Thursday, July 19, 2012

NEPC report criticizes progress at cyber charter schools. K12 Inc. programs are subject of study

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NEPC report criticizes progress at cyber charter schools

K12 Inc. programs are subject of study
July 19, 2012 12:04 am
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The latest criticism of cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania comes from Colorado, where researchers contended students in K12 Inc. programs are falling behind.  The study, released Wednesday by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, focuses on seven full-time virtual schools in Pennsylvania and four other states using K12.
…….On academic performance, the report noted that 27.7 percent of K12 schools in the study met standards for adequate yearly progress, known as AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2010-11.  It said this was nearly identical to other full-time virtual schools operated by private education management organizations but below the estimated 52 percent of public schools as a whole making AYP that year.

Students in K12 Inc.’s online classes lag academically, study finds
Washington Post By Lyndsey Layton, Published: July 18
K12 Inc., the Herndon-based company that is the country’s largest provider of full-time online education, lags behind charter schools and traditional public schools on a broad array of academic measures, according to a new study.
Students enrolled at K12, which provides public virtual education in 29 states and the District of Columbia, lag behind their counterparts on federal and state measures of math and reading proficiency, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Education Policy Center.

Do you really think that online schools are the answer?
National Education Policy Center Blog by Kenneth J. Bernstein July 18, 2012
Many of the so-called "reformers" and many of their allies among Republican governors and legislators seem to - after all, that is why they have been pushing this particular approach for a number years.
If you have any interest in this topic, I am going to strongly urge you to read a just-released policy brief from the National Education Policy Center.  Titled Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools, and has a subtitle which reads "A Study of Student Characteristics, School Finance, and School Performance in Schools Operated by K12 Inc.: The authors are Gary Miron, a professor at Western Michigan University, and Jessica L. Urschel, a doctoral student at the University.  K12 Inc. is the nation's largest operator of online charter schools, and is controversial enough that New Jersey, whose governor Chris Christie has been actively involved in undermining public education in that state, just postponed acting on a request from K12 to open a charter in that state.

Here’s the NEPC press release with a link to the study cited above….
Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools
National Education Policy Center by Gary Miron, Jessica Urschel
Press Release July 18, 2012
K12 Inc. enrolls more public school students than any other private education management organization in the U.S. Much has been written about K12 Inc. (referred to in this report simply as “K12”) by financial analysts and investigative journalists because it is a large, publicly traded company and is the dominant player in the operation and expansion of full-time virtual schools. This report provides a new perspective on the nation’s largest virtual school provider through a systematic review and analysis of student characteristics, school finance, and school performance of K12-operated schools. Using federal and state data, this report provides a description of the students served by K12 and the public revenues received and spent by the company at the school level. Further, the report presents evidence from a range of school performance measures and strives to understand and explain the overall weak performance of these virtual schools.

Here are some prior Keystone State Education Coalition postings on K12, Inc.:
New York Times: Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools, 12/12/11 by Stephanie Saul
It's all about the kids......K12 Inc. chief executive Ron Packard paid $5 million compensation package in 2011     12/12/11
K12 Inc.: Churn, baby churn…….May 25, 2012
“There is no reliable evidence that for-profit (cyber) operators provide education that is effective, but there is no question that they are highly effective at turning public tax dollars into private gain."  November 22, 2011

PA Cyber Charter School hires lawyer in federal probe

July 19, 2012 12:34 am
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The board of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School late Wednesday night hired an attorney to represent it in relation to an ongoing federal grand jury investigation.
The board hired Robert E. Stewart of the Downtown firm Stewart & Zinski at a rate of $350 per hour. Another lawyer for the board, Tim Barry, said that the move does not reflect any change in the school's understanding that it is not a target of the investigation.
The grand jury is investigating current or former executives of the online charter school, which serves more than 11,300 students statewide.

“If the state holds school districts to one standard and charter and private schools to another, then the state already has given the charters and private schools straight-A report cards without a test.  This is no “competition.” It’s playing craps with loaded dice.”

Charter school exemptions make for an uneven education

Wilkes-Barre Times Leader Commentary by Mark Guydish July 18, 2012

GOV. TOM Corporate and the Republican majority in the Legislature continue to prove that, for them, “education reform” is just code for “privatization.”
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though there’s no meaningful evidence supporting the underlying theory – that competition from the private sector will improve education for all. The problem in this case is that, in their rush to create a more “competitive” system, they dropped the “competitive” part.
Take charter schools, a fine idea that has worked well in some sites, including our sole Luzerne County brick-and-mortar example: Bear Creek Community Charter. These are public schools free of many state constraints, but lest you think these are “public” in the same way your local school district is “public,” keep in mind that many charters are run by, or in affiliation with, private companies.

“When Pennsylvania lawmakers crafted the charter school law back in 1990s, their intent was clear: "A charter school shall be organized as a public, nonprofit corporation. Charters may not be granted to any for-profit entity."  While these "management companies" might not hold the charter, the practice certainly violates the spirit of the law.”
EDITORIAL: Tighten charter school law
York Dispatch Updated:   07/17/2012 11:15:20 AM EDT
Charter schools are important options for parents unhappy with the education their children would otherwise receive in their home districts.  No argument there.
If their regular school isn't up to the task, parents should be able to send their children to a better environment, using the money the state would have provided the district for educating those students.
But something's wrong when charter schools turn a large profit.
The York City School District has five charter schools siphoning millions from its budget each year.  It's a Catch-22 for the district.
Certainly, the school system was struggling academically, which is why the charters were able to attract so many students. But the financial hit it's taking is only making the problem worse for those students who remain.  It's particularly maddening knowing that not all of those tax dollars are making it to the charter students.
For some charter schools, it's not simply about providing an alternative, preferably better, educational option for parents and students -- it's about making money.

Area schools face new threat

Under new rules, state subsidy can be cut when students who win scholarships opt out.

Wilkes-Barre Times Leader by MARK GUYDISH July 16
WILKES-BARRE – It depends entirely on how the state does the final math – and even on which set of numbers used – but a preliminary analysis of state data by The Times Leader suggests up to seven Luzerne County public schools could land on a list of “low achieving schools,” with potentially serious consequences to school district budgets.
The list is an integral part of the state’s new “Education Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit” program. Businesses can donate money to a nonprofit entity which then awards scholarships to students who live in the “attendance boundary” of a low-achieving school. The student can use the money to attend another school, either public or private, that is not on the low-achieving list.

Chester Upland SD could see impact of distressed school bill
Published: Thursday, July 19, 2012
Delco Times By JOHN KOPP @DT_JohnKopp
CHESTER — Gov. Tom Corbett recently signed a distressed school districts bill that is expected to place the Chester Upland School District under greater state oversight.
The law, dubbed the Financial Recovery Legislation for Schools, allows the secretary of education to declare districts meeting certain criteria as distressed and to appoint a chief recovery officer, who will be charged with developing a financial recovery plan.
By implementing the plan, the districts are eligible for long-term, interest-free loans.
Chester Upland is among four districts across the state that currently meet the criteria to be declared distressed.

Why Weren’t These Students Taking Tests?
Diane Ravitch’s Blog July 18, 2012 //
Last night, I watched the PBS Frontline program and saw “Fast Times at West Philly High.” It is a wonderful documentary about the teachers and students at this inner-city high school who entered an international competition to create a hybrid car. It follows them as they build their models, then take them to the competition. Theirs is the only team of high school students. All the others in the competition are adults, and many are professionals.
This is real reform, unlike the phony schemes to privatize public schools and hand them over to for-profit entrepreneurs. This is real curriculum, instruction, teaching and learning, where students are eagerly learning and applying what they learn. This is real teaching, where the teachers are fully invested in what they are teaching and respect their students as partners in the learning.

Libor ‘crime of the century' bank rate-fixing case hits home
Northampton County and Bethlehem Area School District taxpayers who have shelled out tens of millions of dollars to get out of money-losing swaps may have been hurt by tilted playing field.
July 15, 2012|By Tim Darragh, Of The Morning Call
Admissions by a major London-based bank that it manipulated a key lending rate amount to "the crime of the century."
Or an unwitting gift to mortgage-paying homeowners.
Whatever your position on many commonplace financial transactions — taxpayer, investor, mortgage borrower, pensioner — you most likely have been affected by the manipulation of a bank lending rate called Libor. Determining how deeply you have been touched, however, may be next to impossible.

To my knowledge, Pennsylvania has not applied for a waiver.  In 2014 NCLB AYP targets will be 100% proficient; all school districts will be labeled “failing”.

Six More States, District of Columbia Get NCLB Waivers

 Alyson Klein  
Six states—Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, and South Carolina—and the District of Columbia are the latest to be approved for waivers from many mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday.
That brings the total of approved applications to 33, including almost all of the 27 applications submitted in the second round of the waiver process, which had a February deadline. Eleven states got waivers in the first go-round, announced in February.

NSBA Federal Relations Network seeking new members for 2013-14
School directors are invited to advocate for public education at the federal level through the National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network. The National School Boards Association is seeking school directors interested in serving on the Federal Relations Network (FRN), its grass roots advocacy program that brings local board members on the front line of pending issues before Congress. If you are a school director and willing to carry the public education message to Washington, D.C., FRN membership is a good place to start. 
Click here for more information.

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