Virtual School Meanderings

February 19, 2017

EBSCO Alerts

ebscoFirst, I did not receive the alert for virtual school this week.

Next, the alert for cyber school yielded this item, but there were no relevant items.

Finally, once again I did not receive the alert for K-12 online learning.

So nothing to report this week.

February 18, 2017

Virtual Schooling In The News

InTheNewsBeginning with the eSchool News Today.

TODAY’S TOP NEWS

When virtual class time is innovative, student engagement soars

innovate to educate

Innovation doesn’t simply involve throwing technology into a classroom. It requires unconventional ideas, foresight, thoughtfulness, and dedication to student learning. And as the world becomes more connected, schools are making every attempt to help students develop the skills they’ll need to be a part of that interconnected world. In the…

Next, the semi-regular ASCD SmartBrief.

How will you mark Digital Learning Day?

How will you mark Digital Learning Day?
(Pixabay)
Digital Learning Day is Feb. 23. The instructional technology team for an Illinois school district is working to engage educators and students in the event through hashtags, a districtwide Digital Learning campaign and a Connected Classroom website.
T.H.E. Journal (2/16),  Patch.com (2/15)

iNACOL report highlights personalized learning

iNACOL report highlights personalized learning
(Pixabay)
Educators are personalizing learning to help students excel and thrive, says Susan Patrick, president and CEO of iNACOL, which recently released a report on the topic. The report highlights five schools’ approaches to personalized learning.

eSchool News (free registration) (2/16)

 

Other News

Similarly, the SmartBrief for EdTech.

Survey: Online students pay more for classes

Survey: Online students pay more for classes
(Pixabay)
Students taking online college courses are paying more than students who take the courses on-campus, according to a survey from the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. Some administrators of distance-education programs say some costs are higher to produce online courses and those costs are passed on to students in the form of fees or increased tuition.
InsideHigherEd.com (2/17)

 

 Why some students struggle in virtual charter schools

Virtual charter schools tend to draw students who struggle with performance, according to a study from New York University and the Rand Corp. Researchers say part of this struggle is due to poor support and suggest a federal study aimed at rethinking the framework for these schools.

USA Today (2/16)

Back to the regular Google News alert for virtual school.

NC students increasingly turn to virtual schools, but issues remain

North Carolina was one of the first states to have a statewide virtual school. Advocates say online classes give students the opportunity to take courses …

Fayetteville virtual school adds 4 grades for 2018-19

Fayetteville Virtual Academy opened this school year and has about 60 students in fourth through eighth grades. The academy in 2017-18 will add …

Columbia Virtual School’s Request to Stay Open Denied

Columbia, SC (WLTX) – A state board has denied a request for a Columbia-based virtual charter school to remain open following the end of the current …

NC virtual charter schools report lower withdrawal rates after change in legislation

Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina’s two virtual charter schools reported lower student withdrawal rates this year, due in part to recent legislation that …

Online charter gets new look, new plan

The state’s first virtual charter school is changing its name and structure. Louisiana Connections Academy will be known as University View Academy.

After state issues relaxed regulations, virtual charter dropouts plunge

The new data was presented to members of the Charter School Advisory Board … Top administrators for the state’s two virtual charter schools boasted …

School districts make pitch for open enrollment

Pelz noted some families have previously enrolled out to attend virtual school and the district is working to get them to enroll into Beloit’s virtual school …

Are home-school athletes flocking to play public-school sports? See AHSAA stats

The Alabama High School Athletic Association passed legislation in April 2016 to allow home-school students – as well as charter and virtual school …

Florida Virtual School Boosts CTE

The Florida Virtual School (FLVS), a statewide online public school, has developed two new courses to round out its career and technical education …

School board considers Department of Juvenile Justice facility

Mitchell said they plan to provide the education through virtual school with the possibility of an academic teacher, an ESE teacher and a career and …

Florida Virtual School model shows online learning can be engaging

The eSchool Media and Xirrus Innovate to Educate awards program has identified the Florida Virtual School as a community winner for its strategy …

Partnership delivers online high school courses

LearnON is a partnership between St. Clair County RESA and Michigan Virtual School, said Kevin Miller, the director of administrative services for the …

Finally, the Google News alert for cyber school.

Growing cyber charter school moving to bigger digs

Commonwealth Charter Academy COO Tom Longenecker, left, and CEO Maurice Flurie are spearheading the public cyber charter school’s move into …

School districts voice opposition to property tax elimination

“At Wissahickon, like other Montgomery County school districts represented here today, it is … Concerns about cyber charter schools were also raised.

Family Finds Online School to Be a Lifesaver

But having access to an online charter school has been a great help. … Cyber schools are independent entities that deliver most or all of their program …

Snyder: Cut funding for cyber charter schools

Cyber charter schools could see their funding cut under a budget proposal released today by Gov. Rick Snyder. The funding cut, if approved by the …

Area schools work to improve, maintain graduation rates

Ringgold High School student Montell Carlock does class work in the cyberschool lab. The district has a cyber program with a lab at school with …

Some Montgomery County school districts oppose property tax elimination

6 press conference at Souderton Area School District’s E. M. Crouthamel Elementary …. Concerns aboutcyber charter schools were also raised.

PA Cyber Charter School founder Trombetta seeks to hold prosecutors in contempt

… guilty to tax conspiracy in connection with siphoning off some $8 million from the cyber school he founded and related corporate entities he created.

Norwin School Board may raise property taxes to cover $2.2M projected deficit

An increase in pension, health care and cyber school costs coupled with only a slight increase in state aid may push the Norwin School Board to raise …

Dallas School Board address impacts of strike, snow days on school calendar

The school board is looking at options to help the seniors earn the necessary credit hours, such as utilizing cyber school programs as well as having …

State school board president resigns over chimpanzee tweet

… Superintendent William Harner’s remark in the Inquirer on Sunday that it costs more to educate a student at a cyber school than a traditional school.

Centennial’s Mark B. Miller resigns post with state association after tweet

He noted that Centennial provides an online cyber school that costs one-third to one-fifth of what the charter schools cost. Miller said he submitted his …

An open letter on behalf of the cyber school community in Pennsylvania: PennLive letters

Early last week in Governor Wolf’s budget address, he addressed the continual deficit in Pennsylvania, referencing previous cuts to education funding.

 

February 17, 2017

News Item: K12 Inc. Tries to Pivot from Virtual School Failures to Profit from “Non-Managed” Schools

This scrolled through one of my networks and I wanted to share it in its entirety here.


K12 Inc. Tries to Pivot from Virtual School Failures to Profit from “Non-Managed” Schools

If you were a public school and Wall Street didn’t like you that might not seem like such a big deal. What do financiers know about educating children? It’s a big deal, however, if you are K12, Inc., and enticing investors to buy into your low-cost, high yield “cyber school” idea is key to your bottom line.

At K12, Inc.’s stockholder meeting in December, its own investors criticized the schools’ lamentable academic performance and voted down its executives’ proposed salary increases. This is just the latest piece of bad news, which has been coming in rafts for K12 since 2013.

As K12’s executives were being rebuffed by stockholders inside the law offices of Latham & Watkins, in Washington, D.C., outside K12 was picketed by members of the California Teachers Association for more or less the same list of educational shortcomings, as Diane Ravitch noted.

Some editorial boards crow when they receive criticism from two opposing sides of a controversial issue. “If both sides are unhappy we must be doing something right” is the familiar refrain, as if there are only ever two sides to an issue or the sides have equal merit.

In the case of K12, however, it is hard not to wonder how much longer the company can withstand this loud unanimity of animus–even a firm Wall Street insiders like convicted fraudster Michael Milken helped launch, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) detailed in “From Junk Bonds to Junk Schools: Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers with Phantom Students and Failing Grades.”

No major supporters have yet publicly called for pulling the plug, but anti-public education zealots like the billionaire Walton family and the Koch brothers have plenty of other places to invest in to try to bring down “government schools.”

Big, Big Payouts to Execs at Taxpayer Expense

In its recommendation that shareholders vote against the pay proposal, the advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co. said K12 exemplifies a “substantial disconnect between compensation and performance results.” Glass Lewis gave the company an “F” for how it paid its executives compared to peers.

In 2015, K12 CEO Nathaniel Davis was making $5.3 million and CFO James Rhyu was making $3.6 million. Their base salaries were $700,000 and $478,500, respectively, which were dwarfed by additional pay and stock for their “performance.” (See more details on their total compensation in the pdf uploaded below.)

In all, K12’s five highest paid executives received a total of more than $12 million in compensation last year. That’s one of the reasons CMD has called K12 Inc.’s former CEO, Ron Packard, the highest paid elementary and secondary school educator in the nation.

Nearly 90% of K12’s revenues–and thus its huge pay for executives–comes from Americans’ state or federal tax dollars.

K12 Inc. also pays each member of its Board of Directors between $155,000 and $216,000 annually for a few hours of work each year—far more than local school board members make for much more time spent in general. (See uploaded K12 proxy filings below for the details.)

While K12’s promoters love to mention that it is a publicly traded company, it is also trading at its lowest stock price since 2010, down 75 percent from its September 2013 peak.

Meanwhile, a new report from Stanford University’s Center for Research of Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that online charters do a very poor job of educating children. In general, students in online charters lose 42 days of reading in a year, and 180 days of instruction in math. And there are only 180 days of instruction in most public school years.

Enrollment has also dropped almost 5 percent from its peak. No less a business authority than Bloomberg Business investigative reporter John Hechinger presented grim prospects for K12 as of late 2014, and no one has revised them upward.

Millions in K12 Ads at Taxpayer Expense Too

This decrease in business has come despite massive advertising and marketing expenditures by the virtual schools industry. K12 has spent untold millions in public funds on ads—a luxury budget item that traditional public schools are not permitted even when competing with K12 for students.

It spent at least $20 million on ads in 2012 alone, but it has not publicly disclosed ad spending in recent years even as its ads have become more ubiquitous in markets like Wisconsin and Arizona, for example. K12 does not disclose its ad budget in its public annual report.

Plus Taxpayer Money Helps K12 Pay to Play with ALEC Politicians

K12 also spends taxpayer money lobbying state and federal officials. It recently got a seat, for example, on the corporate board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where for years it has also paid for a seat and vote on ALEC’s “Education and Workforce Development” Task Force, which advances a “cash for kids” lobbying agenda.

ALEC corporations spend tens of thousands of dollars each year for such access to lawmakers, and K12 has also paid many thousands of dollars to underwrite some of ALEC’s docket of events for legislators and lobbyists.

Through the ALEC Task Force, K12 has actually had an equal vote with state legislators on so-called “model” bills to divert taxpayer funds away from traditional public schools toward the objectives of ALEC’s private sector funders, to help their bottom-lines and/or legislative agenda.

ALEC’s “Virtual Public Schools Act,” for example, even allows virtual schools to be paid the same amount per pupil as traditional public schools even though operations like K12 have no bricks and mortar school house or desks or air-conditioning or gyms, etc., to maintain.

As CMD’s SourceWatch has documented:

“In 2004 when the ‘model’ bill was drafted and approved, both K12 Inc. and Connections Academy were part of the ‘School Choice Subcommittee of ALEC’s Education Task Force, according to an archived version of ALEC’s website from February 2005. The subcommittee recommended six bills for adoption, including the ‘Virtual Public Schools Act.’ According to ALEC, the bill was drafted by Bryan Flood of K12 along with Mickey Revenaugh of Connections Academy, then-Colorado Representative Don Lee (now a lobbyist for K12, see [below]), ‘and the rest of the Subcommittee.'” (Connections is now part of Pearson PLC, a British mega-corporation headquartered in London.)

K12’s reps at ALEC Education Task Force meetings have been its Senior VP for Government Affairs (lobbying), Bryan Flood, along with its VP for Government Affairs, Don Lee, and its Senior Director of Government Affairs, Bob Fairbank.

ALEC’s Education Task Force is co-chaired by Utah state Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-11). Through the ALEC corporate bill mill, Stephenson has even done a roadshow with K12’s Don Lee to drive more business to K12 through legislation. Given his advocacy of efforts to divert tax dollars from traditional public schools to charters and virtual schools, some press in Utah have questioned whether Stephenson is a public servant or a lobbyist for outside interests. (There is no way to independently verify whether Stephenson has actually ever invested in K12 or Pearson, or not.)

Notably, Lee and Fairbank are both former Colorado state legislators who took the revolving door out of public service into well-paid gigs, like peddling what K12 is selling to legislatures across the country. And, the head of their lobbying shop, Flood, is the former flack for then-Gov. John Engler of Michigan, who is now pulling down big bucks for sitting on K12’s Board of Directors: $55,000 in cash plus $100,000 in K12 stock for a few hours of his time last year.

Making “Friends” Everywhere K12 Goes….

Utah, Arizona, and Wisconsin are not the only states where K12 is active and facing criticism. The “Ohio Virtual Academy,” for example, which accounted for 10 percent of K12’s revenue in 2014, received failing grades on a state report card for student test-score progress and graduation rates. A state analysis found that only 37 percent of K12’s Ohio ninth graders earned diplomas within four years.

K12’s operations in California have produced similar results, as In the Public Interest (ITPI) has documented, despite K12’s efforts to blame the state. (CMD has partnered with ITPI on research previously.)

Several online charters have cancelled their contracts with K12, and in Tennessee, education commissioner Kevin Huffman called for shuttering the Tennessee Virtual Academy because it had test results “in the bottom of the bottom tier” and is an “abject failure.”

Altogether, K12 has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also ruled last April that prospective students from 24 K12 Inc. high schools can no longer count credits toward athletic scholarships.

A pro-union decision by the California Public Employment Relations Board no doubt came as more bad news for K12’s brass. The board ruled that the California Teachers Association (CTA) is the exclusive bargaining agent of the more than 750 teachers at the Simi Valley-based California Virtual Academies (CAVA). Teachers have been seeking a stronger voice in improving working conditions and student learning for CAVA’s 15,000 students.

CAVA teachers had been calling for improvements for years. In March 2015 a study of CAVA by ITPI called for better oversight. In June 2015, CTA filed complaints with school districts that authorized CAVA charters throughout California.

K12 Hoping “Non-Managed” Schools Will Save It?

While no one is publicly calling for K12 to shut down, K12 itself is “diversifying its portfolio” in an apparent effort to ease out of the online charter school business.

K12 has built its brand by operating “managed schools” in which K12 runs and profits from all of the programs at a particular K12 school. In a managed school, the company does all of the teaching, curriculum, assessment for the customers—er, students—who choose it over attending a public school or participating in a traditional home-schooling arrangement.

The new revenue stream K12 is pioneering is in what it is now calling “non-managed schools” in which K12 sells the digital content and platform for a school for some other company or entity to run (and be responsible for the results). Non-managed programs have been growing by leaps and bounds as managed virtual schools have fallen on hard times.

The only problem with this model is that managed schools still bring in much more money than the non-managed kind. Some managed schools, for example, bring in $1,849 per student while non-managed schools bring in only $462 per pupil on average.

But, getting some revenue without being responsible for results may be the way for the future of K12: an analysis of K12 figures comparing September 2015 to the prior year showed that enrollment at “managed” virtual schools was declining 12 percent while it is increasing 34.5 percent at “non-managed” schools.

Non-management could take profiting from taking money out of traditional public schools without real accountability to a new level for K12.


CMD’s Executive Director Lisa Graves contributed research to this report.

Dustin Beilke

Dustin Beilke is a freelance writer from Madison, WI. He has written for a number of publications, including Newsday, Salon.com, The Nation, PRWatchThe Progressive, In These Times, Mother Jones, The Capital Times, and The Onion.

February 12, 2017

EBSCO Alerts

ebscoFirst I did receive the alert for virtual school this week, but there were no relevant items.

Next, the alert for cyber school yielded this item.

1. TI- Cyber Charters Offer At-Risk Students a Chance at Success.
AU- Allen, Jeanne1
JN- Education Week
PD- 1/25/2017, Vol. 36 Issue 19, p22-22
PG- 1/7p
DT- 20170125
PT- Letter to the Editor
AB- A letter to the editor is presented in response to the article “Rewarding Failure: An Education Week Investigation of the Cyber Charter Industry” published at www.edweek.org on November 3, 2016.
DE- CHARTER schools
DE- CYBERSCHOOLS
AD- 1Founder and Chief Executive Officer Center for Education Reform Washington, D.C.
FT- 47
IS- 02774232
AN- 120975249

Finally, once again I did not receive the alert for K-12 online learning.

February 11, 2017

Virtual Schooling In The News

InTheNewsBeginning with the SmartBrief for EdTech.

Tips to help shape digital device deployment

Tips to help shape digital device deployment
(Pixabay)
How school leaders acquire and use technology depends in large part on the makeup of their schools, asserts Ellen Dorr, director of digital learning for a Washington state school district. In this commentary, she shares three models for deploying digital devices.
EdSurge (2/8)

Tool aims to help teachers adopt blended learning

ThinkCERCA has released its Classroom Planning Tool for teachers looking to bring blended learning into their classrooms. The tool has models for environments with shared devices and one-to-one devices.

Back to the regular Google News alert for virtual school.

Giving charters a chance

When a student leaves ABSS to enroll in a virtual school, funding for that child is transferred to the new school. As it stands, if the student leaves the …

Sponsored Post – Another Online School Success Story

Time was also a factor in Genesis’ switch to virtual school. She is involved with a wide variety of extracurricular activities, including Irish dancing, figure …

Sarasota Virtual School Begins Open Enrollment for the 2017-18 Year

Sarasota Virtual School (SVS) is a district public school which provides a full-time online learning option for students in grades K-12.

Taking learning beyond the classroom with Abbotsford Virtual School

Abbotsford Virtual School (AVS) is on the cutting edge of education with … They are offering a new, unique program for the 2017-2018 school year …

DeVos overstates grad rates for IDVA, other virtual schools

Patty Murray, D-Wash., President Trump’s choice for education secretary inflated graduation numbers forvirtual charter schools, including IDVA.

Giving charters a chance

In February 2015, North Carolina lawmakers approved the creation of two virtual charter schools — which would be free, open to the public, and …

Gastonia fourth-grader excels in online school and tennis

She plans to continue attending the virtual school and has set her goals on continuing to crack the national rankings as she gets older. She imparts the …

Trustees celebrate School Board Recognition Month

In other business, Cori Cumbee gave a presentation regarding the district’s recent launch as a virtual school. The online classes benefit students by …

Betsy DeVos’ Graduation Rate Mistake

“Their” refers to virtual schools, of which DeVos has been an outspoken champion. The “poor” refers to a large body of research — study after study …

Low participation and poor attendance could get a student expelled from an onlineschool in new …

A new House proposal would allow virtual charter schools, which conduct classes almost exclusively online, to remove students showing low …

Wisconsin Virtual Academy Opens Enrollment for 2017-18 School Year

MCFARLAND, Wis.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA), an online public charter school authorized by the McFarland School …

Low participation and poor attendance could get a student expelled from an online school in new …

One virtual school authorizer believes this proposal would help solve two problems that virtual school operators believe are especially relevant to their …

School districts make pitch for open enrollment

Pelz noted some families have previously enrolled out to attend virtual school and the district is working to get them to enroll into Beloit’s virtual school …

New Mexico Public Charter School Students Hold Capitol Day Rally And Legislative Visits

… their child will thrive — whether that’s in a traditional brick and mortar school, public virtual school, charter school, home school, or private school.

NC virtual charter schools report lower withdrawal rates after change in legislation

… advisory board members that the change in how withdrawal rates are calculated has helped “truly capture” what is going on at the virtual school.

What ‘school choice’ looks like in Jackson County

It is early morning and the kids at Blair-Taylor are heading to their classrooms to start their day. Each classroom has a smiling teacher’s face in it and …

Online charter gets new look, new plan

Communications director Michael Marsh said Connections Education used Florida Virtual School, and University View can get the same course …

Virtual Schools Market: Rising Cost of Higher Education Courses Boosts Virtual Schools Market in …

A virtual school refers to an online learning platform offering a range of courses across diverse fields. These schools let students learn at home from …

Columbia Virtual School’s Request to Stay Open Denied

Columbia, SC (WLTX) – A state board has denied a request for a Columbia-based virtual charter school to remain open following the end of the current …

It’s back to school and back to work after ‘snow day’

At St.Joseph-by-the-Sea High School, students were back in their classrooms on the Huguenot campus Friday, after observing a “virtual school day” …

Finally, the Google News alert for cyber school.

Conneaut School District to consider online special education classes

“By creating the classes, if we kept two kids or if we had a special education kid come back from (a private cyber school) we would make our money,” …

Students design dad a prosthetic fingertip

The cyber school planned to hold five similar workshops around the state, with guest speakers from the orthotic, prosthetic and physical therapy fields …

Family, friends of Penn Manor student and graduate feel outpouring of grief, support after crash

She spent part of her high school career at PA Cyber School. “It was like she never left,” Miller said. “These kids stayed in contact. It’s a special group …

Cyber charter school enrollment falling among Lancaster and Lebanon county students

Enrollment in cyber charter schools peaked at 1,720 Lancaster and … Cyber charters are privately run online schools that bill school districts for each …

Conneaut School District to consider online special education classes

Developing the district’s own online special education options would allow Conneaut to compete with private cyber schools that often cost the district …

School districts oppose property tax elimination; raise concerns about education funding, pension …

… but the Spring-Ford district has found that many of the students switching to a cyber school return to the district school the following year, he said.

Family Finds Online School to Be a Lifesaver

After Andrew passed away at eight years old, the Smiths enrolled their two surviving children in a cyber school. “We thought this would be a great …

School districts voice opposition to property tax elimination

… the Spring-Ford Area district has found that many of the students switching to a cyber school return to the district school the following year, he said.

 

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