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Sunday, July 09, 2006

What's Going On In Arkansas

Okay, I'll admit that all of these references are coming from the same source - AHA Focus: Charter Schools. I should note that this source is a charter school that caters primarily to a homeschooled population, so take that for what it's worth.

In any regard, I'll be honest and say that I don't know much about what is going on here - which is why I am posting this as I'd like for someone who might be closer or more familiar with the situation to shed some light on this.

Anyone, anyone?

Tags: , , ,

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Mike since those are my entries, I'll try to help.

This is a K12Inc. public virtual school and isn't really all that different than any other K12Inc. Some of the media and some in state government have decided that they aren't buying into the legal defintion of public schooling at home and independent homeschooling.

If these students are doing school at home, then in their minds that is homeschooling. I and many others (including some K12inc users) don't like it, but I thought it was worth pointing out. It really is to close to homeschooling for legitimate homeschooling not to be negatively affected. I don't think the audit dealt with the word homeschool at all.

Here is a link that might help you understand why homeschoolers shouldn't be wrapped up in this mess: http://www.homeedmag.com/blogs/newscomm/?p=297

~Annette

9:39 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

Annette,

I know that you have said in the past, that the second that a parent enrolls their child into a public virtual school(i.e., district or state sponsored, cyber charter, etc.) that by definition that child is no longer considered homeschooled.

Is that was this audit is really about, the legal status of these students? And from that I would imagine the funding that does or does not follow these students.

Or is there something more, issues with the quality of the virtual schooling material or delivery model, the certification of teachers within the state, etc.?

MKB

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not my impression at all that the audit was about the status of homeschoolers. Here is a link to an article about the audit:
http://tinyurl.com/zyuup

My sense is the politics are what is going on. Many times it seems to be a battle with the Republicans coming down on the side of for-profit corporations such as K12Inc., while the democrats tend to fall on the side of the teachers unions. Often the Republicans are pushing for legislation to push virtual and charter schools. It does happen where some legislators and other government officials once done with their government jobs (at the federal and state levels) will realize there is money to be made in the for-profit education scene and will engage in it as former education secretary Bill Bennett.

The audit from what I best can understand is about an outcry from mostly the democrats who have seen enough individuals lining their own and their friends' pocketbooks. Part of the smear campaign against K12 Inc. involved the theme of "Pulling down money for homeschoolers". The question that was to be answered, I think, came down to did the Republican-led federal government do any wrong doing when K12INC. was awarded federal money.

The state government in AR is responsible for the legislation that allowed the creation of ARVS. The political fight between the two groups over for-profit education has gotten bitter enough to where the status of the students is an issue.
It happens often where the school districts have their own virtual schools and will look to recruit homeschoolers. They will advertise their own school district "homeschool program" (really public school at home and not independent homeschooling). If the school district can recoup some of their losses from homeschoolers leaving their district, virtual schools are almost a love relationship for them. But when for-profit corporations such as White Hat Management or K12Inc. are out there making money hands over fists over what many who don't understand the politics and the differing legalities tend to view public virtual charter schools as glorified homeschooling. With the link I posted last night, I'd like you to see that this virtual charter schools are often being pushed by corporations and Republicans. Homeschoolers by large are not out there looking for hand-outs to homeschool their children. Most parents who homeschool their children understand that government money comes with strings. Strings which cause a loss of freedom to homeschool families. Certain people in AR, are rightly concerned about the amount of money ARVS is making compared to the amount of money it costs them to educate a child. Unfortunately, they have engaged in a smear campaign not just against K12Inc, but the enrollees who many used to homeschool. By trying to connect ARVS negatively to homeschooling, it is a strategy to get K12Inc out of AR. The negative connection has been employed successfully in states like CA before.
HTH,
~Annette

11:42 AM  
Blogger MKB said...

I see... I'll admit that I am not a fan of K-12, Inc. and I have always believed them to be very political (hell,it is afterall Bill Bennett's company). My biggest problem with them has been the fact that their program isn't virtual schooling, it is independent study with web-based support materials.

Schooling implies that there is teaching going on, interacting between student and more learned other (and in many cases when it is really done well, that more learned other isn't a teacher, but a fellow student).

K-12, Inc. simply provides access to web-based materials and expects the student to do it on their own under the supervision of a parent or guardian (probably one of the reasons that they have targetted the homeschooling population).

I also share the view that for-profit vendors should not have direct access to students, either through a district-based or state-wide virtual school. I know that in many models of state-wide public virtual schools, Kentucky, Michigan and Illinois come to mind off the top of my head, there is a use of vendor courses. In many of these state-wide virtual schools, they have many of their own in-house courses that have been designed for them over the years, along with (or in combination with) courses that they either lease or lease spaces in from vendors (e.g., APEX; Aventa; K-12,Inc.; Class.com; etc.).

You may remember that some time ago (back in August I believe), I wrote an entry called the "Cost of Virtual Schools" (see http://mkbnl.blogspot.com/2005/08/cost-of-virtual-schools.html ) which outlined two reports conducted by the Education Policy Research Unit at Arizona State University that were fairly negative towards K-12, Inc.. It is worth loking at them.

But Annette, this is a prime example of the political battle that I have talked about in the past that is going on as a way to wage war against public schools in this country. If you have the time, two great books to take a look at are History on trial: Culture war and the teaching of the past by Gary Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross Dunn, and especially Educating the "right" way: Markets, standards, God, and inequality by Michael Apple. The second is really germaine to what you have described as happening in states like Arizona, Missouri, and Mississippi.

MKB

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mike. Those two items (Ohanian's piece & Bracey's report) have been in the NCSW database since 2004. :)

The NEA and teacher unions are no friend to homeschooling.
Each year they pass a resolution which basically states that.
Apple is no friend to homeschooling.
http://edrev.asu.edu/reviews/rev239.htm

However, I'm quite reluctant to believe that allies for hsing are to be found in the pro-educational, pro-voucher, education for-profit proponents.
In order to obtain govt. funds for their wish list, they promise and welcome govt. accountability. Me think they will be quick to sell-out independent homeschooling for their agenda.

For myself, I don't have a desire to "fix" public schools in any capacity. Homeschoolers didn't ask to get mixed up in the political squabbles between pro-education choice proponents and the old ways of schooling. I'm interested in these issues in a small way because I'm a citizen and taxpayer. Mostly, I'm interested because I appreciate homeschool freedom that is being and will continue to be affected by public-funded virtual schools. Because of public school access, I don't see any form of virtual schooling that will not in some way negatively affect homeschooling.

~Annette

9:07 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

Annette,

I would caution you about how you have classified Apple's views on homschooling. First, keep in mind that the review that you cite is from a graduate student. Second, even this graduate student's review indicates that Apple's problem isn't with homeschooling, it is with those who use homeschooling as a way to circumvent the separate of church and state in education.

Also, in the same way that there are terminology problems when it coems to homeschooling, I think the same exists with this subject as well. You use the term "public-funded virtual schools", but the Arkansas case that we have been talking about, and all of the other states that you use as examples, are all operating cyber charter schools - which are very different that public-funded state virtual schools such as those found in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Illinois, Maryland, Louisiana, to name a few.

You'll note from previous entries on this blog that I am very much a fan of virtual schooling when it is done correctly. I tend to be against cyber charter schools for a variety of reasons.

MKB

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike,
Thanks for the caution. I have read enough of his words. Even did so tonight, 27 pages. Here is a good homeschool response to Apple and other such researchers: http://users.adelphia.net/~nhardenbergh/April2004AERA.pdf

Be sure to read the footnotes as it does address Apple's concerns about CA charters.

We have discussed here FLVS which is not a charter school. I think homeschoolers make up 30%? of FLVS' (high school) enrollment. FLVS middle school that number is higher.
Reminding you that homeschoolers are able to keep the status of homeschooling while enrolling in FLVS. I sure would like to be hopeful about virtual schooling as you are. I'd be quite happy to embrace a "Live and Let Live" philosophy as it relates to homeschooling and virtual schools if it becomes clear that the *right* way of doing virtual schools would mean my homeschool freedoms would stay intact. At this point in time, I'm remaining skepitical as it relates to homeschooling. FLVS is not a diploma granting institution. Currently only the school of record (which is participating in FLVS) is able to give out diplomas. Homeschoolers in FL do not have a school of record. Parents, I think, are able to give their children diplomas acknowledging FLVS courses with credit, but probably (I'm guessing here) a homeschool diploma would not be recognized by all. If local school districts become the school of record for hsers who are participating in FLVS, then that to me would be an example of homeschoolers losing their independence. That might/could be a benefit of *official* recognition for FLVS courses though. There are school districts which are franchises of FLVS. I don't think this is a big leap to speculate that there might be this attempt. It could be financial profitable for the school district to have the student in its own district FLVS franchise rather than the homeschool student being able to choose to bypass the franchise.

Mike, here is a virtual school that I don't think is chartered:
Utah's Electronic High School
http://www.ehs.uen.org/diploma.html
Is this a virtual school doing it right? It does appear on the surface that hsers are able to keep their homeschool status when they enroll. I can't say for sure by just reading the website though. My concern is when public virtual schools are allowing the funding of homeschoolers' education, that homeschooling will eventually receive a backlash for it as was seen in some of the newspaper articles about ARVS. The motive would have to be different than K12Inc. but it is I believe quite feasible for the givers and granters of virtual schools like FLVS to sock homeschooling in the eye if it would be of benefit to them. Nevertheless, I'm watching and waiting to see if I'm wrong. Your thoughts?
~Annette

11:12 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

Annette,

Let's take your three areas one by one.

1) Apple

The piece that you have directed me to is much like the review that you cited. The author tries to simplify Apple's position on homeschooling into a black or white issue, which isn't how Apple presents it at all.The author even uses Apple's quote that other than to circumvent the separation of church and state (in an attempt to undermne the public dollars that go to uphold that separate), "there are probably many good reasons why parents choose to homeschool" - I may have the wording off by a little bit there. But after making this statement, the author of this AERA piece just whitewashes over it and picks up on Apple's anti-homeschooling commentary.

The problem with this is Apple isn't anti-homeschool. What he is against is the conservative movement in the United States trying to utilizing existing legislation concerning homeschooling and concerning charter schooling to undermine the basic principles of the public school system and to push their conservative (and often religious) agenda into the realm of education.

From my reading of Apple, which is broader than the single book cited by this author, he has no problem with parents homeschooling because they feel their children are bored, aren't being challenged, are in a situation in the public system which they feel isn't healthy and school administrators can't or refuse to intervene, etc.. These are some of the many valid reasons Apple would agree with homeschoolers on.

2) Florida Virtual School

Now you have to keep in mind that the FLVS is unique in the United States. My understanding is that in Florida, regardless of whether your child is being homeschooled, you still have to pay taxes to support the local school district (even if you child doesn't go there). So if you lived in Escambia county and homeschooled your children, your taxes for education purposes would still go to Escambia County Schools - even though your children don't attend any of their schools.

The FLVS has been turned into its own school district and receives funding from the state based upon their student enrollment that same as any other school district. So, if you are living in Escambia County and you are homeschooling your children, and you have decided that they should take three high school mathematics and science courses through the FLVS because math and science were never your strong suit and you feel the FLVS would probably be able to provide better support for your children - but you continue to homeschool them for all the other subjects. Your children are still considered homeschooled, but the FLVS now gets roughly half of your taxes for education because three courses is half of a full load if your child were in one of the Escambia County schools.

My understanding is that this is still the case with the district virtual schools that are franchises of FLVS (and I believe the reason this was done was because of the size of these districts and the number of students interested/enrolled in virtual schooling in places like Broward and Miami-Dade, the FLVS was just overwhelmed and began to work with these more populous districts to create smaller units (franchises as you have termed them) to better manage the system.

3) Utah

I hadn't included Utah in the list that I had originally given because I am not as familiar with them. When I read virtual school literature, I don't see people from the Utah Electronic High School writing in them (see recent books by Walling and Jennings, Berge and Clark, and Cavanaugh as examples).

However, when I check them in NCREL's Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning: A Review of State-Level Policy and Practice I see that they are a state-funded model that is free to students in Utah and is used primarily as a supplemental program, with only some full-time students. Almost all of their courses are in-house, with only a few being leased.

Based upon this description, it is very similar to other state-wide virtual schooling programs in its organization (i.e., Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, etc.). I cant comment on its delivery, as this document doesn't talk about the combination of asynchronous and synchronous, the kinds of course materials that are provided, and example what constitutes teaching in their environment.

If it is simply provide the students access to the materials and them let them do the work on their own with minimal guidance, than I wouldn't classify that as doing it right - because in my mind you are only providing opportunity to students either who are independent and self-motivated or who have one or more parents at home that can basically provide the supervisory role that a teacher would as part of their in loco parentis duties (which in most cases implies a certain level of socio-economic status). In both cases, however, the virtual school opportunity is severely limited to those who can access it.

Having said that, I do note that one of the Blogline entries that I had tagged was titled "Utah Leads Nation in Virtual School Enrollments" (see http://tinyurl.com/z2vgm ). So based solely on that, I would say that whatever delivery model they are using is far from limiting.

But I would still have to know more about how they do it, before I can comment on how well I think they are doing it.

MKB

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think k-12 is an excellent option for children who might otherwise be unjustly expelled and not educated while in public schools.At least parents and children can have hope that they will have a much greater chance at becoming educated.

6:33 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

K-12, Inc. is unfortunately a business that is basically exploiting these, as you say, "children who might otherwise be unjustly expelled and not educated while in public schools." While I agree that virtual schooling opportunities are an excellent opportunity for these students to access a high quality education, K-12, Inc. is nothing more than access to web-based materials (which a think-tank in Arizona found to be sub-standard). The actual act of educating still rests upon the parent or the student. There is no education from K-12, Inc. - only a business plan.

MKB

6:58 PM  

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