Monday, February 6, 2012

The Community Chats About Cyberschools

A bill working its way through the Arizona House of Representatives would substantially increase the funding that ultimately goes to the companies (read "K12 Inc.) that effectively run some of the biggest virtual charter schools. I'll have more to say about that in a post in a few days. Today's Arizona Republic ran an article by Anne Ryman, education writer for the Republic, that laid out many of the issues and what is at stake. What I found particularly interesting was the commentary posted by readers of the paper. I have excerpted and slightly edited these comments because I think they are an important source of information about the public's opinion of this movement ("cyber-charters") that is not readily available even to researchers with their carefully designed survey instruments. The anonymity of the venue—posting to the newspaper's web site under pseudonyms—brings out feelings and strong opinions that would be hard to get through conventional channels.

One of the most revealing postings is by rdawg2332 below. I commend it to your attention.

  • steeldog95 You can't prove its the kid behind the computer when they take the class online. This is a joke.

    • Tuishimi I find that personally offensive. We home school, online and off, and our kids take their own tests and when they fail, they need to study more and take it again. It is called honesty and integrity.

    • azjack1900 "Honesty and integrity." This is something lacking in today's environment when greed surpasses personal initiative.

    • Ak0ma I personally take offense to you using the terms honesty and integrity.

    • billclem You are the exception and not the rule perhaps. Most kids taking a test are going to have google open and using whatever tools necessary to pass unless monitored.

    • Lordnite "It is called honesty and integrity." While you are correct on what it is, your beleif that everyone has it is very misplaced. Azjack's observation is 100% correct. Considering these are the future leaders of this country we need to ensure they are prepared, and parent's today in MANY cases have proven they are simply not up to the task, and haven't been for a while now.

  • rdawg2332 These online high schools care more about the money than the student. Last year, I interviewed for Primavera Online High School for a part time summer teacher and was disgusted with the questions I was asked. Of the 10 questions I was asked, only two asked about my teaching experience. The rest had to deal with how I can recruit students and parents. I had to stop the interview at one point to make sure I was interviewing for the right position. When they said yes, I had to politely decline the job and explain to them that I'm a teacher not a sales rep.

    • teleprompter It's called staying in business Ever run one ??

    • rdawg2332 Really? That's why you hire recruitement personnel, not teachers for that job.

    • teleprompter Yes really !! Job descriptions are typically used as an excuse not to work.

  • Richard6521 I thought it was fun taking an online drivers ed class (ticket in Snowflake AZ). The class has an online timer! It would time how long you spent with that page open... course you could always open another tab, and shop on Amazon, or whatever... A dishonest person could have 2 internet tabs open, or maybe just watch tv, or.....

  • IndependantCynic At an on-line HS where a friend of mine teaches has the student's parents "certify" how much time the student spends working on the class each week. They almost always certify a goodly amount of time, yet many students have completed less than 10% of the class at the end. Students lie/cheat because their parents do too. The apple never falls far from the tree. Students with responsible and involved parents are usually successful regardless of the venue (ie, conventional schools, on-line schools).

    • Realistic55 Thus the request for final exam coverage in person

    • Joe49 The request will not likely not be implemented since the for profit schools will lobby to be sure that doesn't happen.

  • honestlivin Its so sad to see our future going down the drain. It's not about measuring a grade on a final exam. It's about spending public money to give kids an EDUCATION. The funding level of 85% for online is WAY too high as compared with brick and mortar funding. The costs of online is much less than 85% and this has invited businesses to poach students from legitimate schools for profit reasons. If we don't reign this in we LOSE and they WIN.

    • Realistic55 honestlivin, where are you getting your 85% from? The avg K-8 school is getting 9-10k per student total budget and 9-12 10-12k. Before you quote some low 6k number, you have to add federal grants plus the huge prop taxes which are supposed to pay for facilities. That said, ASU has an online program, so do a number of other govt sponsored institutions. Some public schools have it. There is nothing to stop public schools from doing this either. Costwise, it makes sense. However, many students (at least 50%) can't handle online courses; their learning style doesn't appeal to it. Thus, we shall always need brick and mortar.

    • steeldog95 he got the number from the story. Online programs now get slightly less money than brick-and-mortar schools, receiving 95 percent of the per-student funding for full-time students and 85 percent for part-time ones. Starting in fiscal 2016, if those online schools have more than three courses with a passage rate of less than 70 percent and a completion rate of less than 60 percent, they would be ineligible for additional funding, the bill says. Hmmm. wonder if the online schools that rely on the money would alter the scores they provide to the state??? How is this anything but wrong? If the govt requires that kids pass a mandated test, and their results directly effect the teachers income and possible job security, how do you not expect a teacher to focus their teaching to whats on the test? Doesn't it make sense to study what you are going to be tested on? Big business is making one test all-important. That is faulty to begin with.

  • azjack1900 These schools are unfortunately operated by the same legislators who run the charter schools and supposedly non profit tutition organizations.

  • steeldog95 Yes, there can be lying, cheating, and stealing with an online sytem-- just like 'regular' public schools. Do you think kids attending public schools do their own homework? Do you think some public schools don't alter test scores and attendance? As written in the article, current public school institutional objection is strong and...well...easy to understand. They insist it takes 5 administrators, 8 specialists, 2 nurses, and fewer, overworked teachers to educate a child. Real teachers are being cut out of modern education, while those remaining accept 'teaching to the test' constraints, shorter recesses and lunches, and longer school days. Some parents like the online option as a means to tailor education to their child.

  • billclem It even said the tests do determine competency have not been developed. if they are getting tax dollars they should have to take the same standardized tests under supervision

  • justfunaz They go take supervised state tests every year.

  • buster2u Why do I think this is just ANOTHER con by our criminal legislature?

  • az85021 Oh my yes, please divert more and more money from the "brick and mortar" schools into the hands of the for profit schools. As history has shown time and time again "for profit" schools, companies, corporations would never lie, cheat, or steal to protect or increase their profits. You have the added benifit that as more money is diverted from the brick and mortar schools they will physically deteriorate and will lay off more and more people, thus assuring their eventual failure. And finally we can raise a generation who has never actually interacted with their peers and will be devoid of any social skills.

  • justfunaz For profit education has proven to be the best education. Most Private schools with a tuition do very well.

    • az85021 "For profit education has proven to be the best education" I think a few people might disagree with that open statement. And as to your comment about privates schools, do you mean all or just the ones for the well to do? Finally the article is about online schools and you make no mention of the social implications of no interaction.

    • justfunaz Its open but where do well to do children go? This is the same argument for homeschoolers they have proven to do well. I'm sure we all agree the state education system is broken. Teachers should be screaming to fix it and stop trying to protect their jobs. Good teachers shouldn't worry bad ones should be on notice. Teachers cant even agree on what a good teacher is.

  • IndependantCynic "For profit education has proven to be the best education" That's often true because the student population is different, not because there's something inherently different between public and private. In an apples to apples comparison... where the students are of the same caliber, the discipline is the same, the curriculum is the same, etc. I'd bet the results would be very much the same. Public schools are broken because they must by law accommodate ALL students in the same classroom... the handicapped, the misfits, the academically challenged, the academically elite. One size never fits all. I'll bet if a Montessori School had to keep kids who misbehaved the entire day in their classrooms, or kids who are mentally handicapped in some way, their results wouldn't be much different than the public schools. Public schools used to succeed because they were allowed to have discipline, they could kick out students who refused to cooperate, and they were allowed to group like capability students in the same classroom... eg, special needs and handicapped kids were separated from the mainstream, accelerated kids were grouped together, average kids were grouped together, etc. Kids who failed were kept back. Pressure from parents and legislators changed all this over the years to what we have today. We adults got what we pushed for and now we're looking for a cheap way out. Anyone who believes a for profit entity can do it cheaper than a public school isn't comparing APPLES to APPLES... the for profit MUST always cost more due to the PROFIT. Kids who are home or on-line schooled often fail to develop social and life skills that are learned in a public school setting... debate, rational argument, public speaking, respect for other people's view, conflict resolution, self discipline, etc. What will happen when all these home schooled and on-line educated kids hit the work force and have to deal with real people face to face? It's not going to be pretty.

  • underdawg Another crap article promoting "pupils for profit" and the privatization of everything from you ONLY news source in town "The Goldwater Republic". This news agency couldn't put an objective viewpoint on for any issue. Now we have to listen as our "legislature" puts more money into a program that will make uneducated recluses out of our children. Forget the fact that these "diploma's" are not accepted by colleges or the military, don't offer sport programs and have no social interaction at all. These diplomas are another libertarian tool to keep our citizens stupid and poor.

  • underdawg Protest the Goldwater institute and pull your kids out of Charter schools, out of these "on line" classes and into a real school, with real teachers and real extracurricular activities.

  • justfunaz With Real teachers who have never seen a "bad teacher" who just want to protect their jobs. How can a teacher's have 40% of a class fail state testing and still have a secure job?

  • AZonie2010 Our legislature is out of touch with the voters. If they continue to spend money on things like this and selling and buying back state buildings etc, they will not be in power for long. Yesterdays article about what to do with the surplus said Jan wants to cut millions from education but she would put money into this. UGHHH.

  • Joe49 From the fourth paragraph: "lobbying by school operators, including national for-profit chains." This is the real reason this goofy proposal is even being considered. Like the private prison chains that pour money into the legislators' pockets, the for-profit schools will do the same. Experts say that these schools operate at less that 65% of the cost of a brick and mortart school, but the state is considering funding equal to 100%. You can bet that the huge profits will make executives of these school wealthy, and allow them to spend even more on lobbying as they market a striped-down, dumbed down, teach-to-the test education.

    • deddzone Exactly right. Why don't they lobby to write "FOR PROFIT" across the state of Arizona. They've drained money out of public schools so they could take it and give to the "for profit" schools.

    • billclem I agree they should not get anywhere near the funding of a brick and mortar school. 50% at best

  • CampinOut The kids don't need to go to online schools. They're all getting anti-social now from too much time on the computer. Make em go to school & interact with others. It's the only way to "socialize". Dam the bullies & the B's. We all had them in school & we made it through. Quit coddling your kids & make them grow up in the real world. It'll give em some character & backbone, which, from what I've seen lately, several of them could use.

  • pintobeans Accountability and AZ education system will never mesh.

  • kriz I am betting the Goldwater Institute is behind this. They are tearing apart public schools. Some public schools need to be held more accountable but online and charter schools are the vehicle to a worse level of education in this state than we already have.

  • CampinOut Yup, I'm sure they are. The GOP will NOT be happy until they've entirely torn down this country. "When facism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." --Sinclair Lewis

  • CHRISinTempe I don't mind online courses for adults. That makes sense in many cases, more options there the better. But for kids this should be tightly limited. Youngsters need the interaction with others to learn how to become adults.

Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University

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