Virtual School Meanderings

September 24, 2014

Cashing In On Kids – Cyber Charters

Note, this resource came across my radar screen over the past few days.

Cashing In On Kids

 It is a resource put together by the American Federation of Teachers, designed to:

conducts research and public education programs designed to help ensure that public schools put the students’ interest above corporate interests that are increasingly taking control of public education policy and institutions. Six critical elements are necessary to meet this goal: transparency, accountability, quality, oversight, equity and public control. This website includes examples of charter schools, many of them run by for-profit companies, that lack these critical elements and, as a result, do a poor job of serving students and taxpayers.

I did note that they have a Cyber Charters page that focuses primarily on K12, Inc..  Check them out as it is quite enlightening, and based largely on the work of journalists and independent researchers.


August 26, 2014

Michigan And Charter School Authorizers

Last week – or the week before – this came across my electronic desk.

Michigan charter school authorizers face suspension

LANSING, Mich. – State Superintendent Mike Flanagan is putting 11 of Michigan’s 40 charter school authorizers on notice of possible suspension.

If suspended, the public universities, community colleges and school districts couldn’t open more charter schools. Their current schools could stay open.

Flanagan said Monday the authorizers are deficient in transparency, accountability and fiscal governance. Their schools as a whole rank in the bottom 10 percent academically.

Authorizers at risk of suspension have until Oct. 22 to remediate their deficiencies. Flanagan will decide in November whether to suspend them.

Authorizers at risk are Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Lake Superior State, Northern Michigan, Kellogg Community College and school districts in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights. The state-run Education Achievement Authority and Macomb Intermediate School District also are in jeopardy.

I should note that Ferris State are the authorizers for the Connections Academy cyber charters in the state, and Grand Valley are the authorizers for the K12, Inc. cyber charters.

At about the same time, these entries came across Diane Ravitch’s blog:

Interesting read, with K-12 online learning overtones…

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.

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