Virtual School Meanderings

March 19, 2012

Why Do Cyber Charter Proponents Lie?

Okay, maybe lie is too strong a word.  I suspect mislead is a better choice (but lie does make a better title).  What I’m referring to is the frequent misuse of the available research to make full-time online learning – like that offered by cyber charter schools – seem much better than what it is.  For example, as the House of Representatives gets ready to consider Senate Bill 619, Dan Quisenberry (President, Michigan Association of Public School Academies) penned an opinion piece in several Michigan newspapers entitled GUEST OPINION: Cyber charters proved effective and highly in demand.  In the piece, he states:

Those who oppose Michigan’s cyber charters put forth some curious arguments as they try to shut the door on students like Steve. They claim that a cyber education is “substandard.” They say there’s no data or research to support the fact that these schools offer a quality education. They’re wrong.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education released the report “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning.” Researchers looked at more than a thousand empirical studies of online, learning conducted from 1996 through 2008. They concluded the “students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction.”

So much for the notion that no data exists to support the value of a cyber education.

For those of us who have actually read the report, we know that at best Mr. Quisenberry is misrepresenting both the findings of the report and what the report actually says.  At worst he is lying to an unsuspecting public to further the ideological agenda promoted by his organization.

There are three things wrong with what Mr. Quisenberry says about the US Department of Education meta-analysis that make his claims that there is data to support cyber schooling inaccurate.

  1. The meta-analysis contained only five K-12 focused studies, all of which were based on supplemental online learning.  There were no studies of full-time online learning, like the kind that the cyber charter schools require.
  2. Research focused on supplemental online learning, such as the five studies contained in the meta-analysis, have historically contained very skewed samples in favour of the online cohort.
  3. The meta-analysis itself states, “despite what appears to be strong support for [online and] blended learning applications, the studies in this meta-analysis do not demonstrate that online learning is superior as a medium” (p. xvii).  It makes this statement due to the small sample of K-12 studies and due to the high degree of variability in the individual findings for each study.

I spoke to the first two items in my own testimony on SB 619 that I gave to the House Education Committee, and I spoke to the third item in a comment that I left on the online article.

But the fact of the matter is this isn’t an isolated incident.  I can’t count the number of times I have had cyber charter proponents, along with members of the board of directors and the senior executive at iNACOL (i.e., the main practitioner organization for K-12 online learning), use that exact same line.

So I ask, why do proponents of cyber charter schools feel the need to mislead the public with false information?

I note that the folks in Georgia are having a similar conversation, as evidenced by this blog entry at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


  1. Short answer #1 – Many cyber charters are private corporations that have a profit motive. As a result, they are manipulating study results so they can present their business in the most favorable light.

    Short answer #2 – For-profit motive or not, every person in this world seeks to present their own interests in a favorable way to others. I’ve never seen a public school that tells parents of the kids enrolled in the school the full, unvarnished truth about their strengths AND weaknesses.

    What it comes down to is motive. Cyber charters, by nature, are motivated by profit, and sometimes (in the non-profit cases like KIPP), are motivated by more altruistic goals. Public schools have other motives (and not all of them are altruistic either). What we need is a means to funnel all types of motives toward the goal of high quality, online instruction. But the jury is still out on whether that is even possible.


    Comment by Dennis Beck — March 19, 2012 @ 10:04 am | Reply

    • The jury isn’t out yet because no evidence has been presented. In order for the jury to be able to deliberate, both sides need to present evidence and the jury gets to decide the validity of their claims. The fact of the matter is that there is no evidence to date that cyber charters can produce results, and a growing amount of evidence that they can’t! Yet cyber charter proponents, like Mr. Quisenberry and others, continue to promote them as a possible solution with no basis for that claim (so they are forced to lie). Plain and simple!

      Comment by mkbnl — March 19, 2012 @ 11:31 am | Reply

  2. […] I began the week with an entry on the rhetorical question of Why Do Cyber Charter Proponents Lie? (although one person did feel the need to answer).  Later in the day, these two items came across […]

    Pingback by More Misinformation From The Right « Virtual School Meanderings — March 20, 2012 @ 9:59 am | Reply

  3. […] Why Do Cyber Charter Proponents Lie? […]

    Pingback by IT6230 – You Must Learn Online « Virtual School Meanderings — April 24, 2012 @ 6:02 am | Reply

  4. […] Why Do Cyber Charter Proponents Lie? […]

    Pingback by IT6230 – You Must Learn Online | Virtual School Meanderings — April 23, 2013 @ 6:01 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: