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rotten apple

Lee Fang's new investigative article on for-profit online education companies and the political and "philanthropic" networks that are helping them suck up public education funding without demonstrating halfway decent results is an absolute must-read. Practically every paragraph of it contains some thread that, if you tugged on it ever so gently, would unspool into its own completely disgusting story of influence-peddling and politician-buying and profits being put before kids.

For-profit online education is gaining ground fast:

In addition to Florida, twelve states have expanded virtual school programs or online course requirements this year. This legislative juggernaut has coincided with a gold rush of investors clamoring to get a piece of the K-12 education market. It’s big business, and getting bigger: One study estimated that revenues from the K-12 online learning industry will grow by 43 percent between 2010 and 2015, with revenues reaching $24.4 billion.

That's not because it's benefiting kids:

A recent study of virtual schools in Pennsylvania conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University revealed that students in online schools performed significantly worse than their traditional counterparts. Another study, from the University of Colorado in December 2010, found that only 30 percent of virtual schools run by for-profit organizations met the minimum progress standards outlined by No Child Left Behind, compared with 54.9 percent of brick-and-mortar schools. For White Hat Management, the politically connected Ohio for-profit operating both traditional and virtual charter schools, the success rate under NCLB was a mere 2 percent, while for schools run by K12 Inc., it was 25 percent. A major review by the Education Department found that policy reforms embracing online courses “lack scientific evidence” of their effectiveness.

(Fang does note that there are places where online education has potential, like to provide AP-level content to rural schools without qualified teachers.)

That's the core of the story: state legislatures and governors handing over big money to for-profit companies to cheat children of a decent education. And of course these companies are spending millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions. They're all but buying politicians like Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna (not that he wasn't eager to be bought). They're cloaking their profit-seeking in the guise of philanthropy, with the same people lobbying for for-profit companies and sitting on the boards of education "reform" foundations and advocacy groups. In fact, even as Bill Gates gives money to online learning advocacy groups through his charitable foundation, Microsoft is looking to move into the online learning business as a new profit center.

It's disgusting, and if it isn't fought vigorously, it's the future of American "public" education.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 11:31 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Teachers Lounge, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  really interesting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JMoore, Larsstephens

    i would love to see some in depth investigative work done on for profit colleges, and the lawsuits they have engendered.   e.d.m.c. come to mind.      a simple google of edmc + lawsuits yields a wealth of information.

  •  This should be eliminated from the budget. (0+ / 0-)
  •  Just interviewed with one yesterday, really quite (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JMoore, Larsstephens

    different as always - implicit in the background is that I should have come up with some sentence about increasing value and profit as my rap on what I could do for the "company"

    I am off my metas! Präsidentenelf-maßschach; Warning-Some Snark Above"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03)

    by annieli on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:32:07 PM PST

  •  I see some promise for online, but with distinct (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JMoore, Larsstephens


    I think there will always be some kids who benefit from independent study, either because of their special needs or where they live, who can benefit from supervised online education. Sometimes this will be home schooling, and sometimes this will be on a school campus with a teacher. Sometimes this will be a way for a student to take classes in subjects not normally offered at their school. Either way, there is an adult supervising to make sure the student is staying on task, has someone to ask for help, is picking appropriate tasks, and is generally progressing to full potential.

    I think there is potential for lessons online, within a conventional school. In 5th grade, we had a teacher using Google docs to allow kids to collaborate on oral presentations and to share essay drafts with her. I loved the results. Supplementing with game-like learning can be valuable. Games are a great way to learn touch-typing. But keep in mind - this is adding cost and requires more resources, to have computers and outlets and bandwidth and IT administrators. These ideas can be beneficial for student learning but I do not believe they should be used to increase class sizes. Indeed, my perspective would be that ideally you would even work with slightly smaller classes to allow kids to work more individually and still have the teachers able to give quality time to each student.

    There's some potential for labor saving for some kinds of student work, because of the ability to grade on the computer. But teachers still have to grade written work and they still have to be able to diagnose instances where the student goes wrong.

    Kids still need to learn to write with a pencil and they still need to be able to do homework without an electronic device.

    Not every school has broadband. (My daughter's school's current connection doesn't even count as broadband for a residence by FCC standards, which is 4.0 mbit/sec.) Not every kid has internet access at home.

    The online companies and their "experts" don't even seem to know this - they're busy issuing scorecards complaining that states don't pay for-profit online companies enough money as the big limitation to online education.

    But even with all that, there isn't a lot of great online curriculum out there. And that's the problem. Writing crafty, engaging software is relatively easy compared to creating the content for it. Creating crafty, engaging instructional material that takes advantage of the power of a computer is substantially more complicated than writing a textbook - it's like writing 50 textbooks and adding in a few short films.

    The reality is that most of the push for online learning is either in siphoning profit or to save money in school expenditures. Both of these would be a step down from what we provide today. The correct answer is that it does neither - instead, the potential is to give kids access to more educational choices and to better help kids achieve.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:00:44 PM PST

    •  As a teacher, and as a professional instructional (4+ / 0-)

      designer in the corp. world prior to becoming a teacher, the issue is not computer based learning or no computer based learning.  Online learning is just a learning technology ... that can be a good or bad solution.

      The question is:  What does the student need to learn and what is the best approach for them to master that content.

      CBI (computer based instruction) can be terrific IF:

      1. You have a motivated, self-directed learner.
      2. The materials are well-designed, accurate, and include remediation loops that are internally designed to test for misunderstandings and provide new, additional examples and instruction.
      3. The student has the equipment and connection necessary for optimal performance of the CBI.
      4.  If there is technical help available within 3 minutes to troubleshoot and SOLVE technical issues.
      5.  If the content is appropriate for the technology being used.

      When I take students to the computer lab to use CBI, I'm constantly going from one to another to deal with #4 and you can bet that if I wasn't watching only a smallish % would meet the #1 requirement.  Plus, I very carefully preview and select to ensure that #2 and #5 are in place ... and our students are in our school computer lab with functioning equipment so #3 is met.  

      The problem is that rarely do all 5 of these occur unless a certified teacher is directly and actively involved in ensuring that all 5 of these conditions are met.  Instead, I'm afraid that the profiteers are trying to use CBI to drop teachers, and when they do, the context for optimal effectiveness of this instructional technology is going to drop precipitously.  

      Unfortunately, I'm afraid that we are already in a place where we need to beware the Educational Industrial Complex.

      NOTE:  I find it interesting that AP content instruction does well.  Not surprised since you have highly motivated, self-directed learners with high level reading skills (and content that would lend itself to the technology) using this form of instruction.  But then again, it would be difficult to keep that group of students learning, and they would probably even be able to do so even if you gave them -- horrors -- just a book.  :)

      Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

      by bkamr on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 05:28:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Like that list (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I cannot understand how anyone can think that a classroom of 40 random kids with 40 computers and one teacher can be automatically successful.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 11:55:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Took a look at TX TEA on-line courses (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JMoore, Larsstephens

       I didn't look at the entire list of courses, but I did notice one extraordinary example of a questionable course work, which raised a big red flag:
         One course in economics:  Free Market and it's benefits.

         That is one of the problems with on-line only.  If there is only one course on a topic, the education is limited.

          In the similar vein, TX is subtly attempting to follow the ALEC model of educational "reform":  student approval is a measure of what courses should be taught and professor's be paid using on-line systems such as

  •  I missed this when it was first posted (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mama jo, bkamr, concernedamerican

    so I figured there were others in the same boat.  I have republished this to Teachers' Lounge thread.

    Thanks for this.

  •  This country is over. That is all. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vidanto, nipit, magnetics

    -9.63, 0.00
    I am not a purity troll. I am a purity warrior.

    by nobody at all on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 08:12:03 PM PST

    •  You are right if everyone sits around and crys. (0+ / 0-)

      Join the Occupy Movement and change things. Don't cry about your country, fix it!

      Just as prostitution is the world's oldest profession, religion is the world's oldest scam.

      by Agent420 on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 11:27:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just like the testing industry (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mama jo, Stwriley, Minnesota Deb

    Follow the money.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 08:27:40 PM PST

  •  In my 6 + years of REAL math teaching experience (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stwriley, bkamr

    at the high school level, the thought that more than a dinky minority of kids who won't do work and don't do school are going to be self motivated to study online is laughable -

    but ...

    if I was wrong & they get rid of all the math teachers, I'll get a new job!

    I'm NOT defending my turf or protecting my butt - I wish everyone was taking Calculus in their senior year.

    oh well - it figures it is just another Halliburton / KBR style racket.

    Of course, the Dem-0-CRAPS who are working with the thugs to push this garbage are the same sell outs who can't clip the wings of the thieves running "health" insurance companies OR the thieves running the finance and banking companies - ummmmmmmmmmm.

    Anyone wonder what this is all about? Can you spell "Sell Out" ?


    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

    by seabos84 on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 08:29:35 PM PST

    •  The Republcians under Bush pushed this pretty hard (4+ / 0-)

      Ohio lost tons of money from charter schools under a Republican governor.
      A good math teacher is worth their weight in gold.
      I've had good and bad.

      My kids had some really bad ones.When I homeschooled my daughter she said the text book we were using was better at explaining math to her than any of her teachers.
      We used Saxon math.
      My son is bright but  his poor math preparation didn't show up until his college placement test. He had to some classes to catch-up.

      We need to look at how math is taught in other countries that produce well-prepared students. We don't need to reinvent the wheel , just copy what works.

      This isn't political. Both sides are corrupted by money.
      Its up to us to stand up against this.

      •  everything is political AND (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'm 51 ... who is worse?

        the string pullers in the thug party have been lying thieves my whole life, BUT, I feel that they've been consistent liars to impose and to protect the aristocracy -

        I'm finished with people who are playing by Arne Duncan's lies and sell out-ism, and who to pretend it is Leave It To Beaver at the school house or at the state house.

        I'm MORE fed up with Democrats cuz I've voted for the rotten bastards for 30 years - I NEVER voted for thugs (when it mattered in generals - I've played games in their primaries!)

        About that math teaching - check out Where's The Math

        It is too bad math ed is such a mess - I think it is more connected to our USA relative affluence more than anything - in much of the world, you either break your ass or you starve, so, those lucky enough to go to school work hard ... and ... I've got to go to bed. ;)


        Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

        by seabos84 on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:22:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for referencing that site (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Where's the Math looks like its on the right path.

          Although my kids are grown, I have grand kids and I am already thinking about the problems they will encounter and how to fix them.

          •  as a society, we do NOT teach kids the WORK (0+ / 0-)

            it takes to survive and thrive -

            aside - I was a cook for 15 of 20 years - I HATE cutting garlic and onions - tough! almost anything you're going to cook that tastes good will have garlic and onions, so ... shut up and cut the dam garlic!

            While Martha Stewart hides the 8 assistants and 15 hours of prep for her 1 hour t.v. show, while 'this old house' NEVER talks about the money or skill or time needed to fix those really cool old houses - just about everything we do as humans which is fun or cool requires lots and lots of not too interesting (drudgery) set up.

            get over it.

            ed policy people watch Sesame Street, and all get wispy and teary eyed, and ... shouldn't ALL learning be fun ALL the time!?  

            sure! for those with fat trust funds who can always hire the serfs to do the drudgery!!

            for the other 99%+++ of us, we just gotta accept that there is a lot of grunt work between doing the cool finish work and the start point -

            and learning music or karate or basketball or the oboe or the banjo or writing

            OR MATH

            takes freaking practice. ta da. the end.

            over. ;)


            Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

            by seabos84 on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 08:01:39 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Japan has the right attitude about math (0+ / 0-)

              they do kill and drill until the kids know their stuff.
              You can't move forward to do the more complicated math until these are mastered.Math skills are sequential.

              My daughter lived in Japan as an exchange student.Not every Japanese person is a born math wiz contrary to their image. My daughter brought alone her Saxon math and even found herself explaining to some of the girls how to solve the problems.

              Math is structured so that if you forget a step, you can't move forward.As math becomes more complicated , there are many steps.If you have ADD as my daughter does, you might forget a step in the process.With math solutions manuel she was able to quickly review her process and move on.

              When my sister in law taught 3rd grade math, she started the class with a repetition of the times tables. They did this every day routinely. Her kids knew their stuff.Some,of course, knew it sooner but this allowed all the kids to "catch-up" .Needless to say, my nephew did quite well in math.He has a PHD in physics but teachers computer science or "Informatics" today and just made tenure.

              You don't have to have a hard-ass attitude towards math, just provide good teaching techniques and follow through. Anyone can learn basic math.There are lots of fun games to make it interesting. We have math teachers in the family.

    •  Obviously Learnt Right Wing Rhetoric (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Lets kick of from the start. Education in the US is county based not state and not federal. Federal funding under a measure of testing is provided. However all the controls are county based and the funding is largely controlled by state.
      So education in the US is based upon the divide and conquer rule, with corruption occurring mainly at the state and county level, with Federal funding being sucked into a corporate controlled for profit pit based upon false and deceitful information coming up from county through to state level.
      What is obvious the greater the influence of private for profit the worse the result.
      The rest of the world is looking on dumbfounded as the US self destructs it public education system. For US teachers the best choice seems to be emmigration and avoiding the idiocracy all togethor.

      •  county-based (0+ / 0-)

        In Pennsylvania, education is based on school districts, some of which are in more than one county, and some of which share counties with multiple school districts. The last time I noticed, I think the total was 601 school districts. Funding is largely local real estate taxes

  •  Idaho did this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    - the cronyism was front-paged all over the news, and the public yawned. It makes me ill to even think about it - mandating ineffective virtual classes sold by a company back east that the local philanthropist (campaign donor) has a large share in - making him a fortune in the process.  WTF is wrong with these people - I'm with 'nobody at all' above, this country is so over.

    •  Not if you stand up and protest loudly. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And you find others who feel the same way and you show up at school board meetings.
      Its called "solidarity". You could be a leader in this.
      You find a common cause, enlist others who feel the same and push for change.
      This is how change begins,from the bottom up.

  •  I have a problem sometimes with college courses (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    betson08, mama jo, barbwires, Chayanov

    offered online as well. I think taking one or two during your college career might be of use especially if it's a course that you are certain you already have a mastery of or one in which you would not be able to take if not for an online version. Hybrids are different usually as you have classtime time and the online part is just a bridge that is built off of that classroom experience.  

          I do not teach them but feel like students are missing the focus of true classroom discussion and debate and assignments that build off of them.  Rather they can simply vomit out crammed material or learn how to search for answers quickly on a laptop as they pound them out for a timed online test with a browser lock on the PC.

    Not a fan.  

  •  At some point in this country the word (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Stwriley, Renee, Chayanov

    privatized became a mystical word to people who somehow do not seem to work or deal with private companies. There's this thought that somehow if the government makes an error, it's proof that no choice is the problem, but when a private company does, you can always go somewhere else (with no regard to the fact that you have no redress usually for the private company as it becomes he said/she said or that all the private companies seem to make very similar errors and it's getting downright scary how most of their prices seem to fall in line now too). And when factoring in efficient oversight (which is consistently fought by the same people who think privatize magically equals better), it usually costs more for less results.

    There are only 2 things in life I believe about religion: There could be a God and I'm sure as heck not him.

    by Irixsh on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 08:48:23 PM PST

  •  There is considerable merit (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    betson08, barbwires, Stwriley

    to this diarist's views, and i would agree there is a lot of graft. The diarist points to absence of research, but there is absence of research to support many public policies which everyone supports. The problem is that "online education" is not yet a stable and definable construct. It is soon going to move into a new era with the evolution of streaming video and ever increasing bandwidth. Yes, the current content of most "online education" is abysmal, but it will necessarily improve, and it is an inevitable part of our future. "Online education" is not an isolated change. Everything we do as a society is moving "online", even as what we mean by "online" rapidly evolves.

    Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.
    Mark Twain

    by phaktor on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 08:51:41 PM PST

    •  Anything run "for profit" is dangerous to kids (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sandblaster, Va1kyrie, elfling, phaktor

      The "diarist" makes one point very clear. Corporations are not in this to improve our children's educations. They are in it for profits. That has always been their bottom line. Trusting them to implement a curriculum for K-12 that meets or exceeds the current one without entering in their own bias is incredibly naive.

      At the most, these new programs need to be contractual with the local, state and federal education departments running the show.

      Handing little Timmie over to a Corporation for training is not an acceptable public education alternative.

      "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." -- George Carlin, Satirical Comic,(1937-2008)

      by Wynter on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 02:26:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Have I shown my ignorance (0+ / 0-)

        by using the term "diarist"? There is probably no such thing, right? Maybe I got my degree online!

        This comment (made by a commentist?)  is my point exactly, albeit better articulated. The problem is not inherent to the use of telecommunications as an infrastructure for educational programs. Use of the internet for education is not a thoroughly bad idea. Like everything, it depends on quality and method, which vary widely. The problem right now has to do with the administrative limitations of doing something new. The field is new, and thus new methods will always be handed off to expert consultants at first. Expert consultants often turn out to be profit driven entrepreneurs in disguise. They are often business experts who make a living exploiting lucrative government contracts. In new fields, costs are not fully understood, so there is a huge profit margin available for those entrepreneurs who can get a contract to provide something which actually costs little to provide, when their only true qualification is that they are part of a very small group who are offering the new services at all (and they have some personal political connection which gets them the deal). There is always money in providing new things which are not well defined to the government in bulk, and it is one of the oldest and most common methods politicians use to transmit government money to their friends' pockets.

        I think the issue is just that -- not anything inherent to the methods of instruction themselves. When there are enough good program evaluations done on such programs to begin to clearly define what quality is and what it costs, then the profit driven bottom suckers will move on to something else new -- something nobody understands -- to make their quick bucks. For instance, untold billions of government dollars disappeared into the pockets of computer entrepreneurs during the period in which government agencies were automating their record keeping. Many of those systems, purchased from contractors at ridiculous prices, were obsolete before they were implemented or fell apart shortly afterward. The problem was the field was new, nobody knew what quality was, and nobody understood costs. Our government agencies were therefore snookered, sometimes intentionally by dishonest officials handing out money to their friends (or more likely to those who paid for the privilege), and sometimes out of pure ignorance and failure to write contracts which required delivery of usable systems. In the midst of a technological revolution, egos run wild and nonsense often results from the competition among imbeciles each trying to force their incomplete understanding on others.

        The issue thus comes back to the old issue of the merits of public education itself, and most of us know how we feel about private entrepreneurs providing public education. It works when it has good oversight and the contractors are actually contractually bound to provide something of value which can be defined, measured and monitored.

        Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.
        Mark Twain

        by phaktor on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 08:28:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Education being run for profit? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    betson08, Stwriley

    What next? The military? Public works?

    Not that it really matters, since today's kids will grow up so stupid they'll have no idea what's going on. You can thank the educational system for that.

    15 years old and a proud progressive and Phillies phan.

    by vidanto on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 08:53:56 PM PST

    •  In the right-wing's ideal world... (4+ / 0-)

      everything is privatized. Try reading Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash for a fine view of what this country might be like in twenty years under such an ideology. It looks a lot like a balkanized, failed state in which everything is run by profit, franchise relationships, sovereign private property and contract, with the "government" reduced t just another corporation and a poor one at that.

      The problem is that most of the people supporting these ideas have no real grasp of their implications in the long run. The elite few (like the Kochs) who drive this ideology certainly do and are those who would actually benefit from it.

      The real problem is that public education has been starved for so long that it's a shadow of what it once was. I remember my own high school days in the 1970s (yes, it really was like The Seventies Show, but more drugs and sex) when even our modest school in a mid-sized city had every facility and resource we could ask for. We even had our own mainframe, in the school building, in a day when such things were still fairly rare. But that was when people still believed that schools needed to be paid for, not farmed out to the lowest bidder.

      Conservito delenda est pro is deleo orbis terrarum!

      by Stwriley on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 09:53:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As obnoxious and toxic as (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Minnesota Deb

    the high school experience can sometimes be,

    I still think that there are some things learned there:

    half in the classrooms,  and half in the social setting.

    An on-line education may definitely benefit some---
    but for the most part, the social inter-action is invaluable.

    We are already so isolated and non-communicative---
    [see:  texting vs. talking as a preferred method],

    Who can possibly think that more isolation could be
    A Good Thing?

  •  White Hat in Ohio bilked the state out of millions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There were sued and Ohio citizens won.
    This was under a Republican governor and SOS Blackwell.

  •  You left out that water is wet. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The sky is blue.
    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
    A barking dog never bites.
    A cat has nine lives.
    A spy with flatulence will always blow his cover.
    Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
    Its only rock n roll but I like it.
    Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.


  •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm halfway remembering some sci-fi stories that were old when I was young, in which the child or youth protagonists would learn at what was essentially computers, written before computers were ubiquitous. It was a great thing, educating everyone to their utmost potential and at their own pace. When I was young, I wished I could do it.

    This bastardization is a sad thing.

    Weathering Michigan's recessions since the '70s.

    by jennifree2bme on Sat Nov 26, 2011 at 10:21:03 PM PST

  •  I survived an Edison school (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    magnetics, Minnesota Deb, joy

    and I can testify that they are in the business of making money and not educating kids. Their "consultants" were rarely on site and when they were they were borrowing teacher work, putting the Edison name on it, and handing it out at the numerous meetings the faculty had to attend. We were forced into a marriage with Edison because our district had the lowest test scores--and guess what? We also happened to be the poorest district. My school was gradually pulling higher scores pre-Edison but they took  credit for the increases and completely demoralized the teaching staff. They sucked up all of our Title One money---about $250,000 per year---and did NOTHING for us.

  •  Chilling...creating a nation of moronic zombies. (0+ / 0-)

    I don't see the upside in any of this.

    The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

    by magnetics on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 01:39:07 AM PST

  •  There is an easy fix to this... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Two things would correct the problems and stem the tide of online courses...

    First, require that every online program must demonstrate why they need to implement the system. (ie. Rural area with no teachers.) Note: Costcutting is NOT a reason, unless they can prove that the new program will equal or expand on current education levels for every student.

    And secondly, put in place federal oversight like NCLB requiring the programs attain a level of effectiveness or have their plug pulled.

    They hate regulations and requirements. Both will stem the tide if put in place. And if they are shown to be successful then they will survive if not they get unplugged. Call it a Performance Requirement on their contract.

    "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." -- George Carlin, Satirical Comic,(1937-2008)

    by Wynter on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 02:19:08 AM PST

    •  That fix is already in place (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, joy

      The students in the online, for-profit school for which I work are almost all from rural areas.  All of our students take the same mandated tests.  All of the families self-select to be in this program.  

      That said, it is not a fix.  For each student we have enrolled, a portion of the state funds that would ordinarily go to the local schools now goes to recruiters, advertising, and profits for a corporation 3,000 miles away.

      By mathematical logic, because funds are being leached by corporate schools into these non-education aspects of the business entity, there is less money going to kids and teachers.  

      Online education may be serving some of our kids well, but there is no reason for it to be a for-profit company.  

      It is important that we draw the line between online education and for profit education.  One is only probably bad while the other is certainly bad.


  •   Maybe for teachers. Not so certain about kids. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm connected with a teacher certification program that we have moved to more and more online courses.  Since our focus is people in a single state (and a relatively small one, at that), we can make all courses hybrids -- with a few required traditional classes for each course.  

    These online courses have some pluses.  People sign up more quickly for them because they are so convenient.  Perhaps because there is so much focus on writing in an online course (especially for the forums that are the equivalent of class discussion) and because writing is much more likely to be seen by other students, instructor after instructor reports that the quality of student writing is better than in traditional courses.

    There are minuses, too.  The principal one is some loss of sense of community for each course.  Great courses become wonderful intellectual communities.  Seeing and talking directly with people (formally in class, informally before and after) creates that sense of community.  That people ask for more face to face time even though it represents a substantial drive for some is an indication that people miss that experience (as is the, on average, slightly lower evaluation that the hybrid online courses get from students).

    Is all of this relevant for high school students, say.  I really don't know.  I would be a lot more cautious than some states have been.  Comments about for-profits doing the work suggest to me that the core problem is the nature of the people using the new technologies rather than the technologies themselves.  

    In our shift, we made our change a relatively seamless one.  We still offer courses in a traditional format.  But the shift has been completed.  More are offered in a hybrid online format.  

    Seamless change would be the right thing for programs aimed at kids, too.  

  •  From the Fang article at the link: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sandblaster, Minnesota Deb

    "Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush, spoke to fellow reformers at a retreat in October 2010...Next year, Levesque advised, reformers should “spread” the unions thin “by playing offense” with decoy legislation. Levesque said she planned to sponsor a series of statewide reforms, like allowing taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools by overturning the so-called Blaine Amendment, “even if it doesn’t pass…to keep them busy on that front.” She also advised paycheck protection, a unionbusting scheme, as well as a state-provided insurance program to encourage teachers to leave the union and a transparency law to force teachers unions to show additional information to the public. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly “under the radar.”"

    Incredible.  How come progressives aren't thinking this way-- strategizing like it's a football game, but for the good of the nation?

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 06:00:28 AM PST

  •  Do not throw baby out with bathwater (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My 11 year old has benefited from K12's online curriculum. We struggled to find a comprehensive secular homeschool curriculum. They may not be perfect but it is working for us. I say we should produce some non profits to cpmpete rather than cede the field

    •  Secular homeschooling (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is indeed something that is usually ignored in debates about education reform. We homeschooled our daughters and they both were involved in varying degrees with the online/virtual classroom. It definitely can have value. However, to imagine that that could be the only schooling for kids is folly. It is a tool, like flashcards or blocks.

      What is with this need we seem to have as a people to drop everything and follow the latest fad? Wouldn't it be better to see whether and how new techniques can be integrated into the existing system, side by side with the tried and true?

      And the converse is also true: once some new technology, adopted as the magic solution to all of our problems, falls short as it inevitably does, then it is abandoned, consigned to the dust bin of history, even if in fact it could, in moderation, be of considerable value.

      •  Innovation is often messy (0+ / 0-)

        I completely agree that the new technology should not be seen as the solution to all of our education problems but it is a valuble component. In developing this component there will be over reaches, failures and fraud. Our jobs is to select the best and integrate it into the traditional classroom.

  •  There is a pile of hurt in store for these for (0+ / 0-)

    profit companies. Their goal is not to teach, it is to steal lives away from the children. Parents send their children to the Charter Schools because of all the false information about them. Profit is their only goal. They will end up on the rock pile of republican ideas. Republicans are selfish bastards.

    Just as prostitution is the world's oldest profession, religion is the world's oldest scam.

    by Agent420 on Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 11:15:36 AM PST

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