Articles tagged with virtual schools

Expanded K-12 privatization on the horizon

School board members can expect continued political activity to promote charter schools, vouchers, school choice options, and to expand the privatization of K-12 education.

That was the message of Roberta Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, who gave a political update on these issues Monday at the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

The charter school movement currently dominates efforts to redesign the traditional public school system, she told conference attendees. At least 1.8 million children—or 4 percent of the K-12 student population—currently are enrolled in publicly funded charter schools.

“Charters are the big name in the game today,” Stanley said, noting that they enjoy strong political support from some urban mayors, governors, state lawmakers, and such federal officials as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Obama.

Helping fuel this policy push is money from several large foundations, as well as private entrepreneurs who see the opportunity to tap into billions of dollars in education funding.

NSBA policy isn’t to oppose charter schools but to insist that their authorization and their accountability be the responsibility of school boards, so that the future of children’s educational opportunities remains under the control of the local community, she said.

Accountability is an issue that’s going to continue to surround the charter school movement in the years ahead, Stanley said. More data is needed on the academic performance of these schools, and state and federal lawmakers will need to address better procedures for closing down poor-performing charters.

Although school voucher advocates still are active, school board members will find that a more fast-growth phenomenon is the “explosion of cyber, virtual, and online schools,” Stanley said.

Enrollment in virtual schools is growing at a rate of about 3 percent annually, yet some studies suggest these schools aren’t successful for all students, she said.

That’s not to say that online schools have no future role in K-12 education, Stanley added.

“I understand one of the best [roles] for cyber schools is credit recovery, working with kids who lag behind or are homebound or sick,” or to expand course offerings in smaller or rural schools, she said.

Where school leaders need to watch carefully is in states where state policymakers are too eager to push all-day online learning or seek to use virtual schools as a cheap alternative to brick-and-mortar schools.

“Students need oversight. Students need to be taught to be civic-minded, to learn teamwork-building skills,” Stanley said. “We don’t get that with a child sitting in his or her bedroom at a computer.”

To strengthen its advocacy efforts on these issues, NSBA works with a coalition of 60 education and civil rights groups to broaden the message that serious issues remain to be addressed regarding school choice, she added. This coalition also seeks to block poor policy decisions that will hurt public education.

“This is as sharp a coalition as I’ve ever worked with,” Stanley said. “And we are right on top of it, so we can try to nip these things in the bud.”

Del Stover|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Charter Schools, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Online learning, Privatization, School Boards, School Reform, School Vouchers|Tags: , |

Bryant: “Virtual Schools Need a Grounding in Reality”

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant wrote a blog, “Virtual Schools Need a Grounding in Reality,” for “Transforming Learning,” published by Education Week.  Her commentary is based on the new groundbreaking report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, “Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools.”

Bryant notes that, “Until we take a hard look at the potential and peril of virtual schools, lawmakers must tread much more cautiously.”

The report examines data on all types of online learning, but most notably finds that the data available on the fast-growing field of full-time virtual schools shows low rates of graduation, course completion, and assessment scores.

“The rate at which state legislatures have approved these institutions is remarkable,” Bryant writes. “What’s more remarkable, perhaps, is that the Center found these schools operate with few accountability measures, and states and districts are paying online providers from 70 to 100 percent of the costs of educating students in traditional schools, even though their actual costs should be much lower.”

Further, she writes, “All of this has taken place with no research to back it up — in fact, what little research and anecdotal evidence exists on full-time virtual learning shows alarmingly low graduation rates, course completion and test scores.”

Not all the news is bad, though. Through its 25-year-old Technology Leadership Network, NSBA has highlighted many successful examples of online learning through its Technology Site Visits and conferences, Bryant notes.

The Learning First Alliance is a coalition of 16 major education groups.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 17th, 2012|Categories: Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Technology, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Online learning, Technology Leadership Network|Tags: , , , |

Virtual Learning: Growing but untested, NSBA report says

Do K12 students benefit from taking some or all of their classes online? A new report by NSBA’s Center for Public Education, Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools, says that while online education holds promise for 21st century learning, researchers know relatively little about the performance of virtual schools, and the studies that have been done are troubling.

“Virtual learning is the future. It’s increasing,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “But we don’t have a lot of information about its effect right now, so I would caution people to start slow and monitor it very closely.”

“Online learning” can refer to anything from a single class, such as an Advanced Placement class that is not available at a school or a credit recovery class, to full-time K-12 virtual schools, to a combination online and face-to-face instruction. Programs can be created and operated by school districts, states, non-profit or for-profit entities, as well as a host of other sources, which can blur the lines of accountability. 

While the information on online learning is incomplete, several studies on the practice are not encouraging. For example, a Stanford University study covering the period 2007-2010 found that 100 percent of virtual charters schools in Pennsylvania performed significantly worse in math and reading than traditional schools in terms of student gains.

The research also shows that full-time K-12 virtual schools tend to show the least effective results in graduation rates, course completion, and test scores.  While full-time virtual schools enroll less than two percent of the nation’s public school population, that number is rapidly increasing, and much of the growth is with for-profit providers.

“A full-time experience is much different than one class, and the overall data for full-time virtual schools tends to be where the wheels fall off,” Barth said. “Most of the research we found raises serious questions about the accountability and monitoring of some of these schools.”

The report also examines the funding streams of four states: Colorado, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and the researchers found that in most cases funding is not based on the actual cost to educate a child through virtual schools. Determining budgets—and sometimes, enrollments—of virtual schools is often difficult.

The report gives school board members and the public a list of questions to ask to ensure their taxpayer’s funds are being used by programs that produce better results for students.

The report was written by Barth, the Center’s Managing Editor Rebecca St. Andrie, and the Center’s Senior Policy Analyst Jim Hull.

 

Lawrence Hardy|May 14th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Board governance, Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, Computer Uses in Education, Curriculum, Educational Technology, High Schools, Online learning, Privatization, School Board News, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |
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