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Progress Texas Report: Virtual Schools Failing — School finance | The Texas Tribune

report released Tuesday by the liberal groupProgress Texas is adding another layer to the controversy over virtual schools, claiming that despite their popularity, the programs have failed Texas students and are run by businesses seeking profit.

“It’s a $24 billion industry with zero accountability,” Progress Texas executive director Matt Glazer said in a statement. “Virtual schools provide unregulated financial windfalls to a few insiders by shortchanging our children’s education.”

The Progress Texas findings come in response to a March report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative Austin-based think tank that supported virtual schools. The TPPF report claimed that virtual schools save money and can reduce dropout rates because students who must drop out to work can take classes online whenever they have time. It said that virtual schools can also help students with special needs like dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and physical disabilities.

In 2004, the American Legislative Exchange Council, made up of businesses and nearly 2,000 legislators, created a bill that supported online learning in classrooms and virtual schools. The measure initiated a wave of virtual schools across the country. In 2007, Texas approved Senate Bill 1788, similar to the ALEC model, which created a state-operated virtual school network and supported integrating online learning in Texas classrooms. Tax dollars help fund virtual schools, but businesses run them.

One of the only full-time virtual schools in the state, Texas Virtual Academy, was ranked academically unacceptable by the Texas Education Agency in 2009 and 2011, yet enrollment in the academy increased 3,203 percent in those years — from 254 students to 8,136, according to the Progress Texas report.

Searching for the reality of virtual schools--at a glance

Main findings

  • Online courses and schools enroll a small fraction of the 52 million public school students, but they are rapidly gaining ground. In 2009-10, elementary and secondary students took approximately 1.8 million courses online. In addition, about 250,000 students were enrolled full-time in virtual schools in 2010-11, up from 200,000 the year before.
  • The development, management and staffing of online courses and schools is supported by both public and private providers. For-profit companies K-12, Inc., and Connections Academy together enrolled nearly half of all full-time online students in 2010-11.
  • Funding for online learning varies by state, and ranges from 70 to 100 percent of state and local per pupil rates. The impact on district funds also varies by state. In some states, districts are billed for each student enrolled online. In addition, accounting for the actual cost of virtual courses and schools is often lacking.
  • The jury is still out on the effect of online courses on K-12 student achievement. The U.S. Department of Education reviewed existing research and found a modest positive impact of online courses, but cautioned that the findings were based mostly on results for post-secondary students.
  • Emerging reports show a troubling overall picture of poor performance and low graduation rates for full-time online students. Two small-scale studies found positive effects for elementary students, suggesting that parental supervision could be an important factor.
  • There needs to be a clearer accountability path for online learning, especially in regard to monitoring student progress and performance as well as accounting for the cost of virtual schooling.

Agency Policy Concerning Remote Instruction That Is Not Delivered Through the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN)

March 23, 2012

Subject:  Agency Policy Concerning Remote Instruction That Is Not Delivered Through the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN)

To the Administrator Addressed:

The Texas Education Agency has received several questions about remote instruction that is not delivered through the TxVSN and whether this type of instruction is eligible for funding through the Foundation School Program (i.e., is eligible for state funding).

The attached guidance document is meant to address these questions. It explains the agency’s policy concerning remote instruction that is not delivered through the TxVSN as that instruction relates to state funding and generation of average daily attendance (ADA).

If you have any questions about the guidance document, please contact me at (512) 475-3451 orBelinda.Dyer@tea.state.tx.us.

Sincerely,

Belinda Dyer
Division Manager
Office of School Finance

BD/bd
Attachment: Remote Instruction That Is Not Delivered Through the TxVSN (PDF, 136KB)

Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011 | The Sloan Consortium®

Get the full report here

Key report findings include:

  • Over 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 term, an increase of 560,000 students over the previous year.
  • The 10% growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.
  • Thirty-one percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
  • Reported year-to-year enrollment changes for fully online programs by discipline show most are growing.
  • Academic leaders believe that the level of student satisfaction is equivalent for online and face-to-face courses.
  • 65% of higher education institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.
  • There continues to be a consistent minority of academic leaders concerned that the quality of online instruction is not equal to courses delivered face-to-face.

Digital Learning Now Toolkit

Advocacy Toolkit - New from Digital Learning Now!
Digital Learning Now! is proud to announce the launch of its new Advocacy Toolkit.  The toolkit collects the latest research on digital and blended learning to equip education leaders, lawmakers and policymakers to advance quality, personalized learning in their states. Click here to view the Advocacy Toolkit or see the reports below including recent blog posts.

2011 Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning: An Annual Review of Policy and Practice
By: John Watson, Amy Murin, Lauren Vashaw, Butch Gemin, Chris Rapp
Evergreen Education Group

Catching Up on Recent Digital Learning Reports (Bill Tucker’s blog)

School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era
By: Paul T. Hill
Center for Reinventing Public Education

Tom Vander Ark on “School Finance in the Digital-Learning Era” (Tom Vander Ark’s Blog)

Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction
By: Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel
Public Impact

Tom Vander Ark on “Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction” » (Tom Vander Ark’s Blog)           

Review of New Fordham Digital Learning Papers »  (Bill Tucker’s Blog)

National Standards for Quality Online Teaching
By: International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL)

Opportunity at the Top: How America’s Best Teachers Could Close the Gaps, Raise the Bar, and Keep Our Nation Great
By: Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel
Public Impact

Quality Control in K-12 Digital Learning: (Three Imperfect) Approaches
By: Frederick M. Hess
AEI

The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning
By: Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker
Innosight Institute

The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning: Profiles of Emerging Models
By: Heather Staker
Innosight Institute

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Digital Learning Now! is a national campaign to advance policies that will create a high quality digital learning environment to better prepare students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers. The project is managed by the Foundation for Excellence in Education in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education.

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Annie Murphy Paul on Salman Khan: The New Andrew Carnegie? | TIME Ideas | TIME.com

Do you agree? I know Will Richardson is having a fit right about now…

From the article:

Much attention has been paid to the use of Khan Academy videos in classrooms. Hundreds of schools across the U.S. have integrated his lessons into their curricula, often using them to “flip” the classroom: students watch the videos at home in the evening, then work on problem sets — what would once have been homework — in class, where there are teachers to help and peers to interact with. The approach is promising, and it may well change the way American students are taught.



Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2011/11/16/salman-kahn-the-new-andrew-carnegie/#ixzz1dw6EUilN

Study: “No Evidence” of Effectiveness of Cyber Schools | Education News

A new study finds that the expansion of full-time cyber schools is not backed by any evidence of their effectiveness. Jon Becker of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Educational Leadership Department has an excellent critique of the study in which he raises some important points. It’s a must-read, especially since Dr. Becker is no enemy of the study’s authors, Drs. Glass and Welner.