’t even have adequate methods of counting attendance, they hear from charter supporters that the accountability law is only two years old, there are concerns about accountability metrics, and concerns about virtual charters not being accountable for low graduation rates, as well as a prominent multi-million dollar marketing campaign (which clearly referred to Epic’s advertising budget.)

https://oklahomawatch.org/2019/09/12/five-things-to-know-about-virtual-school-funding/?utm_source=Newsletter+Subscribers&utm_campaign=b4ab572ee5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_08_26_05_18_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a3f6ea538a-b4ab572ee5-97009525&mc_cid=b4ab572ee5&mc_eid=05d2eb1443

The latest hearing, “Family Choice within Oklahoma Public Schools,” started with an overview of the vast range of choices that are offered by traditional public schools. Patrons don’t need charters to have access to: “Empowerment Schools;” “Conversion Schools;” supplemental online blended and virtual learning; and magnet and enterprise schools; or to take advantage of the state’s Open Transfer law. Expert witnesses then made the case that all of these options are less risky and more likely to benefit students when they are deliberately planned and implemented by professional educators, as opposed to true believers in market forces that can “blow up” the education “status quo,” producing rapid, “transformative” change.

https://okhouse.gov/Documents/InterimStudies/2019/19-129%20Detailed%20Agenda.pdf

Two of the best things about the evidence being presented to the interim committee are that they draw upon seven years of research by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), and cognitive science about what it really takes to devise 21st century pedagogies. For the first time in years, I heard thoughtful discussions of how schools can nurture “inner directedness,” respecting students by helping them to develop their internal locus of control.

In previous meetings, Derald Glover of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administrators (CCOSA) cited the National Education Policy Center and others showing that virtual schools need  24 to 41 percent less funding than brick and mortar schools. A key recommendation was that virtual school funding should not be based on student counts like brick and mortar schools; Oklahoma should learn from research and from states that base funding on course completion.

https://nepc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Virtual%20Schools%202019.pdf
https://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/01/11/11/11111.pdf
https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/lawmakers-examine-charter-school-funding-and-oversight-policies/article_77a4ca26-a05d-52be-acf6-570b141698a3.html

And the NEPC research cited by Glover explains why traditional public schools are the better vehicle for expanding online instruction. They cost less and produce better student performance. (For instance, administrative costs of virtual programs run by Oklahoma traditional public school systems range from about 1/3rd to ½ of Epic’s administrative costs.)

Their testimony was also consistent with the NEPC’s conclusion that blended learning is much more promising than virtual learning, but that blended charters haven’t shown that much better outcomes than virtual charters. This helps explain why blended learning offered by brick and mortar traditional public schools are the best option for online learning.  Drawing upon the work of Gary Miron, Alex Molnar, and others, CCOSA developed Blended Learning Framework where the teacher drives instruction.

https://www.ccosa.org/index.php?resources&a=view&resource_id=112

Moreover, representatives of the Tulsa Union and Cleveland school systems described the process of how they started with blended instruction, and used those experiences when devising virtual learning programs. Tulsa Union is the district which inspired the headline for David Kirp’s New York Times article, “Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These?”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/01/opinion/sunday/who-needs-charters-when-you-have-public-schools-like-these.html

Union’s virtual students are offered “every choice they could ever want.” They are welcome to enjoy the “entire high school experience, including prom.” About 1/4th of the virtual students sign up for music electives, and they can sign up for early college instruction and graduate with associates degrees; or participate in Career Tech partnerships that seek, “Commencement for a Reason”

Union, as well as Cleveland Public Schools, “vet applications carefully.” In contrast to for-profit and competition-driven virtual charters, traditional public schools understand that, ultimately, it is the patrons who choose the type of school they want, but if you have a kid who has struggled, extra guidance needs to be provided. They invest heavily in conversations with counselors and families, and seek buy-in by parents and students. During Q&A, the Cleveland superintendent said that if parents chose virtual schooling for a student who seemed to not be ready for it, they would then meet with counselors after two weeks, continuing the conversation about what was best for the kid.

https://okhouse.gov/Documents/InterimStudies/2019/19-129%20Educational%20Environment%20Options%20in%20Public%20Schools_Espolt%20(Cleveland%20Public%20Schools)%20presentation.pdf

And that brings me to the crucial issue that has been mostly ignored during the corporate school reform era. It was so rewarding to hear superintendents stressing the need to help learners become inner directed, not “outer-directed” persons, controlled by external forces. In contrast to some charters that are trying to socio-engineer a better system of controlling children’s behavior, molding them into better gladiators in the global marketplace, these traditional public schools want to help students develop an internal locus of control. Of course, that means these innovative districts put the whole child over test scores. Give the persuasiveness by which they explained their blended learning frameworks, I expect more and more districts to follow their lead, build upon the power of public education, and serve students holistically.

 

I wish you had a subscription to the Los Angeles Times so you could read this article in full. If you do, you should.

The University of Southern California had one of the nation’s best graduate social work programs. In search of more revenue, it made a deal with an East Coast digital startup to establish an online degree in social work, and enrollment ballooned from 900 in 2010 to 3,500 in 2016. The university saved on the cost of dorms and classrooms.

The money was rolling in, but the big beneficiary was the tech company, which kept more than half the revenue and is now valued at more than $2 billion. USC’s once prestigious social work school has lowered its standards to admit students who would not have qualified in the past; its reputation has suffered; and it is “facing a budget crisis so severe that nearly half of the staff may lose their jobs.”

Maryland-based corporation 2U Inc. now services universities around the country and abroad, but it relies on USC for about a fifth of its revenue.

Industry analysts have pressed 2U executives repeatedly about the unfolding situation at the social work school, and the company lowered revenue forecasts last fall, citing in part instability at the Los Angeles university…

Part-time teaching positions are being largely eliminated and professors required to shoulder significantly heavier course loads. A university committee has recommended laying off up to 45% of the non-teaching staff….

2U takes a 60% cut of online tuition from the social work program, and the contract carries onerous penalties if USC breaks the arrangement. People familiar with the agreement told The Times it contains a so-called poison tail that requires the university to continue handing over its revenue share for two years after canceling.

USC’s contract with the company extends to 2030.

The arrangement has been great for 2U. Not so much for USC.

 

 

This is an important article about the Silicon Valley billionaires who want to remake America’s schools, although none has any deep knowledge of children or cognition or the multiple social issues that affect children and families. Being tech entrepreneurs, most of them think there is a technological fix for every problem.

The article focuses on several billionaires and what they aim to achieve.

The writer, Natasha Singer, is careful to add red flags where necessary and seek out evaluations. She also is alert to the possibility that the tech entrepreneurs are building their portfolios and enriching themselves. And she points out that much of what they are doing challenges democracy itself in the absence of public debate and understanding.

She writes:

“In the space of just a few years, technology giants have begun remaking the very nature of schooling on a vast scale, using some of the same techniques that have made their companies linchpins of the American economy. Through their philanthropy, they are influencing the subjects that schools teach, the classroom tools that teachers choose and fundamental approaches to learning….

“The involvement by some of the wealthiest and most influential titans of the 21st century amounts to a singular experiment in education, with millions of students serving as de facto beta testers for their ideas. Some tech leaders believe that applying an engineering mind-set can improve just about any system, and that their business acumen qualifies them to rethink American education…

“Tech companies and their founders have been rolling out programs in America’s public schools with relatively few checks and balances, The New York Times found in interviews with more than 100 company executives, government officials, school administrators, researchers, teachers, parents and students.

“They have the power to change policy, but no corresponding check on that power,” said Megan Tompkins-Stange, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. “It does subvert the democratic process.”

Furthermore, there is only limited research into whether the tech giants’ programs have actually improved students’ educational results….

“Mr. Hastings of Netflix and other tech executives rejected the idea that they wielded significant influence in education. The mere fact that classroom internet access has improved, Mr. Hastings said, has had a much greater impact in schools than anything tech philanthropists have done.”

Hastings’ Dreambox software depends on constant data-mining:

“DreamBox Learning tracks a student’s every click, correct answer, hesitation and error — collecting about 50,000 data points per student per hour — and uses those details to adjust the math lessons it shows. And it uses data to help teachers pinpoint which math concepts students may be struggling with.”

This is the same Reed Hastings who just spent $5 million helping charter entrepreneurs gain control of the Los Angeles school board.

“Another difference: Some tech moguls are taking a hands-on role in nearly every step of the education supply chain by financing campaigns to alter policy, building learning apps to advance their aims and subsidizing teacher training. This end-to-end influence represents an “almost monopolistic approach to education reform,” said Larry Cuban, an emeritus professor of education at Stanford University. “That is starkly different to earlier generations of philanthropists.”

“These efforts coincide with a larger Silicon Valley push to sell computers and software to American schools, a lucrative market projected to reach $21 billion by 2020. Already, more than half of the primary- and secondary-school students in the United States use Google services like Gmail in school.”

Singer goes through each of the entrepreneurs’ programs. The only one that impressed me was the program in San Francisco that created a Pricipals’ Innovation Fund, “which awards annual unrestricted grants of $100,000 to the principal at each of the district’s 21 middle and K-8 schools.” The key word here is unrestricted.

Mark Zuckerberg’s dream is to sell his digitized approach to enable children to learn via computer and use teachers as moderators. He calls this “personalized learning,” since the computer algorithm adjusts for each student. Singer’s subtitle for Zuckerberg’s dream is: “Student, Teach Thyself.”

““Our hope over the next decade is to help upgrade a majority of these schools to personalized learning and then start working globally as well,” Mr. Zuckerberg told the audience. “Giving a billion students a personalized education is a great thing to do.”

Please, Natasha Singer, do a follow-up that explains that learning from a machine is depersonalized learning.

Leonie a Haimson, leader of Class Size Matter and board member of the Network for Public Education, reviews the drama of the last week and looks ahead.

“So it happened as predicted; Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote for Betsy Devos this afternoon.
Though disappointing it was in its way historic: the only time in US history that a Cabinet secretary needed the vote of the Vice President to be approved.

“The last few weeks have been historic in another way: Never have parents, teachers and concerned citizens been so outraged and activated over an education official or issue. Never have so many called, rallied, protested, faxed and written letters to their Senators, in an “avalanche” that nearly flattened Capitol Hill, overwhelming and shocking Senators of both parties….

“We need to sustain the activism and involvement we exercised in this battle and keep speaking out loudly and firmly to let education policymakers at the federal, state and local levels know that we will not stand idly by while our public schools are defunded, dismantled and privatized.

“One issue little noticed by the media: it was widely recognized how avid Betsy DeVos has been to allow for-profit charters and vouchers to draw funds from the public schools. What was little noticed is her devotion to online learning and questionable ed tech solutions. These will just as surely divert resources from the proven strategies that provide students with the support and human feedback they need. It was reported that the one financial company she refused to divest from is Neurocore that runs “brain performance centers” via biofeedback to treat autism and attention deficit disorder with no evidence of efficacy.

“In 2015, while speaking at SXSW Edu, that annual Kumbaya gathering of the technology tribe, DeVos sounded exactly like Bill Gates:

It’s a battle of Industrial Age versus the Digital Age. It’s the Model T versus the Tesla. It’s old factory model versus the new Internet model. It’s the Luddites versus the future. We must open up the education industry — and let’s not kid ourselves that it isn’t an industry — we must open it up to entrepreneurs and innovators.

This is how families without means will get access to a world-class education. This is how a student who’s not learning in their current model can find an individualized learning environment that will meet their needs.
We are the beneficiaries of start-ups, ventures, and innovation in every other area of life, but we don’t have that in education because it’s a closed system, a closed industry, a closed market. It’s a monopoly, a dead end. And the best and brightest innovators and risk-takers steer way clear of it. As long as education remains a closed system, we will never see the education equivalents of Google, Facebook, Amazon, PayPal, Wikipedia or Uber. We won’t see any real innovation that benefits more than a handful of students.”

“Surely, we will need all your activism in the battles to come – whether it be against the expansion of charters, the use of tuition tax credits or vouchers, or wasteful ed tech scams — all of which would divert precious resources from our public schools. Now that we’ve woken up our elected officials to the fact that parents and teachers and citizens fiercely love their public schools, and will do nearly anything to preserve, protect and support them, we must continue to speak out.

Please watch the 10-second video at the end of this post. You will love it!

Emily Talmadge, a teacher-blogger in Maine, used to worry about the dangers inherent in a Clinton administration. Now she warns that the threat of competency based education–delivered online, all the time, profiting a few, bad for humans–will thrive in a Trump Administration.

“The real agenda – the ongoing march toward a cradle-to-grave system of human capital development that relies on the most sophisticated data collection and tracking technologies to serve its unthinkably profitable end – is fueled and directed by a multi-billion dollar education-industrial-complex that has been built over the course of decades.

“It’s an absolute beast, an army of epic scale, and it’s a system that has the same uncanny ability to blend in with its surroundings as a chameleon.

“Take, for example, the new “innovative assessment systems” that are being thrust on us every which way in the wake of ESSA. Under the banner of free market ideology, the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is promoting the very same assessment policies that far-left groups like the national unions and the National Center for Fair and Open Testing are now pushing. And though some claim that one ideology is merely “co-opting” the ideas of the other, the reality is that they lead to the same data-mining, cradle-to-career tracking end.

“Consider, too, the massive push for blended, competency-based, and digital learning – all unproven methods of educating children, but highly favored by ed-tech providers and data-miners.

“Most of these corporate-backed policies were cooked up in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, and then made their way not only to the far-right ALEC, but also to left-leaning groups like the Center for Collaborative Education, the Coalition for Essential Schools, and the Great Schools Partnership. Depending on what sort of population each group is targeting, these wolves will dress themselves up in sheep’s clothing and make appeals to different values. For the right, they will package their policies in the language of the free market and choice; for the left, they will wrap them in a blanket of social-justice terminology.

“Pull back the curtain far enough, however, and you will see they are selling the same thing.”

Emily lives in Maine, whose Tea Party Governor Paul LePage was one of the first to jump on the Jeb Bush “Digital Learning Now!” bandwagon.

It was exposed in a wonderful, prize-winning “follow the money” investigative report.

The Columbus Dispatch reported the judge’s ruling against ECOT, which is fighting to block accountability and transparency for use of public funds.

“A judge today denied a request by the state’s largest online charter school to stop the state from requiring that it produce attendance records to justify the $106 million it got last year in state funding.

“Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French ruled in favor of the Ohio Department of Education, rejecting a preliminary injunction request by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow that would have immediately blocked the state from using log-in records and other data to determine how many full-time students actually attend the school

“The department has already completed its attendance audit on ECOT for last school year. The ruling means ECOT could be forced to repay tens of millions of dollars based on recent state calculations that its enrollment numbers last year were heavily inflated.

“French wrote that ECOT does not have a substantial likelihood of success on any of its claims in the lawsuit. A 2003 funding agreement at the heart of ECOT’s argument against the state was only meant to apply for the 2002 and 2003 funding reviews, French said.

“Enforcing an outdated 2003 agreement would be in violation of public policy,” French wrote. “The Court finds that if the funding agreement were interpreted in the manner that ECOT suggests, to require the state to continue paying hundreds of millions of dollars per year, without any ability to determine whether students are in fact participating in any curriculum at ECOT at all” would violate public policy.

“The ruling comes four days after the Department of Education informed ECOT that, based on its attendance audit, the district’s reported enrollment last year was inflated by 143 percent. Instead of the 15,322 full-time students that ECOT was paid for, the department said that based on log-in durations and other data provided by the school, the actual number is 6,313.”

What is competency-based education? Twenty or thirty years ago, it referred to skill-based education, and critics complained that CBE downgraded the importance of knowledge.

Today CBE has a different meaning. It refers to teaching and assessment that is conducted online, where students’ learning is continuously monitored, measured, and analyzed. CBE is invariably susceptible to data-mining of children, gathering Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that can be aggregated and used without the knowledge or permission of parents.

The first time that I heard of CBE (although it was not called that) was in a meeting in August 2015 with The State Commissioner of Education in New York, MaryEllen Elia, after her first month in office. I organized a discussion between Commissioner Elia and several board members of NYSAPE (New York State Allies for Public Education), the group that created New York State’s massive opt out that year (and again this year). It was a candid e change, and at one point, Commissioner Elia said that the annual tests would eventually be phased out and replaced by embedded assessment. When asked to explain, she said that students would do their school work online, and they would be continuously assessed. The computer could tell teachers what the students were able to do, minute by minute.

This kind of intensive surveillance and monitoring is very alarming. Once teaching and testing goes online, how can parents say no?

A group of bloggers wrote posts last week to express their concern and outrage about the stealth implementation of CBE. The lead post warns that opting out of annual tests is not enough to stop the digitized steamroller. It’s title is: “Stop! Don’t Opt Out. Read This First.” The author argues that parents are being deceived.

The blogger warns:

Schools in every state are buzzing this year with talk of “personalized” learning and 21st century assessments for kids as young as kindergarten. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its innovative pilot programs are already changing the ways schools instruct and assess, in ways that are clearly harmful to our kids. Ed-tech companies, chambers of commerce, ALEC, neoliberal foundations, telecommunications companies, and the government are working diligently to turn our public schools into lean, efficient laboratories of data-driven, digital learning.

He or she recounts the ways the technocracy responds to parents’ concerns and fears. The new way, they will say, is “personalized learning.” Don’t worry. We know what is best. When the parent objects that the test results come back too late to inform instruction, the technocrat says, “embedded instruction provides real-time feedback. No problem.” Parent asks, what about the stress? Technocrat: “Children won’t even know they are being tested.”

The blogger doesn’t actually say to parents, “Don’t opt out.”

Quite the contrary:

“Opt out families nationwide are encountering these same arguments, as though a pre-set trap is being sprung. Great. So opting out of end-of-year testing isn’t the silver bullet we hoped it would be. Now what?

Now that we know the whole story, go ahead and opt out of the end of the year tests. No child should suffer through them. But we have to expand our definition of opting out, to protect our children from data mining and stop the shift to embedded assessments and digital curriculum.

In addition to opting out of end-of-year testing, there are other important steps we need to take to safeguard our children’s access to human teachers and to protect their data, their vision, and their emotional health. There is no set playbook, but here are some ideas to get us started.

1. Opt your child out of Google Apps for Education (GAFE).

2. If your school offers a device for home use, decline to sign the waiver for it and/or pay the fee.

3. Does your child’s assigned email address include a unique identifier, like their student ID number? If yes, request a guest log in so that their data cannot be aggregated.

4. Refuse biometric monitoring devices (e.g. fit bits).

5. Refuse to allow your child’s behavioral, or social-emotional data to be entered into third-party applications. (e.g. Class Dojo)

6. Refuse in-class social networking programs (e.g. EdModo).

7. Set a screen time maximum per day/per week for your child.

8. Opt young children out of in school screen time altogether and request paper and pencil assignments and reading from print books (not ebooks).

9. Begin educating parents about the difference between “personalized” learning modules that rely on mining PII (personally-identifiable information) to function properly and technology that empowers children to create and share their own content.

10. Insist that school budgets prioritize human instruction and that hybrid/blended learning not be used as a back door way to increase class size or push online classes.

Parents, teachers, school administrators, and students must begin to look critically at the technology investments we are making in schools. We have to start advocating for responsible tools that empower our children to be creators (and I don’t mean of data), NOT consumers of pre-packaged, corporate content or online games. We must prioritize HUMAN instruction and learning in relationship to one another. We need more face time and less screen time.

Every time a parent acts to protect their child from these harmful policies, it throws a wrench into the gears of this machine. The steamroller of education reform doesn’t stand a chance against an empowered, educated army of parents, teachers and students. Use your power to refuse. Stand together, stand firm, be loud, and grab a friend. Cumulatively our actions will bring down this beast!”

Nancy Bailey watched advance promotional material for PBS’s “School of the Future,” and she is fearful that it will be a sales pitch for digital learning.

She writes:

“On Wednesday, Sept. 14, 9 pm ET, PBS and NOVA will air a two hour special called “School of the Future.” The advertisement tells us much. They are warning that the future for children demands that students need better preparation to succeed due to globalization. What they probably won’t tell us is that this future will likely continue to be manipulated by corporations.

“Technology

“This abstract, strange future they speak about (possibly puzzling to the smartest among us), will be about technology, of course.

“Their message appears to be that we better address technology that can be used with students, even to study their brains to see if they can learn faster and better. The goal is to close the achievement gap.

“The ad has that hint of emergency for which school reformers are known.

“Sal Kahn of Kahn Academy fame will be on the program. I don’t mind Kahn’s online instruction, but it is naïve to believe that such a program will replace public schools and real teachers.

“And that’s what today’s technology is about. Don’t be deceived by the few teachers that might be shown on this program.

“In some parts of the country they are sitting children online in teacherless preschools.

“They are replacing elementary, middle, and high school classes led by teachers with all online instruction, even though research shows that more computer time doesn’t work out as well as less screen time.

“Many school districts have wasted an exorbitant amount of money on iPads that have not proven to be worth what administrators thought when they purchased them. In some places they sit unused in the closet.

“Technology isn’t bad. It can benefit teachers, students and parents. But it should not be made to appear like it will miraculously improve the way students learn used alone.

“Many parents understand this. The reasonable use of technology is what Parents Across America recently advocated for in a position paper. They recognize the overarching push many corporations are doing to destroy public schooling by creating all online schooling.

“The last chapter in my book Losing America’s Schools: The Fight to Save Public Education is about the technology threat. I believe, like many, that the ultimate goal of the school reformers involves closing public schools in favor of all online–at home or in substandard charter schools set up like warehouses.

“Technology might help the homebound student or the student in rural areas, but this is an alternative. It can also provide review for students who need it, or advanced information for students who want it, but it is not as good as brick-and-mortar schooling.

“It is also troubling to hear repeated claims that computers will individualize schooling which we will hear about in this program. They might give students lessons at their level of understanding, but truly personalized learning involves real teachers and students with which to connect. The human element is critical.”

Get ready for the Brave New World of education, the one without teachers. Think of the cost savings!

Get

A new study conducted by Jennifer Heissel, a researcher at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, concludes that students who study Algebra I online do not perform as well on tests as their peers who learned the subject in traditional classes.

The study was published in the journal Economics of Education Review.

The study exploited a 2011 district policy change in North Carolina that allowed advanced eighth-graders to take Algebra 1 online. Prior to the change, none of the middle school students took Algebra 1; instead they waited until ninth grade to take it in a regular classroom.

North Carolina has developed one of the leading virtual education systems in the country, allowing rural middle school students the chance to take high school courses that would be otherwise unavailable. The virtual Algebra 1 middle school program increased equity in access at a lower cost than a traditional classroom, and most advanced students passed the course.

“However, equity in access does not guarantee equity in outcomes,” Heissel wrote in the study. “Policymakers should carefully weigh these tradeoffs.”

What surprised Heissel most was that the effect was seen in students who normally perform above average.

“Generally, no matter what you throw at high achievers, they end up fine,” Heissel said. “That’s what concerns me: If even the advanced students can’t do well, why would we think it would work well for all?”

Jeb is back, writes Peter Greene, with the same old snake oil. Having lost the GOP presidential nomination, he has returned to his favorite song: Public education is failing, and we (the reformers) need to disrupt it, monetize it, privatize it, and sell lots of technology to it.

As Peter shows, there is nothing new in what he has on offer. The same overworked and faulty statistics about massive educational failure (we would now be a fourth world nation if any of this baloney were true). The same claims about the wonders of technology. The same empty claims for privatization and profiteering. Merit pay. No unions. Test scores as the be-all and end-all of education.

Peter writes:

Jeb loves him some vouchers. In his perfect future, the money will follow the child. I always think this is a bold choice for a nominal conservative politician, since it is literally taxation without representation– taxpayers who don’t have kids get to pay for schools, but they have no voice in what kind of schools they get. And if the money follows the kid, why can’t the kid just have a big party?

But I have to take my hat off to somebody who still believes in vouchers. It’s the kind of devotion you usually find only in members of the Flat Earth Society, an adherence to a long-debunked belief that doesn’t have a speck of evidence to support it.

Float Free as a Bird

But why have a school at all, says Bush. Why not just get your AP Calculus from this on-line provider, and get your English from some other provider. Watch for the Amazon.com of homeschooling. Let students move through coursework at their own personal speed. Assess student mastery of skills through the year, and never social promote. Yes, we’ll have Competency Based Education, but we’ll call it something else.

Jeb’s answer to everything: get rid of public education.

Jeb Bush is the Ivan Illich of the right.