Massive Last Minute Education Bill Emerges

A new mega bill HB 7069 for education was released last night–278 pages long.   It combined provisions from other bills.  The funding is dismal; for most districts there will be less money next year.  Local district capital outlay funds do not increase and must be shared with charters which seriously harms districts.

Other provisions impact teacher bonuses and scholarships and expansion of charter schools by taking over schools in low income areas without requiring district oversight.

Testing and accountability have minor changes–Algebra II EOC is no longer required and the testing window is pushed back by allowing paper and pencil test for grades 3-6.  Districts may determine data for teacher evaluations.

Schools of Excellence and Schools of Hope are created.  It seems as though current state regulations now apply only to schools earning a grade of ‘B’ or ‘C’.  The others are granted flexibility.   The logic is flawed there.  The needs for the middle (or most students) are ignored.

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Drop Outs or Push Outs? Does anyone care?

Gaming the system, no matter which system, is a sport for some.  For others, it is a survival mechanism.  The Florida school accountability system is high stakes, and accusations of manipulating data occur frequently.  If you want a school to receive a high grade, then the easiest approach may be to ensure the school attracts the best students and discourages those who struggle.  So, what then happens to struggling students?

ProPublica has one example of what is done in Orlando, Florida.  The authors argue, and provide data, that at least one of the district’s public and for profit online alternative charter schools are in cahoots.  This may be a little strong, but the mutual advantage is clear.  It is also clear that the Florida accountability system is inadequate to track how students are ‘counseled in or out of schools’.

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Technology: Are children at risk?

by Carole Hentschel

baby-84626_1280In this post, Carole Hentschel expresses concern about rampant expansion of the use of educational technology for young children.  National Public Radio reported on the health risks for excessive screen time just this morning.  For some, online learning is a solution to looming teacher shortages.  For others, the real issue is one of educational quality.  The truth is that all of these factors deserve close scrutiny.   We cannot be alarmist; nor can we be complacent.  We must be alert.Continue reading

Competency Based Education Questioned

by Laura McCrary

computers-332238_1280Competency based learning is not really new, but it is newly promoted.  Students use computer-based courses broken into chunks of content.  They can move at their own pace within a course and across grade levels.  Strategies vary.  Some programs grant credit for relevant experience.  Some combine online and in class instruction.  Many collect student data which is used to track progress.

The concerns raised relate to quality and intrusive data.  Opponents argue that competency based learning is really a cost saving tool with very questionable quality control.  The federal government supports projects.

We have an online charter high school that uses this approach.  Its graduation rate is about 17%.  We should pay attention.  Read Laura’s comment.

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Academica: For Profit Charter Firm Awards Worthless College Credit

money-40603_1280Academica, the largest charter for profit management firm, strikes again.  This is one of those stories that has sequels.  Last year, I posted a story from the Miami Herald about Doral Academy high school.  It ‘loaned’ $400,000 of public money to Doral College to launch an online dual enrollment program.  Doral College was unaccredited and had no students.  Both the charter high school and the college are operated by Academica. The auditor took exception…again.

 

 

 

 

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Virtual or Vanishing Schools?

virtual school

virtual school

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) released its 2015 report on virtual schools.  As usual there is some good news and some bad news.  The “good news” is that students taking Algebra I and English courses do not do any worse than students in traditional public schools.  What a curious turn of phrase.  In the context of the full report, perhaps it is a warning sign.

One thing is clear.  It is difficult to obtain the comprehensive, valid data that are needed to evaluate the quality of the online education sector.

 

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