Online for-profit K-12, good for bankers, bad for kids

14 Dec

We all make assumptions about other people. To assume what a person is like based upon limited bits of information may often lead to an incorrect assessment. This training exercise Assumptions – a training exercise demonstrates that some assumptions are at best premature or often incorrect. Nisbett and Wilson conducted an experiment to demonstrate the halo effect

 The halo effect is generally defined as the influence of a global evaluation on evaluations of individual attributes of a person, but this definition is imprecise with respect to the strength and character of the influence. At one extreme, the halo effect might be due simply to an extrapolation from a general impression to unknown attributes. Global evaluations might color presumptions about specific traits or influence interpretation of the meaning or affective value of ambiguous trait information. Thus, if we like a person, we often assume that those attributes of the person about which we know little are also favorable. (Politicians often seem to capitalize on this tendency by appearing warm and friendly but saying little about the issues.)

Many of us assume that most folks should be like us and have a similar outlook on life and value system. We all know what the right thing to do in a situation, right? How do educators who may have not encountered those of a different social class, religion, or value system deal with children who do not share their attributes? Because we all make assumptions, it is one type of survival skill, the question for educators is how to minimize the effect of negative assumptions on children.

Teachers will increasingly face declining and inadequate resources, an increasingly challenging student population, and institutional structures in crisis. Students will come to school at different levels of readiness for instruction because of language challenges, family challenges, and inadequate prior foundation for learning. Parents, will face economic challenges and demands on their time and attention which impact their ability to parent. Given this teaching environment teachers often must put aside normal assumptions in order to save children from succumbing to the chaotic world outside the school.    

Yes, the child’s mother may make Dolly Parton look demure or their dad may be so tricked or pimped out that 50 Cent looks tame by comparison, that doesn’t have to be the future for child. Most parents do care in an emotional sense for their children. Many don’t know how to be parents and don’t know how to set boundaries or to work within a system which is oriented toward those that understand and know how to use middle class rules. For many parents English is not their first language and they may have many success values which they cannot express. For those who may teach in more affluent areas, there are different challenges. You may teach extremely bright, capable, well supported children who are slackers. Should you give one of these children the grade they earn rather than the grade which is expected, there may be consequences. You may challenged by a parent who feels you are preventing their child from becoming the next Ivy League standout and Rhodes Scholar. The focus should not be on any perceived inadequacies of the parent, but helping the child to overcome their challenges. A Hoover Institute article by Jacob and Lefgren describes a study of the types of teachers parents request. The findings of In Low Income Schools, Parents Want Teachers who Can Teach is in line with my personal observation.

Even more interesting, however, we find stark differences across schools in the type of teachers that parents tend to request. We find that parents making requests in high-poverty schools place less value on student satisfaction than those in lower-poverty schools. Conversely, parents in high-poverty schools value a teacher’s ability to improve student achievement considerably more than parents in lower-poverty schools.

At the end of the day, it is really about producing academic achievement in the population of children the teacher is responsible for.   

Don’t try to fix the students, fix ourselves first. The good teacher makes the poor student good and the good student superior. When our students fail, we, as teachers, too, have failed.

There is a brilliant child locked inside every student.  

Marva Collins 

All children can learn. Stephanie Saul of the New York Times is reporting on the cynical operation of for-profit charter schools in the article, Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools which describes how the dreams of some children are being hindered.

By almost every educational measure, the Agora Cyber Charter School is failing.

Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.

By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers.

Agora is one of the largest in a portfolio of similar public schools across the country run by K12. Eight other for-profit companies also run online public elementary and high schools, enrolling a large chunk of the more than 200,000 full-time cyberpupils in the United States.

The pupils work from their homes, in some cases hundreds of miles from their teachers. There is no cafeteria, no gym and no playground. Teachers communicate with students by phone or in simulated classrooms on the Web. But while the notion of an online school evokes cutting-edge methods, much of the work is completed the old-fashioned way, with a pencil and paper while seated at a desk.

Kids mean money. Agora is expecting income of $72 million this school year, accounting for more than 10 percent of the total anticipated revenues of K12, the biggest player in the online-school business. The second-largest, Connections Education, with revenues estimated at $190 million, was bought this year by the education and publishing giant Pearson for $400 million.

The business taps into a formidable coalition of private groups and officials promoting nontraditional forms of public education. The growth of for-profit online schools, one of the more overtly commercial segments of the school choice movement, is rooted in the theory that corporate efficiencies combined with the Internet can revolutionize public education, offering high quality at reduced cost.

The New York Times has spent several months examining this idea, focusing on K12 Inc. A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed.

Instead, a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.

Current and former staff members of K12 Inc. schools say problems begin with intense recruitment efforts that fail to filter out students who are not suited for the program, which requires strong parental commitment and self-motivated students. Online schools typically are characterized by high rates of withdrawal.

Teachers have had to take on more and more students, relaxing rigor and achievement along the way, according to interviews. While teachers do not have the burden of a full day of classes, they field questions from families, monitor students’ progress and review and grade schoolwork. Complaints about low pay and high class loads — with some high school teachers managing more than 250 students — have prompted a unionization battle at Agora, which has offices in Wayne, Pa.

The Illinois Online Network has a good synopsis of the pros and cons of online education at Strengths and Weaknesses of Online Learning  K-12 for profit schools exhibit many of the deficiencies of other for-profit schools. See, For-profit colleges: Money buys government, not quality for students,

Technology can be a useful tool and education aid, BUT it is not a cheap way to move the masses through the education system without the guidance and mentoring that a quality human and humane teacher can provide. Education and children have suffered because cash sluts and credit crunch weasels have destroyed this society and there is no one taking them on. They will continue to bleed this society dry while playing their masters of the universe games until they are stopped.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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