Virtual School Meanderings

March 11, 2015

News – Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager

It seems kind of fitting that a day after the release of the third annual NEPC report that indicated virtual schools remain unproven that this item scrolls across my electronic desk.

Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is the largest charter school in the state of Ohio.  The online school is easily the largest charter school in Ohio, is larger than the vast majority of Ohio’s traditional school districts, and received over $88 million in state funding last school year.  This year that amount is expected to jump to over $92 million.

On the latest report cards released by the Ohio Department of Education, ECOT continues to rank below all of the 8 large urban schools that are often-criticized by legislators and in the media for their “sub-par” performance.

For graduation rate, a key indicator for the long-term success of a school/district, ECOT’s 4-year graduation rate is a paltry 35.3%, while their 5-year graduation rate of 37.8%, which is only slightly higher, was still over 25 points worse than the lowest urban school district, Cleveland, which checked in at 63.3%.  While we now see the legislature writing laws to specifically regulate Cleveland and Columbus more tightly, the charter school laws that apply to ECOT continue to be more lax.

And while the data on performance for this school of 13,836 students (11th largest “district” in the Ohio) is bad enough, the financial games played by the school’s owner/operator are even worse.  We wrote a comprehensive piece about ECOT back in 2011, but since then the school has continued to grow and continued to siphon ever larger sums of money away from higher-performing schools.

On December 8, our post, Ohio’s Largest Taxpayer-Funded Charter School, ECOT, Receives Bonus Check, described how the school was up for approval of an additional $2.9 million dollar bonus from Governor Kasich’s Straight A Fund.

On December 10, we posted a follow-up, ECOT Founder Living VERY Well Off Ohio’s School Funding Dollars, where we went into greater detail about the financial games being played and won by ECOT’s Founder, William Lager.

Today, we have another update to the political donations and financial windfall experienced by Lager.

To continue reading, visit http://www.plunderbund.com/2013/12/29/ohios-first-public-school-hundred-millionaire-ecot-founder-william-lager/

I say interesting because the NEPC report found several things that are key to this blog item:

  1. Research into student performance in full-time K-12 online learning environments shows cyber schools (like ECOT) do quite poorly overall.
  2. Generally legislation and regulation are not based on what we know from the available research.

It also highlights something that the NEPC report alludes to, but doesn’t come right out and say:

  • Most cyber charter policy is being driven by corporate interests that look to profit from K-12 education.

And profit they do, according to the Ohio’s First Public School Hundred-Millionaire: ECOT Founder William Lager entry.  It seems that annual donations over a 14 year period of just under $1.5 million is good enough to help fetch you just over $110,000,000 for your companies from the public education trough!!!

 

March 9, 2015

News – K12, Inc. And North Carolina

There were a couple of news items – from a progressive advocacy group – about the introduction of virtual charter schooling to North Carolina.

K12, Inc., backer of future NC virtual charter school, runs questionable operation in California

Study, former teacher recount troubling management practices and poor student outcomes

Former California Virtual Academy (CAVA) employee Jan Cox Golovich left her job as an online high school teacher a year ago, when she decided the students she was teaching were being cheated out of an education.

“CAVA lets students fail. They let the kids go a whole year performing poorly in school and then fail. But CAVA has made their money,” said Golovich of the virtual school that is backed by K12, Inc., a Wall Street company that is in the business of making profits off of state education budgets by running online virtual charter schools across the nation – and soon, in North Carolina.

Golovich recounted troubling experiences working for CAVA that closely align with findings of a report released last week by a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

Continue reading at http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2015/03/04/k12-inc-backer-of-future-nc-virtual-charter-school-runs-questionable-operation-in-california/

Chris Fitzsimon column: The next phase of the unaccountability movement in education

If lessons from other states are any indication, get ready for scandals, the wasting of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, dreadful student achievement and maybe even fraud next fall as North Carolina turns over the education of thousands of students to a company with an astoundingly spotty record.

And amazingly, not many people seem too worried about it.

The budget the General Assembly passed last session included a provision directing the State Board of Education to approve two virtual charter schools as pilot programs. Only two companies applied to run the online schools, all but guaranteeing they would both be selected, and they both were.

One of the companies is K12 Inc. A recent report by a Washington think tank about a California virtual charter run by the company found a series of problems, including dramatically lower test scores than traditional public schools, startling high dropout rates, questionable attendance figures and a host of other problems.

On the heels of the report, N.C. Policy Watch reporter Lindsay Wagner talked with Jan Cox Golovich, a former teacher at the K-12 California virtual charter who was not involved with the study but recounted even more troubling practices at the online school.

Continue reading at http://www.hickoryrecord.com/opinion/chris-fitzsimon-column-the-next-phase-of-the-unaccountability-movement/article_76bfff60-c50e-11e4-b87f-97a518a9bc86.html

March 8, 2015

ProQuest/EBSCO Alerts

proquestBeginning with the ProQuest Alert for virtual school.

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Virtual Preschool?Kropp, Lisa G. School Library Journal61.3 (Mar 2015): 20.

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Bluffton tries virtual classroomFriedman, Lindsay. McClatchy – Tribune Business News [Washington] 28 Feb 2015.

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Pitts wrong on Virtual AcademyThe Leaf Chronicle [Clarksville, Tenn] 27 Feb 2015: 7.

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VIRTUAL ACADEMY PERFORMANCE ASSAILED: FOR-PROFIT CHARTER’S STUDENTS ILL-EQUIPPED WHILE NETWORK EARNS MILLIONS, REPORT FINDSMurphy, Katy; Calefati, Jessica. San Jose Mercury News [San Jose, Calif] 27 Feb 2015: B.1.

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Study: Virtual charter school network making profit at expense of Calif. childrenMurphy, Katy; Calefati, Jessica. McClatchy – Tribune News Service [Washington] 26 Feb 2015.

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Virtual charter school network making profit at the expense of California schoolchildren, study findsMurphy, Katy; Calefati, Jessica. Oakland Tribune [Oakland, Calif] 26 Feb 2015.

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Virtual charter schools get state’s approvalWildstein, Eric. Gaston Gazette [Gastonia, NC] 25 Feb 2015.

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‘Anytime, anywhere learning’Uhlig, Keith. Wausau Daily Herald [Wausau, Wis] 25 Feb 2015: 1.

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Blended learning, student self efficacy and faculty an interpretative phenomenological analysisGomes, Gary.Northeastern University, ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 2015. 3683157.

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Next, as usual I have not received the ProQuest alert for cyber school for some time.

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Moving on…  There were no relevant items in the EBSCO alert for virtual school or the EBSCO alert for cyber school.

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

March 7, 2015

Virtual Schooling In The News

InTheNewsBeginning with the eSchool News’ Innovation Weekly.

Where blended meets personalized learning—and gets results
A coordinated, intentional program of blended learning is changing teaching and learning in the Nation’s capital. READ MORE

Next the Education Week Teacher Update.

In Calif. District, Blended-Learning Approach Turns Teachers Into Facilitators

Some teachers say that blended-learning environments, designed to leverage technology and individualize student instruction, can create new roles for teachers as well.

(Teacher)

Also, the Education Week’s EDWeek Update.

LEADERS TO LEARN FROM

With<br /><br /><br />
Patient Approach, Houston Sets Bar for Digital TransformationWith Patient Approach, Houston Sets Bar for Digital Transformation

Under Superintendent Terry B. Grief and Chief Technology Information Officer Lenny J. Schad, Houston’s secondary schools will use digital-only instructional materials.
Includes Video, Leadership Lessons
Meet More 2015 Leaders To Learn From

Moving on to the SmartBrief for EdTech.

N.C. AP teachers use YouTube videos for snow-day learning
WRAL-TV (Raleigh, N.C.) (3/3)

Back to the regular Google News alert for virtual school.

Report alleges poor academics at for-profit virtual schools

California Virtual Academies, which has grown from 650 students in 2002 to 14,500 students currently, is a network of 11 virtual school locations with …

Wausau School District virtual school program to start next school year

The Wausau School District is working on a virtual school program. The program, named Wausau Area Virtual Education, is for sixth through 12th …

Tennessee Virtual Academy Educators Tout Academic Gains at Nashville Virtual Schools …

… joined together with other virtual school leaders at a two-day virtual learning conference sponsored by Metro Nashville Virtual School in a show of …

Administrators in Texas District Forced Out Amid Course and Credit Scandal

… online, earn credit by exam, enroll in the district’s virtual school program, or take the missing classes during the school day, if their schedules permit.

Online school sponsored by West Covina district condemned by Washington DC watchdog

�ing a virtual school, it’s significant to have functioning computer systems,” she said. With as numerous as 80 students in a class, teachers uncover …

House Approves School Transfer Bill (HB 42)

… district, students would be allowed to transfer to neighboring districts, or possibly attend a charter school or take advantage of a virtual school option.

Missouri’s Senate votes to expand virtual school alternatives for public school students

After two days of intense debate, the Missouri Senate approved Thursday, Feb. 19, a proposal which would allow some children in under-performing …

Lessons start in state’s first online school

“A total of seven students from Cowra, have gained a place in the virtual school,” Ms Hodgkinson said. “Aurora College will work in partnership with 49 …

Daniel Berger’s family thrilled watching him battle for Honda Classic

He earned his high school diploma through Florida Virtual School. “He played sparingly as a sophomore because he was so good,” Pagley said of …

Jackson County teacher assistants and others facing take-home pay cuts

… three computer lab assistants; three virtual school facilitators; one school counselor office support; one special student program support; one media …

Wausau School District plans to offer virtual school

The Wausau School District will begin offering a virtual education program … But beyond that goal, the idea for the virtual school is about “increasing …

Report blasts quality of virtual schools

Albeit colored with anti-charter-school rhetoric, its new report on California Virtual Academies features state education data showing growing …

Senate votes for limited virtual school expansion

Warrensburg – School transfer legislation involving virtual education that could have impacted Johnson County students changed to exclude them ..

Missouri’s Senate votes to expand virtual school alternatives for public school students

19, a proposal which would allow some children in under-performing school districts to enroll in computer-based virtual schools at government …

Report alleges poor academics at for-profit virtual schools

The leading online charter school network in California has a troubling … Katrina Abston, senior head of school of California Virtual Academies, said in …

Virtual charter schools get state’s approval

The state board vetted each virtual school during presentations last month. But plenty of questions still swirled heading into February’s state board …

Missouri’s Senate votes to expand virtual school alternatives for public school students

19, a proposal that would allow some children in under-performing school districts to enroll in computer-basedvirtual schools at government expense.

Royal Borough adopted children to be enrolled in ‘Virtual School’ in bid to combat academic …

A VIRTUAL school project is being extended in a pioneering bid to avoid adopted children falling behind their peers when it comes to academic …

Missouri General Assembly seeks to offer virtual schooling

“Virtual school courses today often contain more elements than the online courses first developed a few years ago,” said Brent Ghan, Missouri School …

Tennessee Virtual Academy Educators Tout Academic Gains at Nashville Virtual Schools …

ES/ — Educators from Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA), a nonprofit online public school program of Union County Public Schools, joined together …

Debate over online school’s fate slated to begin Tuesday

Delores Gresham (R-Somerville), the same pair who introduced the original Virtual School Act legislation in 2011. That legislation was based on a …

Lee delays 10th-grade writing test

North Fort Myers High School, the Lee Adolescent Mothers Program, Royal Palm Exceptional School and Lee Virtual School were scheduled to …

Snow days turning into virtual school at home

It’s what they’re calling a virtual school day. It’s where teachers can post assignments, even video of that day’s lesson without having to step foot in a …

New Report Alleges Shortcomings in California Virtual Education Program

… year, for less than 30 minutes each meeting, thus spending a total of one hour and 37 minutes overseeing a virtual school of roughly 3,000 students.

State’s first charter school management organization to launch with Albertson funding

Four schools will operate under the new CMO Gem Innovation Schools: Idaho Distance Education Academy’s virtual school and three brick and mortar …

HOPEWELL VALLEY: Chromebooks are going to CHS with Timberlane eighth-graders

That district attracted national attention a few years ago when it was able to conduct an entire virtual school day with teachers and students at home …

Schools keep learning alive on snow days

Many students believe that in in the near future, schools will change “snow days” to online, or virtual schooldays. Mrs. Boran credited the Public …

A school scandal in the making

Golovich couldn’t tell how long her students were actually logged into the virtual school and she started worrying when many of her students were …

UPDATE: Republicans unveil ‘block grant’ school funding plan

… aid to also include supplemental state aid, capital outlay aid, virtual school aid, various tax levies and employer contributions to the pension fund.

CyberSchool offers option to get diploma

“When I think of ‘school,’ I think of learning, not a physical building,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, president/CEO of Michigan Virtual School, which offers …

Cornerstone board receives technology report

Instructional technology also provides support for the Cyber Stone virtual school, which has approximately 764 class enrollments, including students …

High price tag could prevent Mo. Senate’s transfer bill from passing

Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, said all the additional provisions in the bill, such as the virtual school transfer option, inflated the estimated cost. “I’m not saying …

State’s first charter school management organization to launch

Four schools will operate under Gem Innovation Schools: Idaho Distance Education Academy’s virtual school and three brick-and-mortar, blended …

Care leavers: The Achievement gap isn’t closing, it’s widening

In light of his comments, Schools Week asked Jane Pickthall, North Tyneside’s head of the virtual school for LAC, to assess progress on care leavers …

Finally, the Google News alert for cyber school.

Another View: Defending cyber charter schools

A cyber school can provide a high school student any course he or she would ever want to take in a high school setting – including AP and honors …

PA Cyber teams top Pennsylvania in cyber security competition

WEXFORD, Pa., Feb. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Three teams of high school students from PA Cyber Charter School finished highest in …

Outside accreditation offers Rockford, other school districts validation, competitive edge

Smith said in a time where parents can choose to send their kids to a traditional or charter school, let them work online via cyber school, attend a …

Another View: Defending cyber charter schools

For years, Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools have been criticized for under-performing on the state’s standardized tests (PSSAs). This is in part …

During inclement weather events, Greater Atlanta Christian employs cyber school

#For the second straight year, GAC has implemented plans to trigger a “cyber school” if needed, which it didon Wednesday. GAC spokesperson …

Fort Smith Catholic School Students Turn Snow Day Into CyberDay

FORT SMITH (KFSM)- The snow and ice cancelled school Tuesday (Feb. 24) for thousands of students in the River Valley, but it didn’t stop some of …

PA Cyber Charter School

MIDLAND — Educating children in kindergarten through 12th grade, the PennsylvaniaCyber Charter School, better known as PA Cyber, is one of the …

Local educators are hopeful for Wolf’s budget

Grevera added he hopes for “some form of reimbursement on cyber school costs,” noting the district budgets more than $1 million in cyber school …

What Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal means for charter schools, your district

Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2015-16 budget proposal revamps charter and cyber schoolfunding, a move one charter school advocacy group said would shut …

Educators pleased with proposal

Wilkes-Barre Area again would benefit the most in Luzerne County, with a $819,838 reduction in cyber-school costs. The governor also proposed …

Districts weighing tax increases

Burgettstown School Board approved a 2015-16 preliminary budget of $18,926,058 at its Feb. 16 meeting. The final budget will be adopted in June.

Christopher Dock students participate in first Cyber Day

… and because the one-on-one program is in place, it isn’t difficult for the school to move to a cyber-schoolmodel when the weather is bad, he said.

 

March 4, 2015

Virtual Public Education In California: A Study of Student Performance, Management Practices and Oversight Mechanisms at California Virtual Academies, a K12 Inc. Managed School System

So last week a colleague (i.e., Ray Rose) sent me this news item…

Virtual charter school network making profit at the expense of California schoolchildren, study finds
By Katy Murphy and Jessica Calefati Staff writers

California schoolchildren studying at home through a growing network of for-profit online charter schools often lack functional computers and other materials they need to learn — even as millions in state tax dollars flow to the schools’ operator, according to a report released Thursday.

California Virtual Academy’s high schools graduated just 36 percent of their students from 2011 to 2013 and had more dropouts than graduates, the report found.

“This is not what virtual education in California should look like,” concludes the report by In the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based research group that focuses on contracting and privatization.

To continue reading, click here.

Based on this news item, I went to track down the original report.  It is by an organization called “In the Public Interest,” and the report is available at:

VIRTUAL PUBLIC EDUCATION IN CALIFORNIA: A Study of Student Performance, Management Practices and Oversight Mechanisms at California Virtual Academies, a K12 Inc. Managed School System
Publication Date: 2/26/2015

This report examines management practices and student academic performance at California Virtual Academies (CAVA), the largest provider of virtual public education in California. Our research shows that students at CAVA are at risk of low quality educational outcomes, and some are falling through the cracks entirely, in a poorly resourced and troubled educational environment.

Document file:
Virtual_Public_Education_In_California.pdf

I’ll be honest and say that I have only just skimmed the report, but it is an interesting read.  It focuses on the performance of K12, Inc. schools in California and also examines the actual management role of the schools; and the independence – or lack thereof – between the management company (i.e., K12, Inc.) and the boards that operate these schools and/or the school districts that charter/sponsor them.

As you might imagine, K12, Inc. has been out on full offensive on this report – one of their chief issues is the claim that much of the information comes from the state’s teachers’ union, which is trying to unionize several K12, Inc. cyber charter schools in that state.  In looking at the 273 sources for the data, it appears that claim is severely lacking – but typical of K12, Inc. and most neo-liberals to look to blame the unions as one of their first lines of defense.

One of the better, or at least more complete news items about the report – in my personal opinion – has been this one.

Report Slams Virtual Charter Schools That Graduate Just 36% Of Students: California Virtual Academies, a chain of 11 online charter schools with 14,000 students, is the subject of a critical new report from In The Public Interest, an advocacy group.

posted on Feb. 26, 2015, at 1:26 p.m.
Molly Hensley-Clancy
BuzzFeed News Reporter

One of country’s largest chains of for-profit online charter schools has seen almost a decade of declining academic results, mounting structural problems, and potential self-dealing by its operator, according to a report released today by In The Public Interest. California Virtual Academies, which has 14,000 students at 11 schools strung out across the state, is run by the giant K12 Inc., a publicly traded company that has attracted strong criticism in the past for its management of virtual charters.

Even in the face of controversy, K12 has been in the business of rapidly expanding virtual education across the country; in the past month alone, it won drawn-out legal battles to open new online schools in Maine and North Carolina, and it now enrolls 123,000 students nationwide. But In The Public Interest’s report could deal a blow to that growth.

Virtual charter schools like California Virtual Academies, or CAVA, are public schools that exist entirely online: Taxpayer dollars pay for students in kindergarten through 12th grade to take classes from home, communicating with their teachers via computer.
CAVA, the report says, has been plagued by years of slumping academic results: its graduation rate over the past four years has been 36%, meaning it had more dropouts than graduates, and its academic performance has declined steadily since 2005. Though K12 Inc. has consistently blamed poor academic results at virtual schools on the student population it serves, the report shows that even compared to demographically similar schools, CAVA falls short.

To continue reading, click here.

Anyway, just wanted to pass information about this report along.

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