Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cyber schooling could be one the great scams of our time

New study shows cyber kids falling behind
"Children who enroll in a K12 Inc.cyberschool, who receive full-time instruction in front of a computer instead of in a classroom with a live teacher and other students, are more likely to fall behind in reading and math." -- Gary Miron, NEPC fellow
Two stories on cyber-learning caught my eye this past week. The first had to do with the closing of a privately-run cyber charter school in Pennsylvania, due to financial mismanagement. According to the July 10th Edweek story, the state then issued charters to 4 other new cyber-charters.

The second story was about last week's FBI raid on  the office of Pennsylvania Charter Cyber School founder Nick Trombetta, who is suspected of misusing Pennsylvania tax dollars to fund his out-of-state ventures. The FBI raided the administrative offices of PA Cyber and other ventures founded by Trombetta, including the Avanti Management Group -- a for-profit consultant firm based in Ohio.


But the topper is the release this morning of a new report by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado which shows that students at K12 Inc., the nation’s largest virtual school company, are falling further behind in reading and math scores than students in brick-and mortar schools. These virtual schools students are also less likely to remain at their schools for the full year, and the schools have low graduation rates.

“Our in-depth look into K12 Inc. raises enormous red flags,” said NEPC Director Kevin Welner.

Duncan and K12 founder Bennett
K12 was started by Republican operative and former Sec. of Education William Bennett but the company was forced to remove Bennett as chairman of its directors following a series of racist remarks and gambling scandals which threatened the company's marketability. K12 Inc. has been under investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, which has been looking into K12's involvement in a project that received an improper multimillion-dollar grant from the Department of Education during Bennett's tenure at the firm.

I posted twice last December about K12's financial problems, it's plummeting stock prices and the company's huge executive salaries. About the same time came a New York Times story by Stephanie Saul, "Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools", which called out K-12, not on its stock prices, but on how badly its "portfolio schools" like Agora Cyber Charter School are doing.

Back in 2010, I posted on my SmallTalk blog about the connections between K12 founder William Bennett and Ed Sec. Arne Duncan. 
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Now, thanks to the NEPC report, we can see the connection between all this dirty cyber dealing and its negative impact of student learning.


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