Friday, July 20, 2012

Virtual Schools, Real Profits, Troubling Results

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Virtual Schools, Real Profits, Troubling Results

Education Week Living in Dialogue Blog by Anthony Cody July 18, 2012
Private enterprise is often portrayed as a mighty engine of innovation. If we break the "government monopoly" on education, entrepreneurial opportunities will inspire new solutions to problems that have not been licked by the public schools.  But corporations are funny people. They do not actually care so much about how they make money - just so long as they do. Innovation is not their purpose, nor is solving society's intractable problems.
We have a fresh report from the National Educational Policy Center, where authors Gary Miron and Jessica Urschel take us into the world of K12 Inc, the nation's largest "virtual school provider." They look at the characteristics of the students, at the quality of the instruction they receive, and the outcomes that result. This should be a huge wakeup call to anyone who cares about education.

PPG Editorial: Cyber excess: Taxpayers should not over-fund charter schools
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Editorial July 20, 2012 12:01 am
There is something very wrong with an education funding system that has public school districts chopping staff and ending programs while a publicly funded charter school is making so much money that it can pay millions to its spinoff companies.
The operators of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, the state's first and largest online charter with more than 11,300 students, channeled their innovation into two offshoot management entities, one a nonprofit and the other a for-profit firm.
Part of the reason that's been possible is the amount of taxpayer money the online school receives far exceeds what it costs to educate cyber students.

PA Cyber Charter PSSA AYP 2007 - 2011 from PDE
Of 12 PA cyber charters, only 2 made AYP for 2011, while 8 were in corrective action status.

Which CEO made $5 million stealing your kid's lunch money?
YouTube video runtime 4:37 Published on Jul 19, 2012 by bravenewfoundation
ALEC is working to ensure that public education dollars get diverted to private profits. Their approach is working -- for them. Not so much for the students who pay the price in the form of a subpar education and poor performance.

New Keystone Exam Test Requirements Shake Up Cheltenham and Other School Districts

Cheltenham Citizen’s Call (no by line) Posted on July 17, 2012
Last May the PA State Board of Education set in motion a process for establishing the state’s new Keystone exams as the yardstick that will determine whether high school students measure up to graduation standards. The plan was to phase in the Keystone tests with the graduating class of 2017 being the first to be required to pass or “show proficiency” on three of the end-of-course exams: Algebra I, biology and literature. An earlier proposal had the class of 2015 being the first required to pass the exams for graduation.
Last Tuesday, however, a Department of Education (DEd) directive landed on the desk of school administrators across the state, including that of Cheltenham’s Assistant Superintendent Michael Lowe, which added a new wrinkle to plans for the roll-out of the Keystones, which are designed to be rigorous, end-of-course assessments. The updated timeline for all grade levels included testing for next year’s 11th graders in Algebra I, biology and literature.
Prior to last week’s announcement it had been understood that 11th graders in 2012-13 would be getting a pass on the tests, having to take neither the Keystones nor the PSSAs. However, DEd reversed course and instituted the testing requirements for the 11th graders as a part of the measure of schools’ “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind law.
According to Cheltenham Board President Tina Viletto, the change has left school districts scrambling on two counts. First, how do they fairly and appropriately test 11th graders in subjects that they may have taken as long as three or four years ago? (Algebra I is typically taken in eighth grade and biology in ninth grade.) Second, with the switch to the Keystone course-specific testing from the more generalized skill-based PSSAs, how do districts measure AYP from one year to the next with the switch to a radically different test? 

Philadelphia School Partnership gives out $3.8 million in grants to four schools
the notebook by Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 19 2012
The Philadelphia School Partnership,  a two-year-old organization that is raising $100 million to support high quality public and private schools in Philadelphia, Thursday announced the awarding of four grants totalling $3.8 million.
Among the recipients is the Sustainability Workshop, a unique project-based program for seniors that split off from West Philadelphia High School's automotive academy and was featured  this week in a Frontline documentary (see link below). It is getting $175,000 "incubation" grant as it works to grow into a full-fledged high school.

FRONTLINE  Fast Times at West Philly High
July 17, 2012 magazine: Fast Times at West Philly High and Middle School Moment
PBS video runtime 53:42

Sto-Rox attempting to work with Propel Schools

Post-Gazette By Sonja Reis July 20, 2012 12:51 am
Instead of voting to approve or deny a revised and resubmitted charter application from Propel Schools for a K-12 location within the district, Sto-Rox directors have agreed to establish a committee arranging for representatives from both side to discuss options.
The unexpected move came one day before a July 20 deadline requiring Sto-Rox to respond to Propel's resubmitted application for the proposed Propel-West location. In November, the district voted to deny Propel's original charter application, with officials then stating the creation of the charter school would bankrupt the struggling public school serving students from Stowe and McKees Rocks.

A Closer Look at the Teacher Shortage

 Walt Gardner  
The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that public schools will need more than 440,000 new elementary and secondary teachers by the end of the decade to replace retiring baby boomers. Whether this forecast is cause for alarm depends on a variety of factors that are poorly understood.

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.

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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