For-profit, on-line education just doesn’t work as well

Just in case you’re wondering, yes, it’s important for us to keep track of K-12 educational policy for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that advocates for bad educational policy often look there, where evidence is very difficult to collect (and therefore claims are hard to dispute!), to support some of the bad ideas we fight at the college level every day.

I know many of you are more supportive of on-line, distance education than I am. It’s hard not to be, and I respect–in the abstract and at times in practice–that it can be done well. But nobody has yet made a convincing case to me–or anybody else, really–that switching to on-line, distance education in order to control educational costs is a good idea.

What evidence we can trust is making a very strong case that on-line K-12 education is exactly the terrible idea we thought it was. Today’s (Jan 6) New York Times, in the article “Students of On-Line Schools Are Lagging,” reports that:

About 116,000 students were educated in 93 virtual schools — those where instruction is entirely or mainly provided over the Internet — run by private management companies in the 2010-11 school year, up 43 percent from the previous year, according to the report being published by the National Education Policy Center, a research center at the University of Colorado. About 27 percent of these schools achieved “adequate yearly progress,” the key federal standard set forth under the No Child Left Behind act to measure academic progress. By comparison, nearly 52 percent of all privately managed brick-and-mortar schools reached that goal, a figure comparable to all public schools nationally.

Within these numbers are two important points–

1. On-line, for profit education simply isn’t working.

2. Maybe even more important for those of us who advocate for public education in all its forms, charter schools do not work better than traditional public schools, a claim that the Corbett administration makes in spite of the evidence, as do educational reformers like Arne Duncan and the gang.

Improve working conditions for teachers. Improve learning conditions for students. Fight poverty. Schools would magically work a whole lot better. It’s not complicated.

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Filed under Access, Arne Duncan, Budget, charter schools, Communities, Education reform, on-line schools, Privatization, Public education

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