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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Another Blog to Watch

Once again NCSW@yahoogroups.com has alerted me to something... This is a blog that focuses upon homeschooling, but also touches on issues of virtual schooling and cyber charter schooling...

From the blog: http://schoolathome.blogspot.com/

Monday, November 28, 2005
What Makes a Homeschooler a Homeschooler Symposium

In light of recent discussions over public school at home and homeschoolingI would like to offer some space for an online symposium (similar toSpunky's Online Convention - only dedicated to one subject) to discuss whatmakes a homeschooler a homeschooler. What are the legal issues? What are thecharachteristics and choices that make an individual home educated or homeschooled rather than a public school/charter school/or private schoolstudent? What are the important distinctions? Your posts can cover issueslike virtual charter schools, public school at home and the defintions ofhomeschooling.

Many of you have strong opinions on this issue and many of you are verysmart and passionate about this subject. Let us work together to see if wecan come up with good ways to define homeschooling and protect the rights ofall homeschoolers.


Also see:
Let's see what they have to say and I'll try to keep you posted...

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cyber Charter Schools and Ohio

Okay, let's stay on this theme of cyber charter schools and focus (continue to focus) on Ohio. Recently, a number of charter schools, many of them cyber schools in Ohio have come under fire either for failing to adequately test their students to ensure that there were meeting the same standards as public schools students or for their students not performing as well as public school students on these standardized tests. Without looking for specific news articles or links, I even recall that a number of these charter schools and cyber charter schools have been closed down.

This is interesting, considering that our friends from Deciding About School's Online have not been active for well over two months (getting closer to three months now). This organization was devoted to discussing the choice that was provided by cyber charter schools and was also based in Ohio. You may even recall in August, I took some shots at this constituency (see Virtual Schools and Choice, and Religion and Virtual Schooling) and in the past the guys over at DASO have been quick to comment and defend the cyber charter movement, but didn't take the bait on either of these entries.

I raise these issues for a couple of reasons. The first is to once again ask is am correct in my ascertain that the charter school movement is just a way for people to circumvent the separation of church and state and to provide religious school to their children here in the United States and that this ability to circumvent the public school system only serves to take needed dollars out of it in order to educate your child in a religious environment.

The second reason is because of another message that came through my inbox from NCSW@yahoogroups.com about charter schools in Ohio.

Posted on Mon, Nov. 28, 2005
Ohio charter schools will go on trial
By Dennis J. Willard and Doug Oplinger
Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal


COLUMBUS - Eight years after being created, charter schools will go on trial before the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Because of the sheer size of the movement and its notably poor academic performance, the case merits national attention and portends broad implications.

Charter schools enroll 66,145 students, according to the Department ofE ducation's latest monthly report.

While some of those students are from poorly performing public schools --for whom the program was designed to help -- tens of thousands are former home schoolers and private schoolers who have opted into a free, state-funded education.

This year, Ohio will shift $445 million from its traditional public-school funding formula into the privately run schools -- and not without controversy.

In spite of promises that they could produce better results for less money,c harter-school advocates agreed at a statewide conference this month that too many schools are failing academically and, to improve performance, they need the same money as traditional public schools.

At least 15 schools have been closed because of missing funds, lack of textbooks, unsafe conditions or simple financial collapse.

Beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday, the seven justices (six Republicans) will hear about 30 minutes of oral arguments.

There are some clear divisions among the opponents and proponents: Unions vs. business, Democrats vs. Republicans, government vs. free enterprise.

And while justices are required to weigh issues of legality, questions have been raised about their own stake in the case.

Key fund-raiser

The majority has benefited from the political fund-raising efforts of Akron businessman David Brennan, who founded the state's biggest charter-schoolmanagement company.

His firm, White Hat Learning Systems, will receive more than $100 million of the state dollars flowing to charters this year.

Since 1990, Brennan has acted as a key Ohio Republican Party fund-raiser and helped establish and fund political action committees aimed at electing Republicans to the courts.


Two philosophies

There are opposing philosophies in this case, with one suggesting that the state has an obligation to provide an adequate system of public education, and another suggesting that the state's role is to assist families insecuring an adequate education from a smorgasbord of choices.

The coalition says the smorgasbord has created multiple systems that arefunded unfairly and are held accountable to different standards.


Brennan's company was named in the suit as a benefactor of unconstitutionalactivity.

The two sides disagree on whether charter schools are really public schools on two bases: governance and accountability.

The OFT maintains that charter schools are not public because private companies like White Hat organize the nonprofit boards that run the charter schools. That ensures that the charter boards then will hire the same private, for-profit companies as school manager.

Supporters maintain charter schools are public schools with open enrollment that are held to the same academic standards as traditional public schools.

Opponents also say charter schools are exempt from many state regulations and are performing far below local traditional schools.
Obviously the crowd at NCSW@yahoogroups.com are interested in this article (and case) because f its references to homeschooling, but the article does touch on one of the issues that I have raised... Should public money be used to fund these endeavors?

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Another NCSW@yahoogroups.com CyberSchool Entry

Anothr one on cyber schools taken from NCSW@yahoogroups.com. The individual who contributed this to the listserve asked us to note the use of language that is commonly attributed homeschooling.

From a newspaper in Mount Vernon, Ohio.


Ohio Connections Academy is one of a growing number of online charter schools provides that kindergarten through ninth-grade students can attend from home. The program combines the parental involvement of homeschooling with the expertise of publicly funded education and the flexibility of online classes.

Parents pay no tuition for students to attend the cyberschool academy. Students are considered to be enrolled in a public school. Students are eligible toreceive the loan of a desktop computer. Each family also receives a printer and a payment for Internet access. Students are required to take all state mandated standardized tests in person at locations designated by the school.

As I have started to understand the homeschooling movement a bit better (although it is still largely a foreign beast to me), I have seen that their relationship with the charter school movement, including cyber charters, is an uneasy one. Charter school receive public money, and if a student attends a charter school (cyber or brick-and-mortar), they are part of the public school system and no longer a homeschooled student (homeschool people - correct me if I'm wrong on that one).

Yet, when I read literature on the cybercharters, it appears that many of their clients (i.e., students - but since they are based on a competitive business model, I'll call them clients as it is more appropriate) are homeschooled or formerly homeschooled children. In fact one of the advantaged listed by Bill Bennet and the K12, Inc. is that they school can provide curriculum that homeschooling parents can use with their children. See my confusion?

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Virtual Schooling in the News

For this holiday edition, from my Google News Alert for "virtual school"...

SCHOOL NOTES - Britton-Hecla teacher honored
Centre Daily Times - Centre County, PA, USA

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Lloyd Trautmann, a math and science teacher from the DIAL (Dakota Interactive Academic Link) Virtual School, was recently honored as the 2005 American Star of Teaching from South Dakota by the U.S. Department of Education. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., recognized Trautmann's commitment to education and congratulated him on the honor. "Lloyd Trautmann has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to education throughout his career, and I am certain his achievements will serve as a model for other talented distance teachers throughout the state," Johnson said in a press release.

Students can register for online classes
Gainesville Times - Gainesville, GA, USA

Registration has begun statewide for the Georgia Virtual School's spring semester. High school students can earn required credits toward graduation through the online program, which offers electives, advanced placement, and core curriculum courses. The state has divided the spring semester into three sessions: Jan. 9-May 5, Jan. 17-May 12 and Jan. 23-May 19. Students in public schools with a population of 500 or less get first crack at the classes, as registration opened for them on Nov. 14.

Gwinnett County’s online classes gaining popularity
Gwinnett Daily Post - Lawrenceville, GA, USA

Taking a course in world history or Algebra II is as easy as logging onto a Web site. The Gwinnett County Online Campus is more popular than ever as a way for high school students to take classes that don’t fit into their schedules. The Online Campus was established as an alternative for students either taking remedial courses, wanting to take more enrichment courses or needing to get their requirements out of the way. The key to the Online Campus is flexibility. As long as they stick to deadlines and attend virtual classroom sessions, students have more control on when they work on their lessons. Rather than having to take a test at a specified time, for example, they have until midnight on the test day to complete it.

Online courses could pay off
St. Petersburg Times - St. Petersburg, FL, USA

Citrus students will soon be able take history, biology, even Latin and FCAT prep courses online. Beginning in January, high school students can enroll in one of 10 online courses that will be taught by state-certified teachers from Citrus County. The courses would be free to students. School officials hope the move to online courses will bring more state dollars to the school system, ease overcrowding at the high schools, and raise graduation rates among certain student groups, including those who are expelled or have trouble fitting in with other high school students.

Church school's classes online
Arizona Republic - Phoenix, AZ, USA

Richard Wilson wants a religious bias in his unusual public school.Called by God, he said, he established an Apostolic Pentecostal Christian church amid Queen Creek cotton fields four years ago. Then in September, the pastor became a principal by creating a school where students take online classes through a statewide charter school called Arizona Connections Academy. Wilson's students have become the academy's first cyber school inside a church, said Brad Lester, who oversees the academy's 300 K-9 students throughout the state.

Concerns shadow virtual school
Chicago Daily Southtown - Chicago, IL, USA

Are students who receive lessons via computer spending at least 300 minutes a day at their studies?
That's the question that tripped up Chicago Public Schools officials, who balked Wednesday at approving plans for a new Chicago Virtual Academy until they are sure they will receive state funds for the school's students. Fifteen other Renaissance 2010 school proposals were cleared for takeoff, but schools lead counsel Patrick Rocks said officials are waiting for a ruling from state education officials before approving the K-through-8 Chicago Virtual Academy. Public school students must receive 300 minutes of instruction a day for a district to receive state reimbursement for them, Rocks said.

Until the end of next week...

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Beyond Brick and Mortar: Cyber Charters Revolutionizing Education - CER Action Paper

Another one taken from NCSW@yahoogroups.com


Beyond Brick and Mortar: Cyber Charters Revolutionizing Education
CER Action Paper

January 11, 2002


The Opposition

Opposition to cyber charters is mainly a matter of control. "Cyber Schools: Friend or Foe?," a report in the October 2001 issue of School Administrator, a publication of the American Association of School
Administrators, lays out the case against cyber charters from a superintendent's perspective: "I cannot think of one superintendent who is not upset with cyber schools," says Stinson Stroup, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Superintendents. "They're concerned that the quality of some of the cyber programs that are being offered is not good, that they do not have an opportunity to review the programs and that there's no documentation that the cyber schools provide that verifies where the students actually live...."

Free of bricks and mortar, the virtual school can grow indefinitely, without the fear of stretching library facilities or adding portable buildings. But many state lawmakers . . . are wrestling with laws so wide open - or even nonexistent - that they fear anyone could throw up a Web page, hire a couple of teacher aides and start recruiting home schoolers.


Pennsylvania at the Crossroads:

There are at least 30 cyber charter schools nationwide, operating in twelve states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Of these states Pennsylvania has the most cyber charters - and the greatest controversy.

Prior to 2001 only two cyber charters were operating in Pennsylvania. With the beginning of the 2001 school year, however, the Keystone state saw a boom in its cyber charter population, with five new schools either opening or scheduled to open. It was estimated they would serve approximately 4,500 students. Apparently it was too great a number to go unnoticed by the education establishment.

In April the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and four school districts filed a suit challenging the requirement that districts release funds for their students who enroll in cyber charters. The action claimed that cyber charters cater to home schoolers, a population not covered by the state's 1997 charter school law. The suit asked for an injunction to prevent the state Department of Education from withholding
funds to districts that refused to pay the costs of their students attending cyber charter school.

In May, Judge Warren G. Morgan ruled against the PSBA, arguing that to grant the injunction would put the state's cyber charters and the students they serve at risk. However, despite the setback, the PSBA and the aggrieved districts vowed to continue their fight.

As a sign of the defiant districts' resolve, cyber charters continue to have great difficulty collecting funds. The Einstein Academy Charter School (TEACH), which accounts for over half of the state's cyber charter students, has collected only a fraction of the funds it is due. As of the middle of October 2001 Einstein founder Mimi Rothschild reported having received only $500,000 of the $5 million she estimated her school was owed.

Although much of the cyber charter fight has taken place in court, action hasn't just occurred in the judicial arena. Executive and legislative entities have also entered the fray, attempting to exert increased state control over cyber charters.

In September, Pennsylvania Auditor General Robert P. Casey released a report highly critical of cyber charters. Casey - a likely gubernatorial candidate - said he has "concerns about the ability of these schools to accurately document student membership and to ensure that minimum required instructional time is provided to students." Casey's conclusion was based on limited information from an audit of the SusQ-Cyber Charter School conducted in its first two years of operation, the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 school years. SusQ was chartered by the school districts in the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU), and at the time of the report served 76 students in grades 9-12. The school now serves 115 students. Considering the major
problems faced by any school in its first years of existence, the report should be taken with a grain of salt.

Like Casey, the October 2001 KPMG review of cyber charter schools recommended that the state take greater control of cyber charters, citing the importance of measuring "the progress of these schools in their infancy, before new and/or poorly implemented programs can have a detrimental effect on student achievement." Among the report's proposals:

  • the state should consider new approval, oversight, and school closure measures
  • the details and amount of information required on cyber-charter applications should be expanded
  • financial reporting by cyber charters should be made more regular and detailed.

The KPMG recommendations appear to be part of a preemptive effort to curb the autonomy of cyber charters. Such efforts, however, are not new.

Even before the release of the Auditor General and KPMG reports, Pennsylvania legislators with ties to reform opponents like PSBA were working to impose state control over cyber charters. In June the state Senate education committee passed an amendment that would make it illegal for students to enroll in a cyber charter without approval from the student's district. That same month, a more restrictive proposal was introduced in the state's House of Representatives that said because "technology permits students enrolled in cyber school to access instructional programming without being physically present in an educational facility, cyber schools do not fit the requirements of the Charter School Law." Chartering authority would be taken away from local entities, and all power to authorize, maintain and dissolve cyber charters would be in the hands of the Secretary of Education.

(end of snips)


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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Another One From NCSW@yahoogroups.com

Another one about cyber schools taken from NCSW@yahoogroups.com...

Educational service center heads virtual academy report


STEUBENVILLE - The Jefferson County Governing Board heard reports on the Virtual Learning Academy, an online-based learning alternative, and technology upgrades during its regular meeting Thursday. The learning academy now encompasses 32 states, 157 school districts, more than 5,300 students and more than 1,600 teachers. The program is also in France, Japan and Korea. Another 30 districts have expressed interest in the program.

Superintendent Craig Closser spoke about speaking to educators from several states where students also take high-stakes tests like the Ohio Graduation Test. He noted he believes the learning academy could use the intervention curriculum for the OGT and change it slightly to meet intervention requirements for the California High School Exit Exam by Dec. 1. He added he also spoke to representatives from Indiana about the Indiana Graduation Qualifying Exam.


Bonnie DiNapoli gave a report on the second-grade curriculum for the learning academy, which is now ready. She noted the second grade is different than any other class because Ohio Content Standards require second-graders to practice writing skills. She said the learning academy will require an on-site adult mentor for each child enrolled in the course. Each student also will receive a learning kit mailed directly to them from the service center. Each kit costs approximately $40 and most school districts cover the cost. The kits include magnetic letters, primary colors and learning blocks.

Jeff Oblak gave a report on the preschool curriculum alignment program. The Jefferson County districts have agreed to a countywide collaboration in curriculum. Oblak explained the Ohio Department of Education has required a written curriculum for preschool programs.

He added the service center also worked with the Help Me Grow program, so educators will be able to track the kindergarten-readiness of the children in the program. Kindergarten teachers also will have an outline to see how each child has progressed.


"Local districts have from the beginning of the program chipped in," said Allen, adding the program could become one of the unfunded mandates. He noted the first year each teacher generated a $2,000 stipend for the program. The second and third years each teacher generated a $1,100 stipend. This year, the stipend is $1,000.

"Once it gets entrenched, once it has to be done, (ODE) is probably going to tell the districts they have to undertake the cost," said Allen.

(end of snips)
Any more thoughts...

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Monday, November 21, 2005

A Blog Entry About Virtual Schooling

I was alerted to this entry by NCSW@yahoogroups.com, while the blog itself is about "Texas education contains posts on accountability, testing, dropouts, bilingual education, school finance, race, class, and gender issues with additional focus at the national level," this one entry focused upon virtual schooling in the Houston, Texas area.

But anyway, back in May of this year the author of Educational Equity, Politics & Policy in Texas posted an entry about virtual schooling that I'd like to draw your attention to:

Houston ISD Mixes Business, Education

This is really interesting. The Houston Idependent School District IS a business now, selling a whole range of things. See their Doing Business with HISD Website for more specific information.

The Houston Independent School District is even more of a business now, selling a whole range of things, even "virtual" schooling (also termed "virtual vouchers" by opponents) delivered over the Internet for home-schoolers. I wonder what the district's position is on the virtual voucher bill making its way through the legislature right now. H.B. 1445, the virtual schools bill is being heard in the House this PM (Wednesday). If it passes, more than 300,000 home-school and private school students will become eligible for taxpayer dollars in order to fund approved virtual school course offered via CD or DVD, that is, on-line via the Internet.
Any thoughts?

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Virtual Schooling in the News

From my Google News Alert service for this week...

Virtual Academy school plan stalls
Chicago Sun-Times - United States

Are virtual school students who receive lessons via computer spending at least 300 minutes a day at their studies? That's the question that tripped up Chicago Public School officials, who balked Wednesday at approving plans for a new Chicago Virtual Academy until they are sure they will receive state funds for the school's students.

Tips for finding a virtual school
Arizona Republic - Phoenix, AZ, USA

Enrollment has grown in Arizona's virtual schools every year since the state began allowing them in 1998. The state allows 14 virtual schools in Arizona with half run by school districts and half by charter schools. Studies have shown virtual schools do a good job educating children, although more research is needed. Arizona's schools generally report good results. Virtual schools work especially well for parents seeking a flexible schedule for their children.

Volunteer panel will do audit
Augusta Chronicle (subscription required) - Augusta, GA, USA

A committee of volunteers will take the reins of a technology audit of the Columbia County school system. Originally intended to be conducted by a paid outside agency, the volunteer committee will perform the service for free. "We had bids from $12,000 to $250,000," said Wayne Bridges, a school board member. "It could save a substantial amount of money based on what we get out of it."

More 'attend' virtual schools
Arizona Republic - Phoenix, AZ, USA

This year, an unprecedented number of Arizona K-12 students will take their classes online through virtual schools. It's part of a distance-learning tide that has rolled through higher education and corporate America and is spreading more rapidly into high schools and below.Statewide, one in 100 students, or 10,816, took at least one class through virtual schools last year, with more enrolling this year, state officials said. Hundreds attend all of their classes online.

More Arizona students signing up for online classes
KVOA.com - Tucson, AZ, USA

According to state officials, one in 10 students, or 10,816, took at least one class through virtual schools last year, with even more enrolling this year. It's part of a distance-learning surge that is spreading rapidly into high schools and below, modeled after higher education and corporate America.

Colorado Springs Gazette - Colorado Springs, CO, USA

Alex Shute is no riddle, but puzzle over this: He attends a school in Branson, a tiny town near the New Mexico state line, but the 17-year-old Colorado Springs boy has never set foot in Branson. He’s in a classroom of one, but he has plenty of company. His education costs thousands of dollars, but his parents don’t pay a dime. He’s schooled at home, but not home-schooled.

Virtual public school invaluable as resource, kids and parents say
The Desert Sun - Palm Springs, CA, USA

For the Schmidt family, the school day typically starts around 7 a.m. That's when Emily Schmidt wakes her three young children for breakfast. But she only loads two of them up in the truck for school. After she drops Eli, 9, and Hannah, 8, off at Bubbling Wells Elementary just around the corner, she heads to her sunny kitchen in her home near Desert Hot Springs. Sitting at the home computer in one corner of the kitchen is her 11-year-old son, Clint, waiting to begin his own school day.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

More Ariz. Students 'Attending' Virtual Schools

Another one from NCSW@yahoogroups.com

More Ariz. Students 'Attending' Virtual Schools

Anne Ryman
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 14, 2005


This year, an unprecedented number of Arizona K-12 students will take their classes online through virtual schools.

It's part of a distance-learning tide that has rolled through higher education and corporate America and is spreading more rapidly into highschools and below.

Statewide, one in 10 students, or 10,816, took at least one class through virtual schools last year, with more enrolling this year, state officialssaid. Hundreds attend all of their classes online.

Studies show that virtual schooling can work well, although experts say more research is needed. Arizona's schools generally report good results, especially for students who want flexible schedules.

To illustrate the benefits and drawbacks of virtual schools, The Arizona Republic followed one student who attends full time by computer during atypical day.


Scrutiny increases

The state has placed more restrictions on virtual schools in recent years.

The number of schools allowed in the state is capped at 14.

Afraid that virtual schools could steal many students from traditional ones, lawmakers this year prohibited a virtual school from growing more than 100percent in enrollment each year.

They also required the schools to report more information about academic performance, so parents can gauge whether students are making progress.

The schools must now report to the state their students' scores on standardized tests such as AIMS compared with the state average.

Lawmakers also gave more regulatory power to the two state agencies that oversee virtual schools.

The Arizona State Board of Education and the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools must review each school's effectiveness.

Virtual schools must re-apply every five years to remain open.

(end of snips)

Thoughts anyone...

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Cybeschools Find a Home

Taken from NCSW@yahoogroups.com





Alex Shute is no riddle, but puzzle over this:

He attends a school in Branson, a tiny town near the New Mexico state line, but the 17-year-old Colorado Springs boy has never set foot in Branson.

He’s in a classroom of one, but he has plenty of company. His education costs thousands of dollars, but his parents don’t pay a dime. He’s schooled at home, but not home-schooled.

Shute is one of nearly 4,000 Colorado students — including about 700 in the Pikes Peak region — enrolled in cyberschools from kindergarten through 12th grade. He does his schoolwork through Branson School Online, which has 1,080 students from around the state, including about 110 from Colorado Springs. The town itself has a population of only 75.

The virtual schoolhouse brings in millions of dollars in state education funding to a rural district that might be struggling otherwise. Colorado taxpayers foot the bill for everything from home computers and books to the
salaries of online teachers who sometimes lead classes from hundreds of miles away.

Cyberschools are among the fastest-growing trends in education, with tens of thousands of children nationwide studying full time online from home. Twenty-two states have cyberschools; they’ve been especially popular in Colorado, Florida and California.


Cyberschool students still account for less than 1 percent of Colorado’s 766,000 students, but some critics find their growing popularity worrisome.

They see online schools as a threat to traditional schools and an attempt to privatize education. There are complaints about such schools’ public accountability, state funding, course content, test scores, high turnover and the number of students repeating grade levels.


Cyberschools have gone from a novelty a few years ago to virtual cash cows for some school districts.

State financing for cyberschools has increased twentyfold in the past five years. The state spent more than $20 million for 3,585 online students last year, compared with $1.1 million for 166 students in 2000, or an average of $5,600 a student, the Colorado Department of Education says.
Thoughts anyone...

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Virtual Schooling in the News

From my Google News Alert service...

Trautmann Receives Award
Marshall County Journal - Britton, SD, USA

The U.S. Department of Education has recognized math and science teacher Lloyd Trautmann of Hecla as a No child Left Behind 2005 "American Star of Teaching." One teacher from every state and the District of Columbia is being recognized during the year. A committee of former teachers at the U.S. Department of Education selected the American Stars from among 2,000 nominations based on their success in improving student achievement, using innovative strategies, and making a difference in the lives of their students.

Lessons of Florence district echo through state
Wisconsin State Journal - Madison, WI, USA

After what many thought was its last gasp, the Florence County School District got a new lease on life this week, as residents voted to dig deeper into their pockets to keep school doors open. But a state panel could still dissolve the district, and advocates for changing the way the state pays for its schools say lawmakers need to heed the lessons of what happened in Florence County or risk more threats to education, from the North Woods to Madison.

That's all for this week, see you next week with more news links...

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

How Are We Doing?

It is an interesting question... Much of what I read these days, in terms of the literature on virtual schooling is provding an update on the state of virtual schooling. Darren (over at Teaching and Developing Online) points us to an article entitled E-learning: A progress report, which outlines three areas that still provide a challenge for us, but overall, the assessment seems positive.

He also directs us to another article, this one entitled Virtual classrooms abound on Internet, which is a news item from the Heartland Institute describing exactly how well we are doing with providing virtual school opportunities to K-12 students. The article describes how these opportunities are accommodating students' interests and schedules, along with even improving socialization (which is an odd one I'm sure to return to at some point).

This Heartland Institute article links to another one of their own news items on Internet Reshapes Outlook for Rural Schools from two years ago. The article discusses how the Internet has opened up learning opportunities for students, particularly in rural areas. This fact is confirmed by recent US Department of Education publications, which shows that there is a large percentage of smaller and rural schools that are taking advantage of distance education opportunities to supplement and extend their curriculum.

The problem still rests in the fact that the way in which schools tend to supplement or extend their curriculum is at the higher end of the curriculum. In many instances, distance education is used to provide learning opportunities for the high ability learners. We use distance education to improve the educational experience of our high ability, independent, self-motivated students. In fact in very few virtual schools, are we catering to students of all ability levels.

What prevents us from designing virtual school opportunities for learners that aren't independent, self-motivated, high ability students?

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Virtual Schooling in the News

Well, this is a new feature that will allow me to post at least once a week... Here are some online news items about virtual schooling that my Google news alert service sent to me.

Arkansas Virtual School Shows Strong Results on ITBS Scores
PR Newswire (press release) - New York,NY,USA

The Arkansas Department of Education has released the Arkansas Virtual School (ARVS) results on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) for the 2004-2005 school year. ARVS students posted very strong scores on the state-mandated assessments. Students in grades K through 8 took the norm-referenced ITBS which compares students' performance against a national norm group. The ITBS can be used to compare the performance of one group of students against other groups of students. All ARVS students were tested at their local school districts alongside other students enrolled in the respective districts.

That's all for this week, but I'll be back again next week with more items from this service.

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