Thursday, March 22, 2012

Online Schools On Our Dime Should Really Concern You

The state House of Representatives is considering online charter schools. And yes, under the proposal, those "schools" would get full per-pupil funding despite the fact that there are a lot of questions about how kids' attendance would be accounted for, and evidence that kids don't learn as well in these cyber-schools. I'm taking this information from Michigan Parents for Schools and some of their supporters, and I would like to ask you to call your state representative and ask them to vote against the cyber school bill (SB 619). You can find talking points here.

Here's some information about the poor performance of cyber schools in Colorado, and it is mighty disturbing.

From Education News Colorado:
Achievement of online students drops over time, lags state averages on every indicator

Here is some of what that article says:

But an independent analysis of previously unreleased online school data by the I-News Network and Education News Colorado reveals key new findings and an achievement gap that alarmed education officials:
  • Online students are losing ground. Students who transfer to online programs from brick-and-mortar schools posted lower scores on annual state reading exams after entering their virtual classrooms.
  • Academic performance declined after students enrolled in online programs. Students who stayed in online programs long enough to take two years’ worth of state reading exams actually saw their test results decline over time.
  • Wide gaps persist. Double-digit gaps in achievement on state exams between online students and their peers in traditional schools persist in nearly every grade and subject – and they’re widest among more affluent students.

Here are some of the lobbying expenditures by cyberschools and their allies, as compiled by Steve Norton of Michigan Parents for Schools:
Lobbying expenditures in MI:
K12, Inc: $112,826 (2008-11); nearly $30,000 each of last two years
Connections Education: $47,314 (2009-11); over $26K last year
Michigan Virtual Univ.: $307K last 11 yrs; $36K+ last year alone
Pearson Education (now owns Connections): $18K each of last 3 yrs
And here is some testimony that was given to the House Education Committee by the Superintendent of the Ottawa Intermediate School District. It's so compelling that I am producing it in full below.  (It is, after all, part of the public record.)

But before I let this testimony have the last word, let me say something.
Understand that this cyber school bill is just a way to divert funding from public schools that are actually trying to teach students. Understand this cyber school bill as part of the larger attack on public education. Understand this cyber school bill as an effort to dismantle public education. And understand that if your legislators don't hear from you, and this passes, you will have nobody to blame but yourself. At least if you contact them, you can say that you tried.

This testimony is eye-opening. (If it is too small for you to read, you can find the original pdf here: