The New York Times opinion page columnist Gail Collins turned her pen toward the online high school industry this past weekend with a column title “Virtually Educated.” She writes:
I always thought that the only kids getting their entire public schooling online were in the hospital, living in the Alaskan tundra, or pursuing a career as a singing orphan in the road company of “Annie.” Not so. There are now around 250,000 cyberschool students in kindergarten through high school and the number is growing fast.
If I had managed to envision a lot of students going to school online, I’d have imagined them being home-schooled by a diligent middle-class parent. But, lately, the target seems to be low-income families. Andy Berke, a state senator in Chattanooga, Tenn., says that when an educational company named K12 Inc. held a meeting to publicize its online taxpayer-funded academy, it chose “one of the poorest neighborhoods” in his district. In Pennsylvania, where K12 runs a statewide online charter school called Agora, you can go to the Web site and watch Head of School Sharon Williams explain about “online learning as an alternative to a violent in-school experience.”
She asks several good questions, including: ”Does full-time online learning really work for disadvantaged kids who may be alone at home all day?”
The answer to that question is not researched well she concludes.
She notes that the publicly traded-nature of K12 and the involvement of former bankers, William Bennett and former junk-bond king Mike Milken make her skeptical of the profit motive of K12. She looks into the example of Tennessee contracting with K12 Inc.
Read the full article via The New York Times