Virtual School Meanderings

November 4, 2014

ALEC And Online Learning

This came across my radar screen yesterday – ALEC’s Extensive Plans for Education Restructuring in Your State.  It is an interesting read, and I think readers will be particularly interested in this portion:

Now for a great idea: Take lower-performing students and put them in an automated education setting. Call it “virtual public school” to make it sound fancy. Be sure to note that virtual public school “may” help students improve academically.

Virtual Public Schools Act  (2005) 

…“Virtual school” shall mean an independent public school in which the school uses technology in order to deliver a significant portion of instruction to its students via the Internet in a virtual or remote setting. …

Meeting the educational needs of children in our state’s schools is of the greatest importance to the future welfare of [state]…

… Providing a broader range of educational options to parents and utilizing existing resources, along with technology, may help students in our state improve their academic achievement….

Virtual schools established in this article… Must be recognized as public schools and provided equitable treatment and resources as any other public school in the state. [Emphasis added.]

These “schools in front of a screen” may” work– we don’t know if they will prior to pushing through this legislation in [state]– but be sure they get their share of [state’s] public school fiscal pie.

In 2010, ALEC expanded its virtual learning to include a “clearinghouse” of online courses to be offered across districts. The model bill, entitled Online Learning Clearinghouse Act, includes no details regarding the accountability of the online education vendors. There is, however, a section detailing the payment of fees to the unaccountable virtual vendors.

And in order to further ensure that under-regulated online vendors might have a chance to pocket public school funding, in May 2012, ALEC proposed a model bill, Online Course Choice for Students:

This bill opens up the world of high-quality online course instruction to students. Each year, students in public school grades 7-12 would have the option to enroll in up to two online courses that award college credit or meet standards for core academic courses. The state would create standards and accountability measures to ensure that they are providing students with a course catalog containing only high-quality online course offerings. Funding for each online course is driven by the free-market in an open and competitive process, rather than simply allocating a portion of student funding unrelated to the actual cost to deliver the course. (In other words, vendors are paid per student.) Finally, after completion of each online course,parents and students provide feedback via the web in an open forum to rate the effectiveness of the course.  This feedback, combined with test scores, provides a quality indicator ranking that is available to all. [Emphasis added.]

No agency monitors these vendors to guarantee that teaching and learning are actually happening.

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