Blended Learning, Corporate, Cost of Education, Domestic, Education Quality, Elementary / Primary / Junior, High school / Secondary 2, Investors, Legislation, Private education, Public education, Required, School teachers, Students - Written by on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 20:36 - 0 Comments

Heard: Online Classes Need More Transparency In Tennessee

by Thomas Hawk via Flickr under CreativeCommons

A story in the Memphis Commercial Appeal focuses on a report from the University of Colorado that suggests online and virtual school courses lack oversight and transparency. Tennessee legislators, last year, approved Tennessee Virtual Academy, which is operated by K12 Inc. The school operates via the Union County Public Schools in East Tennessee. Since July 1, the school enrolled more than 2,000 students from Tennessee in grades K-8. That means, according to the Commercial Appeal, that the state is sending $5,387 in state and federal tax dollars per student to the district… and 96% goes to K12 Inc.

This is one of several reports nationwide from places like Minnesota and Colorado that show mixed results from online K-12 programs. It is not conclusive. But it is worth evaluating. And it is worth pushing for more transparency for results of the education spending.

Reporter Jane Roberts notes: 

More than 30 percent of the nation’s 16 million high school students have taken at least one online class — Memphis City Schools now requires it for graduation. But report authors Gene Glass and Kevin Welner say cash-strapped school districts use online education — including full-time virtual schools with little face-to-face contact with teachers — as a lower-cost alternative to traditional public schools.

They say five companies dominate the online curriculum business, including Virginia-based K12 Inc., which opened a statewide virtual academy in Tennessee this year. ”Private operators are gaining access to large streams of public revenue to run cyberschools,” Glass said. “But the public is not getting full information on the actual costs of these programs, so it’s not clear if taxpayer money is being used properly.”

The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado is pushing for audits of company profits, school accreditation and an authentication process to prove that the grades students get are the grades they deserve.

While the report is most critical of the rapidly growing online academies where students in grades K-12 receive all instruction via computer, the researchers also found little value in online classes for remediation or to make up failed classes.

A spokesman at K12 disputed the assertions. ”State-certified teachers oversee student learning. Online school students take part in state assessment tests proctored by state-certified teachers,” he wrote, noting that K12 online teachers also are required to meet “highly qualified standards” in their subjects.

Via Memphis Commercial Appeal



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