Virtual School Meanderings

July 5, 2022

BERA Blog – Don’t look up: Ignoring the looming crisis in public education

Folks who are familiar with this space – and with me in general – know that I refer to neo-liberalism in education policy quite frequently.  Last week, this item came across my electronic desk via the OLDaily by Stephen Downes.

Don’t look up: Ignoring the looming crisis in public education
Mark Inneset al.BERA Blog, 2022/07/01

The authors point to what they consider to be four crises in education:

  • “a 40-year ideological experiment in marketisation and neoconservatism.”
  • “teacher recruitment and retention are in a downward spiral.”
  • “the glaring lack of a… curricular policy to teach about climate change”
  • “the ways in which Covid has increased educational inequalities”

It seems a bit like an odd selection, somewhat specific to the U.K. context, yet not completely so – I see similar issues, for example, in the United States and Australia. I think they’re also based in a specific philosophy of education, one that sees it not only as a public good, but also as an instrument for projecting public policy. Not saying any of this is wrong, but I don’t think people outside the system would see the issues in exactly the same way.

Web: [Direct Link] [This Post]

While this item is written about the United Kingdom – which has undergone a similar neo-liberal takeover of education under the guise of educational reform – the four points are quite applicable to the United States (and broader North America context).  The first point that they make is the one that speaks to the point around neo-liberalism.

1. Looming crisis: education as the great experiment

Education in England has been the subject of a 40-year ideological experiment in marketisation and neoconservatism. However, both of these work against the notion of education as a common good (Gunter & Courtney, 2020). The results are in for this reform package. Like pieces of comet burning up in the atmosphere, these have not survived rigorous, research-based scrutiny. For example, we know that local authority maintained schools obtain better inspection outcomes than academies. This isn’t the only indicator of a good education, but it certainly matters to policymakers. Academisation aligns with a neoconservative belief that provision should compete in a hierarchy (Courtney, 2015). This impetus recurrently reanimates grammar schooling as a viable ‘part of the mix’ from which parents should choose. However, grammar schools impede social mobility. These failures are constructed as successes: academies advance education as a public goodgrammar schools are a ladder for the poor. Neither experiment stands up.

The phrase “experiment in marketisation” is another way to say neo-liberalism (and I suspect they chose because the average reader wouldn’t be able to get their heads around describing an ideology as neo-liberalism and neo-conservativism).  In the UK – much like in the US – the research has clearly and consistently shown that the application of free market principles to education have not yielded any real gains in learning – and in most cases it has produced overall loses in learning.  For the select few that it does help, those tends to be isolated instances (and often disadvantage others who were already disadvantaged).  But it has certainly made some companies and individuals quite wealthy based on public funding that was supposed to be used for education.

Another side effect of the “experiment in marketisation” has been the second point that the authors make:

 2. Looming crisis in pedagogy

Teacher recruitment and retention are in a downward spiral….

One of the things that has come about with the push for more standards, increased standardized testing to ensure that teachers are teaching what they are supposed to teach, a punitive system of determining winning and losing schools, increased competition for students, a need to provide more programming with less funding, etc. has created an environment where the teaching profession has become deprofessionalized. Add on to that the unstated, and in some cases stated, intent of many of these educational reform mechanisms is to further weaken the professional associations designed to protect the interests of teachers (i.e., teachers unions), and is it any wonder why people are leaving the teaching profession in record numbers or that young people don’t want to become teachers.

There are some who would argue that the system is so large that the structural change that is needed is simply not possible, so tinkering around the edges so that they can help some students is the only tool available to them.  The problem is when the tinkering that helps some students, hurts other students more than they are already being hurt – and causes a number of unintended, but still associated complications.

If the “experiment in marketisation” has helped say 10% of the students out there, but hurt the remaining 90% – and also caused other crisis in education that also need to be addressed – from a systematic standpoint is it worth it?  Those who come from an individualistic standpoint would focus on the 10% and point to the rest as to why they are satisfied with only tinkering with the system.  Those who come from a collective standpoint – like those who wrote this Don’t look up: Ignoring the looming crisis in public education blog entry – who argue that there is no point investing energy re-arranging deck chairs is the ship is going to sink.  Let’s take that energy and try to repair the boat!

July 11, 2018

EDTECH537 – Discussion Entry: Why Do They Get Away With It?

On Monday, in my Week 3 entry, I indicated that today I would post a discussion entry to model for my EDTECH537 students. So…

Last week some time I came across a blog entry entitled “No, educators and policymakers shouldn’t just ‘do what the research shows’” by Rick Hess. The entry itself basically says that the vast majority of research out there on educational interventions are small scale studies or have not been replicated or are geographically/demographically limited; and because of this he advises policymakers (and educators themselves) to not follow act simply based on the latest statistically significant results they are presented with.  I agree 100%.

Now for folks who are unfamiliar with the parties involved, Rick Hess is a major supporter and promotor of school choice initiatives.  Also, for folks that are unfamiliar, the vast majority of research has shown that school choice is no more effective than traditional public schooling (but often results in the traditional public school doing worse because of a lose of resources) – and that small body of research that has found positive results have been small scale studies or have not been replicated or are geographically/demographically limited.

So the irony in this is that this educational reformer, like so many educational reformers out there, are basically promoting one thing themselves, while at the same time asking us not to do the exact same thing.  My question for today is why we continue to allow educational reformers to promote this ‘do as I say, but not as I do’ agenda?  It has been happening for years when it comes to testing.  The statewide standardized testing regime that they pushed for is regularly used to tells us that our traditional public schools are failing.  However, when we use those same measures to indicate that their school choice alternatives are no better, they tell us that these are flawed measures.  They have no problem with the virtual twinning methodological model when it skews the data in favour of a school choice initiative, but when that same organization uses that same model and finds that cyber charter schools are among the worse form of educational reform out there it becomes a flawed methodology.

Why do we allow educational reformers to get away with such hypocrisy?

December 29, 2015

Attack Strategies From Educational Reform Proponents

This entry was originally posted under the title Tactics of The Neo-Liberals/Conservatives in K-12 Online Learning – Part Two and is being re-posted as a part of my participation in Increase Your Digital Clout Day 26/30.

At the beginning of the month, I posted the entry Tactics of The Neo-Liberals/Conservatives in K-12 Online Learning (after posting Politics Of K-12 Online Learning and Ideologies of K-12 Online Learning).  In that first entry, I indicated that the neo-liberal and neo-conservative proponents of K-12 online learning use three main tactics:

  1. Claim methodological issues or that the finding is an irregularity.
  2. Jump on one small error or omission, while ignoring the overall focus on the piece.
  3. Ridicule your opponent, change the focus of the story, or duck the issue altogether.

In that entry, I neglected one that is also a very common tactic – the use of isolated, individual cases as representative of their field.  This is most often manifested by using examples of students and parents.

One recent example of this was an entry that Tom Vander Ark posted in response to the New York Times article entitled, “Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools.”  Tom posted an entry entitled 10 Parents Respond to the New York Times’ Hit Piece, where he presented stories from ten parents from a variety of states that tell a story about how wonderful and successful cyber charter schooling is.  Yet as we have already seen in the investigative report entries from Colorado and Arizona that I posted earlier today that there are as many students that cyber charter schools fail, as there are students that find success in these environments.

This tactics is designed to pull on the heart strings of the reader or the legislator, that without the opportunity to attend a cyber charter school that these students or these parents would have had no opportunity for education success for themselves or their children.  The fact of the matter is, for each student that these neo-liberals and neo-conservatives trot out, the other side could trot out an equal number who have been failed by cyber charter schools (and I often wonder why they don’t sometimes).

Another good example is this Letter from the Heart, written by a parent of a student attending Arizona Connections Academy.  The letter talks about the parent’s child and her special interest in ballet, an interest that she has been able to pursue because she is able to learn online.  Essentially, online learning is working for this student.  These profiles or portraits – like those in Tom’s blog entry – are presented to prove that full-time online learning is a good thing and that students like this young lady are the norm.  However, if we look at the investigative report that I posted this morning from Arizona, one of the articles provides how some of the larger online schools in Arizona are performing.  Take a look for yourself (note that this includes both full-time and supplemental):


AIMS reading passing rate

AIMS math passing rate

State label*

State grade (A-D)

Graduation rate (2008-09)







Primavera Online High School**






Arizona Virtual Academy






Pinnacle Online High School






Arizona Connections Academy






Sequoia Choice Arizona Distance






Mesa Distance Learning (Mesa
Public Schools)






Note that not a single full-time online school in Arizona is able to match the state average for the percentage of students who are proficient in reading or mathematics and none are able to match the state’s graduation rate.  The only schools that reach the state-wide average in any category is the Arizona Connections Academy and Mesa Distance Learning, which has a higher percentage of students proficient in reading than the state average (while Arizona Virtual Academy is only one percentage lower in this category too).

Based on this data, it appears that any student profiled from any of these programs is the exception to the norm.  Most of these students would have fared as well or better had they stayed in an average brick-and-mortar school (and I will acknowledge that some of these students do come from below average schools).

The bottom line is that this tactic is designed to get people to believe that the students and parents profiled would not have found success unless the cyber charter option was available to them, and that they are representative of the whole population of cyber charter families.  Clearly, this is not the case and the other side should do a better job putting students who have been failed by the cyber charter system front and center to counter this political marketing tactic.

October 20, 2014

Don’t Miss: The Civil Rights Issue of Our Time at #EIE14

So this showed up in my inbox last week and I felt the need to comment.  While I don’t disagree with the sentiment – education is the civil rights issue of our time, there is nothing Jeb Bush and his corporate educational deformers are pushing that will help improve the educational opportunity or lot in life of those who are chronically underprivileged.  This is simply a way of once again co-opting a broader agenda to dupe folks into buying into their plans to crush public education – and reap the enormous profits from the last (still largely) untapped government pot.  For all of the neo-liberal talk about small government, if there weren’t federal, state, and municipal governments to suckle from, many of these industries would wither up and die.  Where would Pearson be, if it wasn’t for the public purse – with all of its profits from testing?  Where would K12, Inc. be without government funding from the public education system?

So let’s call this for what it is…  The National Summit on Corporate Educational Dole!

National Summit Email Header 2

October 16, 2014
Contact: Press Office

Don’t Miss: The Civil Rights Issue of Our Time at #EIE14

Register Today for 2014 National Summit on Education Reform


Smaller appleTallahassee, Fla. – Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Foundation for Excellence in Education today announced the 2014 National Summit on Education Reform will feature conversations about lessons learned, the latest innovations, and proven policies for improving K-12 student achievement. 

On November 20-21, former Governor Bush, chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, will host the organization’s seventh annual marquee education event. On November 21, Campbell Brown, journalist and founder of the Parents’ Transparency Project will moderate: The Civil Rights Issue of Our Time: Access to a Quality Education.

“People across the nation and the political spectrum recognize that education in America is in crisis and needs to change,” Brown said. “All children deserve equal access to quality education, yet many of our nation’s disadvantaged students are stuck in chronically failing schools. If public education is truly about kids and making sure they learn, then we need to ensure decisions, policies and laws prioritizes students and their education above all else.”

In this session attendees will learn what some states, cities and schools are doing to ensure effective teachers are in the classroom, improve educational equality and why access to a quality education is a critical component in the struggle for civil rights.

  • Campbell Brown, Founder, Parents’ Transparency Project   

  • Andrew Malone, Principal, Success Academy Harlem Central
  • Patrick Dobard, Superintendent, Louisiana Recovery School District  
  • Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference  
Governor Bush will open the summit with a morning keynote address on November 20. Our summit will feature discussions with a range of national and international leaders, covering some of the important topics and latest innovations in education, all focused on how to unlock student achievement through more choice and accountability.  

The seventh annual National Summit on Education Reform will be held on November 20-21 at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. Annually, this event provides lawmakers, policymakers and advocates the opportunity to learn about successful education reforms happening throughout world and together build consensus and form solutions to shared challenges.

Registration is now open, and space is going fast. For event details and to register, visit Stay tuned for more announcements on the Summit’s exciting agenda in the coming weeks. Members of the press interested in covering the two-day event must request credentials in advance of the start of the summit. Media registration will open online on Thursday, November 6, 2014.

Join the Conversation!


  • Follow @ExcelinEd on Twitter for the latest news and updates, and use #EIE14 to join the National Summit conversation.
  • Check out for the latest discussions on education reform.



Founded and chaired by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, 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

Contact Us

P.O. Box 10691
Tallahassee, Florida 32302-2691



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Copyright © 2014 • Foundation For Excellence in Education


September 1, 2014

This Is Our Fight

Seems appropriate for Labour Day…

Dear Michael,

The very first Labor Day was created to acknowledge and honor working people who aspired to the American dream and fought for a better life for themselves and their families.

Together, each and every day, we build on the work they began decades ago. As a union that is 1.6 million members strong, we are immensely proud of who we are, and we thank you for the work you do. Our union is at the intersection of two vital societal movements—creating educational opportunity through strong public schools, and advancing economic opportunity through the labor movement and sound economic policies. We not only teach our kids, heal our families, and keep our communities strong, we engage, mobilize and challenge ourselves and our communities to fight for a better nation.

As a union, we are fighting back against the relentless attacks on our jobs, our families and our communities. We are fighting back—whether it’s against Campbell Brown’s efforts to strip teachers of their due process rights and pit teachers against parents; corporate hospital chains seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of patients and healthcare professionals; politicians like Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who never met a public school, public service or public employee he didn’t want to eliminate; or those saddling students with debt, ripping them off and “Wal-Martizing” the higher education workforce.

The austerity hawks, the privatizers and the deprofessionalizers know that there’s a growing disconnect between what they are peddling and what the American people want. And the only way they can keep their power is by demonizing and marginalizing us.

There’s no doubt they will outspend us—as they will in this coming election. But our strength and the strength of the labor movement has never been our dollar power—it’s been our people power.

This is our fight. But fighting back only gets you so far; we must fight forward to move forward, and that means never being afraid to both engage in conflict and find common ground, particularly with our communities, those we serve and one another. Together, by being member-mobilized, community-engaged, solution-driven and, yes, a little bad ass, we can reclaim the promise of America. We can create a nation fueled by democracy, justice and opportunity for all, instead of for the very few.

These are uncertain times—at home and abroad. Right now, Randi is in Israel, where she’s on a study mission committed to seeking peace and security for this region of the world. On this Labor Day, let’s remember what this day is really about and recommit ourselves to the task before us—creating a more just world.

And to achieve a more just world, we must stand together against injustice everywhere, starting in our workplaces, our neighborhoods and the communities we serve. Pledge to stand with us.

In unity,
Randi Weingarten
Lorretta Johnson
Mary Cathryn Ricker

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