Virtual School Meanderings

August 19, 2014

Entry #10,000 – NYTimes: Teaching Is Not a Business

00wi1This is the 10,000th entry on this blog – wow!  I have to say wow because I would never have guessed that I had done that much (even if many of the entries are just copied and pasted).  I figured that given the number, that this entry should be an original one.

In the past few days this appeared in the New York Times.

Teaching Is Not a Business

TODAY’S education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology.

Neither strategy has lived up to its hype, and with good reason. It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.

Marketplace mantras dominate policy discussions. High-stakes reading and math tests are treated as the single metric of success, the counterpart to the business bottom line. Teachers whose students do poorly on those tests get pink slips, while those whose students excel receive merit pay, much as businesses pay bonuses to their star performers and fire the laggards. Just as companies shut stores that aren’t meeting their sales quotas, opening new ones in more promising territory, failing schools are closed and so-called turnaround model schools, with new teachers and administrators, take their place.

To continue reading…

The only reference that the author makes about K-12 online learning actually occurs in the very next paragraph.  It begins:

Charter schools have been promoted as improving education by creating competition. But charter students do about the same, over all, as their public school counterparts, and the worst charters, like the online K-12 schools that have proliferated in several states, don’t deserve to be called schools.

While the blanket statement isn’t quite accurate, the sentiment does jive with the research.  Online or cyber charter schools that serve students statewide tend to do rather poorly.  We’ve seen this in state audits, independent research, investigative journalism, etc..

Center for Research on Education Outcomes. (2011). Charter school performance in Pennsylvania. Stanford, CA: Author.

Colorado Department of Education. (2006). Report of the State Auditor: Online education. Denver, CO: Author.

Hubbard, B., & Mitchell, N. (2011). Online K-12 schools failing students but keeping tax dollars. I-News Network. Retrieved from

Joint Legislative Audit Committee. (2010). An evaluation: Virtual charter schools. Madison, WI: Legislative Audit Bureau.

Layton, L., & Brown, E. (2011, November 26). Virtual schools are multiplying, but some question their educational value. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

Miron, G., & Urschel, J. (2012). Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools. Denver, CO: National Education Policy Center.

Office of the Legislative Auditor. (2011). K-12 online learning. St. Paul, MN: Author.

Ryman, A., & Kossan, P. (2011). The race to online: Arizona experiments with virtual K-12 schools. Will they work for your child? Arizona Republic. Retrieved from

Zimmer, R., Gill, B., Booker, K., Lavertu, S., Sass, T. R., & Witte, J. (2009) Charter schools in eight states effects on achievement, attainment, integration, and competition. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

This is just a sample…

The bottom line is that we have found that those full-time K-12 online learning programs that have success share some of the following characteristics: they are geographically-focused, they often require students to spend a certain amount or percentage of time on campus; many allow students to earn time away from campus for good academic behaviour, many limit the number of courses that students can enroll in at any given time (allowing students to focus more on fewer courses), many maintain a managed growth model to ensure they are able to manage their growing pains, etc..  Why legislators and policy makers aren’t pursuing more regulations that promote these kinds of criteria, I have no clue?!?

Actually, I do have some idea as to why – and it has nothing to do with education and everything to do with ideology and money!

May 23, 2014

Report – Pennsylvania Charter School Accountability And Transparency: Time For A Tune- Up

A week or more ago, this report came across my radar screen:

Pennsylvania Charter School Accountability And Transparency: Time For A Tune- Up

A couple of interesting blog entries about that report that also found their way to my electronic desk:

May 21, 2014

Review of Charter School Funding Report Finds Major Flaws

From Tuesday’s inbox…

GLC Logo


Bruce Baker, (732) 932-7496, x8232,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.orgReview of Charter School Funding Report Finds Major Flaws

Policymakers should ignore highly flawed report seeking more taxpayer funds for charter schools

EAST LANSING, Mich. (May 20 2014) – A report from the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform (DER) proclaims large and growing school funding inequities between school district and charter school revenues. The report contends that charter schools are severely disadvantaged relative to traditional local public schools in terms of the revenue they receive.  A new academic review of the report finds the report to be of little use for informing public policy and illustrates the problem of attempting to compare “all revenues” between local public district and charter schools.

Bruce Baker, Rutgers University, reviewed the report for the Think Twice think tank review project, published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The report, Charter School Funding: Inequity Expands, written by Meagan Batdorff, Larry Maloney, Jay F. May, Sheree T. Speakman, Patrick J. Wolf, and Albert Cheng, was published by the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas.

The authors of the report claim large and growing inequities between district funding provided through state, local, federal and other sources and charter school revenues from those same sources, even after accounting for differences in student needs.

In his review, Baker finds that the report has one overarching flaw that invalidates all of its findings and conclusions, “the report displays complete lack of understanding of intergovernmental fiscal relationships, which results in the blatantly erroneous assignment of ‘revenues’ between charters and district schools.” Baker further states that the report ignores district funding that passes through district schools to charter schools in most states.

The report also has several smaller shortcomings: (1) it suffers from alarmingly vague documentation; and (2) the report constructs entirely inappropriate comparisons of student population characteristics.

In his review, Baker applies concrete numbers to three jurisdictions and finds miscalculations coupled with other inaccuracies.

The serious flaws in the Charter School Funding report invalidate its conclusions and any subsequent return-on-investment comparisons claiming they’re a better deal because they receive less funding and yet perform as well if not better than traditional public schools.

In conclusion, Baker says “The Charter Funding report reviewed herein fails to meet either the most basic standards of data quality and comparability or methodological rigor. It is therefore unwise to use it to inform charter school policy.”

Find Bruce Baker’s review on the Great Lakes Center website:

Find Charter Funding: Inequity Expands on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible with support from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

This review is also found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center Web Site at:

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May 19, 2014

OCR Dear Colleague Letter To Charter Schools

Sent to me on Thursday via Ray Rose...

Thought you might find this interesting — not surprising — as it states clearly the legal obligations for charter schools to meet federal civil right legislation…

ALL charter schools in the US!

May 8, 2014

Will We See You At The National Charter Schools Conference?

So as the day draws to a close, here is one neo-liberal groups asking if they’ll see you at this neo-liberal event…  And people wonder why there is a crisis in American public education?!?  All you have to do is look at the slogan for the event, “The Numbers Add Up” – they certainly do for the profiteers and their buddies that are behind all of this !!!


Each year, our friends at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools host the National Charter Schools Conference, bringing together more than 4,000 charter school professionals and education reform/school choice advocates to discuss the critical issues facing the charter school movement and to get inspired to continue the work to ensure all children have access to a great school.

This year’s conference will feature some terrific policy, advocacy, and communications sessions that everyone in the education reform community should attend:

  • Mayors from major U.S. cities will be on hand to talk about their growing role in education reform.
  • Governors and Members of Congress will tell us what really motivates them to act and how we can best communicate with them on policy issues.
  • Attendees will hear from the New York City organization whose work forced Mayor de Blasio to reverse course after he shut down some of the top performing charter schools in the City. They will tell us what they did, how they did it, and what they would have done differently.
  • Attendees will learn the most effective messaging for school choice.
  • Participants will talk about “Blue State Strategies” for increasing support for charter schools and other school reforms in blue states.

The National Charter Schools Conference is June 30-July 2, 2014 in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Convention Center, located in the heart of the world-famous Vegas strip.

Can’t make it to the Conference and want to show your support for charter schools? Join @ExcelinEd in celebrating National Public Charter Schools Week happening now on Twitter! 


The Foundation for Excellence in Education is igniting a movement of reform, state by state, to transform education for the 21st century economy by working with lawmakers, policymakers, educators and parents to advance education reform across America. Learn more at

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Tallahassee, Florida 32302-2691


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