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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Are There Virtual Schooling Issues in Wisconsin?

Quite some time ago, I had a conversation going to Annette over what constitutes an issue when it comes to virtual schooling (see the comments for Who Are We Trying To Serve?). Sorry it has taken so long to get back to this...

In this instance it was specific over the issue that the teacher's union in Wisconsin was having with their state's virtual school program. This specific issue was described in a link that Annette provided, Union sues over virtual school.

From what I can gather in this article (and if the issue if bigger than this, please inform me otherwise), the teachers' union is upset because this small rural school district set up a cyber charter school and many (?most?) of their students come from outside of this school district. The other problem that they have is that because of the asynchronous nature of the K-12, Inc. instruction model, these teachers (or at least their union) feel that it is really the parents who provide the direct instruction, and not the cyber teachers employed by K-12, Inc..

Now if I'm not mistaken, a similar thing happen in Colorado when K-12, Inc. first set up shop in that state - this is probably why the article references the fact that K-12, Inc. were willing to put up the cost of any lawsuit that is brought against any school, school district, or state using the K-12, Inc. model.

In fact, if you check out the K12, Inc. website, you'll see Important news about the Wisconsin Virtual Academy which informs us that the judges has ruled in favour of the Wisconsin Virtual Academy and K-12, Inc. (i.e., against the teachers' union.

This earlier precedence in Colorado (and other states I'm sure, as K-12, Inc. has set up shop in dozens of states) was the main reason why I didn't see this as an issue. In the same way I don't see fears that virtual schooling will only serve to take teachers out of the classroom because virtual schooling needs fewer teachers. I don't see this as much of an issue because where it is being done right (e.g., Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, VHS, and Newfoundland to name a few) virtual schooling requires more than one teacher to handle the same number of students that a single teacher would be able to handle in the classroom.

Having said that, there are many other issues that I have with K-12, Inc. that I won't go into here (but for a taste of them, see the discussion that Annette and I have been having in the comments of What's Going On In Arkansas). This is not to say that I don't believe that there are issues that need to be dealt with, that need to be researched, and that we still haven't even started to face - but the lawsuit in Wisconsin is something that has been done before and,in my mind, is no longer an issue that we should be putting time, energy, and resources in.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

With NCLB, there is supposed to be a certified teacher in every classroom. You and I agree that FLVS runs it virtual school different as far as the role of the parent. I talked to someone at FLVS once who explained that if parents wanted flexibility in a virtual school program they needed to go to another virtual school like FLVA or K12Inc.


“We want parents to play a role. The more you involve the parents, the more
likely the student will be successful,” says Friend. “There are other online
programs where the parent plays the role of the teacher, but at Florida
Virtual, this is ultimately our responsibility.”

I believe virtual schools such as this are setting the standards and defining the roles of virtual schools. Perhaps, a decade or two from now we will still have virtual schools like ARVS which contract with corporations. I'm of the opinion that we won't and that a backlash is coming over the public money filliing the coffers of wealthy men. If one of these lawsuits makes some progress in the direction of the teachers unions, there will be other states who will follow suit. Meanwhile, the lawsuit is just another avenue in which the teachers unions are working against charter schools. I can't blame them. There is much political back-scratching going on as it relates to making profits in education. And not that it isn't happening in ways on other side, but it's their ballpark and game. Trying to turn public education into a blend of public and private isn't going to be pleasant, imho.

10:38 AM  
Blogger MKB said...


I'll be quite Frank and say that as long as we have a conservative agenda in place in education (and by this I mean an agenda designed to undermine public schools), there will be these kinds of cyber charter schools. As for NCLB, this piece of legislation is the prime conservative mechanism for undermining public schools, as it is designed to financially punish the schools that need the most financial help. And how you define "in the classroom" in a virtual environment is where the problem lies - and where these cyber charters are able to do what they do.

Like homeschooling, one of the things that the virtual schooling industry has to do is get its terms straight and be able to get the public using them correct. All of the virtual schools that you have described to me as having issues (i.e., legal issues, publicity issues, etc.) are not virtual schools at all, but cyber schools. And there is a big difference between the two.

That's the start of this problem, in my opinion.


12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will from now on make a distinction between virtual ps's and cyber charter schools. I'll even make a change in my yahoogroup's description soon. I'm still convinced that virtual schools are/will negatively impact(ing) hsing, but I think a distinction is in order, as the trend is for ps districts and states to want their own state run and owned virtual schools as a way to bring in distance education. The motivation for statewide virtual schools doesn't seem always, at least to me, as one of trying to entice hsers. It may just be an indirect result when some hsers opt for them.

I think negative publicity has the power to sway public opinion that state run virtual schools are the way to go rather than cyber charter schools.

I would offer the example of vouchers. There is much talk about vouchers, but I think there is some evidence that there is less interest in vouchers as there was. Now the pushing for charter schools versus vouchers is politically safer. Given time, I think, the for-profit education sector will start taking hits from taxpayers who have had enough. PA and OH are what I point to as examples of public opinion slowly rising to the surface over the clamoring of school choice advocates.

~Annette--a conservative who is not in favor of NCLB because of the usurping of states rights regarding education; though neither an advocate for preventing the undermining and destruction of public education--just a realist (or tyring to be) who wants homeschool freedom.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I'm going to need better guidelines at determining the differences.

Anything charter wouldn't be doing it right?

4:51 PM  
Blogger MKB said...


I would say that this particular initiative in Indiana probably wouldn't fit the bill. Look at how they describe instruction:

"Students would remain at home for most instruction, but they would have to spend at least 20 percent of their time at the charter school to get personal contact with teachers."

So who provides the instruction the other 80% of the time? To me this impies that it is independent study or that they expect that the parents will be the primary provider of that instuction. That isn't virtual schooling, that's 80% homeschooling using web-based materials and 20% charter schooling actually at the charter school.

Where is the synchronous interaction at a distance between the student and teacher or between the student and other students? Where is the asynchronous interaction at a distance between the student and teacher or between the student and other students?

Virtual schooling is still schooling. The teacher plays an important role in the process. That role can be different based on the setting.

For example, in Florida it is primarily asynchronous with much of the synchronous communication occurring over the phone (and primarily as a relationship building tools between the teacher and student or because the teacher is trying to figure out why the student isn't doing the work and has been ignoring the teacher's asynchronous communication).

In Illinois, it is also primarily asynchronous, but some teachers use synchronous tools during the school day or during the evenings asa way to supplement the asynchronous instruction.

In Newfoundland, depending on the course the instruction is between 30% and 80% synchronous, with the remainder being asynchronous.

In all of these examples, however, the important thing to note that the teacher is the one providing the instruction. It is not simply a web full of independent study material or the parent acting as teacher.


5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good explanation. I'm thinking on this for a bit. Maybe I'll get back to you about Apple on your previous post tonight. :)

7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This would be a good example of what you are explaining:


8:40 PM  
Blogger MKB said...


Not necessarily... If you look, see how they describe their delivery method:

"Hope Co-Op approved Learning Centers enable students to work on different lessons at different grade levels at the same time in a supportive environment with a mentor. This environment allows individuals to progress at their own pace and provides the opportunity for students to receive remediation or enrichment as needed. The web-based curriculum provides a well-rounded education, and focuses on traditional subjects, including reading, writing, math, science, social studies and foreign languages. Enhanced with computer-based exercises and coursework, lessons are geared towards each child's learning style and ability."

While they make mention of a "mentor", that could easily be a parent or a technology person there to help with with simply navigating the system. It doesn't specifically talk about that mentor being their to provide content-based guidance and support.

If you look a little deeper, it talks about a "web-based curriculum" and "computer-based exercises and coursework, lessons are geared towards each child's learning style and ability" - which basically means computer adaptive instruction (CAI). CAI in most instances to used in the absence of a teacher or instructor.

But then again, I'm not familiar with the Hope Online Learning Academy Co-Op and they may have a substantial and proactive teacher presence built into their model, I just don't know.


9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I was looking at it as something that you would NOT consider a virtual school and not just because it is a charter. But the distinction seems to be public schooling at home or independent study.

9:33 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

In terms of terminology, I would define it as a cyber charter - which typically does mean lots of independent work on the pat of the student.


10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found this tonight, an example that I'm sure you would consider *Virtual schooling*


10:06 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

Well, by definition yes. It is a public school opportunity via distance education. The article doesn't provide much details in order to determine whether or not it will be a good virtual school opportunity, but by definition it would be a virtual school and not a cyber school.


10:33 PM  

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