Accountability in virtual schools

18 Mar

Moi voiced her skepticism about for-profit online charter schools in Online for-profit K-12, good for bankers, bad for kids https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/online-for-profit-k-12-good-for-bankers-bad-for-kids/ : 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. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/online-schools-score-better-on-wall-street-than-in-classrooms.html?emc=eta1

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, https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/for-profit-colleges-money-buys-government-not-quality-for-students/

There are different types of online or virtual schools.

Technology Source.Org defines what a virtual school is:

Virtual school refers to an institution that is not “brick and mortar” bound. All student services and courses are conducted through Internet technology.  The virtual school differs from the traditional school through the physical medium that links administrators, teachers, and students. 

http://technologysource.org/extra/20/definition/1/

The Executive Summary of the 2001 report, Virtual Schools: A Study of Virtual Schools in the United States provides a good summary of the types of virtual schools:

Examples of Virtual Schools

State-sanctioned, state-level. In at least 14 states, entities can be identified that have been sanctioned by state government to act as the state’s “own” virtual school. The two newest ones, in Idaho and Maryland, have not yet been launched..

§ Example: The Florida Virtual School (previously the Florida Virtual School), begun in 1997, has been state funded as an independent entity. It offers a full online curriculum but not a diploma. The largest virtual school in terms of enrollments, it acts as a course provider for districts in Florida and other states.

College and university-based. Some university independent study high schools and video-based continuing education programs have taken their K-12 courses online. Virtual colleges and universities make hundreds of their introductory college-level virtual courses available to upper division high school students through dual or concurrent enrollment, a phenomenon not studied in depth here.

§ Example: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Independent Study High School developed CLASS online diploma program courses with a federal grant, marketed through the for-profit CLASS.com, and is now creating its own new courses.

Consortium and regionally-based. A number of virtual school consortia have been created. Virtual school consortia are national, multi-state, state-level and regional in nature. Many regional education agencies have added virtual K-12 courses to their service menus for schools. Most virtual school consortia act as brokers for external provider opportunities or share courses among members.

§ Massachusetts. The nonprofit VHS Inc. (formerly Concord VHS) is the most successful collaborative or barter model of virtual schools in existence, seeking sustainability through its broad network of participating schools.

Local education agency-based. A large number of local public schools and school districts have created their own virtual schools, mainly to serve their own supplemental or alternative education needs and to reach out to home school populations. They usually employ their own regular certified K-12 teachers, either within the regular course of instruction, or “on the side.”

§ Example: The HISD Virtual School in Houston offers middle school curricula for enrolled and home school students, and AP courses to supplement its high school offerings, while Mindquest is a Bloomington (MN) public schools program offering interdisciplinary project-based courses for persons 17 or older, for remedial work, GED Fast Track and regular high school diplomas

Virtual charter schools. State-chartered entities including public school districts, nonprofit and for-profit organizations operate public charter schools exempt from some rules and regulations. Charter school legislation has a major impact on how these schools operate.

§ Example: Basehor-Linwood Virtual Charter School in Kansas focuses on providing statefunded

public education opportunities for K-12 home schoolers across the state. Founded in 1998, it delivers self-developed courses in a full diploma program, using a certified district teacher in each elementary grade level and secondary content area.

Private virtual schools. Like local public schools, many private schools have developed virtual school programs. Their programs are mainly designed to provide supplemental courses and instructional materials for home schoolers. A limited number offer state-approved or regionally accredited high school diplomas, including Keystone National High School, Laurel Springs school, and WISE Internet High School.

§ Christa McAuliffe Academy in Washington state has offered Internet-based K-12 learning since 1995. Student cohorts meet weekly with their mentor in an online virtual classroom meetings, and students also undertake online mastery-based learning curricula facilitated by CMA mentors and developed by external providers. The school has regional accreditation, state approval and is seeking cross-regional approval through the Commission on International and Transregional Accreditation (CITA).

For-profit providers of curricula, content, tool and infrastructure. Many for-profit companies have played an important role in the development of virtual schools. Companies such as Apex Learning and Class.com have provided “starter” courses for many new virtual school efforts. Blackboard and eCollege have provided delivery platforms used by many virtual schools. Many companies are expanding their original focus, offering expanded curricula or comprehensive services to meet the needs of this growing market. Web development software companies such as Macromedia have provided the tools used by virtual schools to self-develop courses.

Building on the previous study (Clark, 2000), some key characteristics of virtual schools are presented in Summary and Recommendations, according to eight aspects of virtual high school organization: funding, technology; curriculum; teaching; student services; assessment; policy and administration; and marketing and public relations. Based on an analysis of virtual school activities and trends, recommendations are made at the end of this study in these key areas, for virtual school planners.

http://www.wested.org/online_pubs/virtualschools.pdf

No matter the type of school, whether bricks and mortar or online, there must be accountability.

Michelle R. Davis writes in the Education Week week article, E-Schools Put Specific Measures for Success in Place: The devil is in the details when evaluating the educational effectiveness of virtual schools:

Virtual schools, particularly those that provide full-time services for students, are coming under increasing scrutiny over student achievement and accountability. Several reports in recent months have questioned everything from the transient nature of virtual student populations to the integrity of student work and the lack of comparisons between online and face-to-face learning….

In 2011, Welner was a co-author of the report “Online K-12 Schooling in the U.S.,” which raised questions about the quality of online programs and concerns about growth and oversight of such programs. It looked mainly at schools operated by private companies.

While many of the criticisms are directed at virtual schools run by for-profit companies, even online schools affiliated with states and school districts say they are taking new steps, or reinforcing established ones, to ensure that students are learning….

Michael K. Barbour, an assistant professor of instructional technology at Wayne State University, in Detroit, says online schools should be held to the same accountability standards as brick-and-mortar schools, whether that means meeting AYP standards or state and local testing levels. Though some online schools may argue their test scores won’t measure up because students start out several grade levels behind, Barbour doesn’t believe that is a valid response.

“A lot of excuses they give are just excuses,” he says. “These kids that are at risk or behind came from traditional brick-and-mortar schools in that position.”

E-Learning Accountability Measures

Experts say virtual schools should take some key steps to integrate accountability into their programs, including:

  1. Have students take exams in person to ensure they are doing their own work and absorbing information.
  2. Assess how students are doing numerous times throughout a course and provide intervention strategies as early as possible
  3. Use programs that can track detailed data on how long it takes a student to complete assignments, how often students are participating, and how frequently students and teachers have contact.
  4. Judge online schools by the same measures that brick-and-mortar schools are evaluated by, for example, adequate yearly progress and state testing

SOURCE: Education Week

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/03/15/25measure.h31.html?tkn=XXQFmpNv2tBGNFrkUNXOwxV%2FgrWFc03LcwJ8&cmp=clp-edweek&intc=TC12EWH

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 ©

4 Responses to “Accountability in virtual schools”

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  1. Suing to get a better high school transcript after cheating incident « drwilda - May 2, 2012

    […] Accountability in virtual schools                                                                   https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/accountability-in-virtual-schools/ […]

  2. drwilda - November 29, 2012

    […] 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. https://drwilda.com/2012/03/18/accountability-in-virtual-schools/ […]

  3. Should ‘Enron’ weasels be trusted with K-12 education? « Comments From An Old Fart - November 29, 2012

    […] 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. https://drwilda.com/2012/03/18/accountability-in-virtual-schools/ […]

  4. NEPC study: Virtual schools don’t deliever value to the taxpayers | drwilda - May 7, 2013

    […] 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. https://drwilda.com/2012/03/18/accountability-in-virtual-schools/ […]

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