Failing Cyber Schools: The Internet Porn Theory

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This is a blog post I’ve been wanting not to write, or have identified with this blog, but it is a point that needs to be out there, so I will make it in the vaguest, most tasteful way possible.

Cyber school scores are horrible. Pennsylvania has so farĀ denied all applications for new cyber schools in 2014.

One theory is that the schools themselves are a scam. Another theory is that the schools are fine, but the teenagers are…flawed.

Is it possible that your teenagers are finding other ways to entertain themselves instead of focusing on their schoolwork, while unsupervised on the Internet during the day?

This entry was posted in Education.

10 Responses to Failing Cyber Schools: The Internet Porn Theory

  1. Carl Feldman says:

    Got anything on public cybers? HBG District is expanding theirs so they loose fewer students to the scammers. Got a disparraging write up in the local newsmag. I think they are using it as a psuedo-tracking process.

  2. Tim Potts says:

    The problem with cyber schools is that they treat children as little profit centers instedad of human beings. The turnover in students is like a blender. Cyber schools get rid of kids they don’t want, and it takes weeks — sometimes months — to stop paying them when a child leaves. PDE, of course, is no help at all in reconciling this chaos.

    I’m on the Carlisle school board, and we’re paying more than $500,000 this year in OVER PAYMENTS to charter schools, particularly cyber charters, because we pay an inflated rate. Yes, we have started our own virtual academy, and it out-performs other cyber schools. We have brought kids back to our schools from cyber schools. But the brainwashing by Sen. Williams and the right wing has done its damage. There is a segment of the population that wants nothing to do with traditional public schools because they have no good information to compare schools and because they hate the teachers union.

    The right wing has us doing work-arounds to keep public education strong. Sooner or later, I hope someone begins a campaign that doesn’t stop until we have what we really need and what most parents want: a high-quality public school close to home. Then we can really make progress.

    We could start with one simple idea: Require all charter schools to display prominently in all advertising what their school profile score is. A little information would go a long way in helping parents recover who have drunk the right-wing Kool-Aid.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Agree strongly about the need for good information and easy comparisons. That’s why I support more emphasis on teacher evaluations and merit pay as a goal. I’d like to see the teachers unions come up with a way that they’d like to be evaluated, so we can move the ball on that.

      Just to play Devil’s Advocate for a second, why isn’t the Carlisle cyber school example a success story? The ed reform people want more competition because they want the public schools to up their game to win back parents. You guys started a virtual academy that overperforms the private schools and you brought kids back into the public school system. Isn’t that exactly what the ed reform people want to happen?

      • Tim Potts says:

        Carlisle volunteered to test drive the state’s new teacher evaluation system in 2012-13. It was a great success, and our teachers love it. It includes student achievement scores, but it also requires lots of mentoring, classroom observations, and discussion about how to improve. As far as I know, PSEA is marginally OK with this so far, but they will become irrelevant to the conversation if the reaction of our teachers is any measure.

        I like Devil’s Advocate discussions. Competition can be a good thing but only if the playing field is level. No one would watch a Super Bowl game in which the field was sloped and they never changed sides. That’s what’s happening with charter schools, both cyber and physical.

        I have no problem with competition as long as it’s fair. A few years ago, I proposed a Universal System of Accountability that would apply to all schools that receive public funds. That is, all such schools would be bound by the same academic, fiscal, and disclosure requirements. I’ll send you the details if you wish. The “ed reformers” were horrified.

        Particularly when parents are making such important decisions, it’s essential that they have reliable and comparable information. In medicine, we have laws requiring physicians to disclose risks so that patients can make informed choices. Parents should have the same legal right to obtain information, and sue when they don’t get it or when the information is false, when choosing a school for their children. That’s another thing the USA could achieve.

        Believe it or not, we don’t need anyone to get us to “up our game.” The assumption that we’re all just sitting around pleased as punch with the status quo is pernicious and false. We are constantly looking for ways to improve instruction and save money. If we had a partner in the state that shared the same goals, we could work wonders. What we have is Tea Party types who yelled like stuck pigs because we adopted a math curriculum called Singapore Math. It didn’t matter to them that we chose it because Singapore students have the best math achievement on the planet.

        The ed reformers want no such thing as getting public schools to “up their game” or they wouldn’t be so happy at the slash-and-burn approach to improving public education. The ed reformers are in it for the money. They can’t stand to see large pots of public money that they can’t put in their own pockets. The pension problem derives from the same source. Republicans created a pension crisis so that they could transfer lots of pension money into private sector hands. Why the Democrats went along with it — other than abject stupidity — is beyond me.

        If the ed reformers really wanted to improve public education, they’d be screaming bloody murder for a funding system that is equitable and adequate and for a USA that REALLY empowers parents to make sound decisions for their children.

        • Jon Geeting says:

          Thanks Tim. Can you send me some info about the teacher evaluation system in Carlisle and the Universal System of Accountability? That’s exactly what I want – the ability to compare results across the different kinds of schools, and most of all, financial transparency. What were some of the arguments that the ed reformers made against that?

          • Tim Potts says:

            How do I send stuff to you, Jon?

            The ed reformers complained that I was trying to burden them with regulations that were too onerous. In fact, the USA proposes exactly the opposite. It would require the state, over the period of a year, to determine what regulations would apply to all schools, what would be repealed, and what new regulations, if any, are necessary. That is, it’s a way to relieve traditional public schools of silly and expensive mandates that don’t apply to charter schools while requiring charter schools to do important things like have publicly accessible financial records and have public board meetings at times convenient to citizens, not to mention academic comparisons.

            Of course, they also say that their mission is so different (horseshit) that the rules applying to other schools couldn’t possibly apply to them without doing them great harm.