The poor rural and urban students will avail themselves of the former, and the economically privileged will continue their well-heeled traditions with the best teachers, real campuses, and the best apparatus that money can buy. Meanwhile, the poor will have laptops and modems, we may presume, provided by Gates and Dell, and charged off at an exorbitant rate to the taxpayer as part of the new world of the cyber charter and the cyber college. Think of it: following graduation, the poor will even find minimum wage jobs online, so that they may live their entire lives without having to get dressed! Think of the cost savings.
The selling of this distinctly dystopian future is something else, again. It is wrapped in the threadbare reform rhetoric that no one believes anymore, insulting as it is to the intelligence of anyone able to read. Moe and Chubb have teamed up once more to promote the Oligarchs' solution of corporate-run testing factories, the online variety no less, as the way to achieve what the Finns have achieved by honoring the teaching profession, creating world-class standards, funding their school, nurturing their students, and getting rid of high stakes testing. Finland, for instance, does not use test scores to determine how much to pay teachers.
And even though the "reformers" have wasted the past 25 years with a test-til-you-puke strategy that continues to not work, that reality is lost on these fools, who have their eye on a prize that has nothing to do with student learning or quality schools--but on filling the pockets of the ed industry leeches looking to increase their share of tax money intended for education. In fact, the continuation of the test factory failures of the past 25 years holds open the door to the continuation of another generation of reforms dreamed up by the same ad agencies that sell you all the other modern day remedies you have come to count on not to work.
From the Wall Street Journal:
. . . . In response to "A Nation at Risk," Terry Moe and John Chubb in 1990 published "Politics, Markets and America's Schools," which identified special-interest groups -- mainly teachers unions -- as the culprits in preventing the reforms urged in the report. Now Messrs. Moe and Chubb have returned to the subject with "Liberating Learning," a more optimistic sequel. The authors believe there exists a magic bullet that is capable of shattering the unions' political power and, at last, bringing the sort of reform and excellence to U.S. K-12 education that might make U.S. students competitive with Finnish teenagers. The ammunition? Technology.There is one thing that may get in the way of this brave new cyber world of education for the disenfranchised, and, as always, it has to do with the greedy over-reaching that has characterized this generation of corporate bottom-feeders. Here is the latest from Pennsylvania, where the lawyers of the Agora Cyber Charter School are using up the money they have taken from the taxpayers to file numerous lawsuits to block the State from bringing a halt to their corrupt gravy train. From the Inquirer:
Mr. Moe is an academic researcher at the Hoover Institution; Mr. Chubb, an executive with Chris Whittle's for-profit education venture, Edison Learning. They think that technology -- particularly online education -- holds two potentially dramatic benefits. One is simply a general improvement in education as students from "anywhere -- poor inner cities, remote rural areas, even at home" gain access to high-caliber instruction. More important, the authors say, is technology's ability to destroy the political barriers that prevent education reform.
Despite much public rhetoric about the urgent need to improve American education, despite the investment of billions of dollars in schools, little progress has been achieved. Why? Messrs. Moe and Chubb blame the "politics of blocking" -- the thwarting of such simple reforms as paying teachers for performance. Many states prohibit even gathering data that link individual teachers to the test scores of their students.
Technology, the authors say, may enable the circumvention of political blocking. They make their point forcefully, with copious and surprising examples. In 1995, for instance, Midland, Pa., a declining steel town on the Ohio border, launched the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. Today the online school serves 8,000 students throughout the state. And the classes aren't just digital correspondence courses -- there are textbooks and live educators, including "synchronous teachers," who work with students through instant messaging, voice and interactive whiteboards while the kids are engaged with their lessons online. Advisers are required to communicate with students' families at least once a week by email and once every two weeks by phone. . . .
With the state poised to pull the plug over alleged mismanagement, an online charter school based in Devon is fighting back in not just one court, but three.
One week after the Pennsylvania Department of Education began the process of revoking its operating charter, the Agora Cyber Charter School has filed lawsuits in federal, state, and county courts challenging the action and seeking the return of public money the state had diverted from Agora into an escrow account.
The litigation - filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, and Chester County Court of Common Pleas - is the latest salvo in a dispute over the school's management contract with a company owned by Agora founder Dorothy June Brown.
Agora, which opened in 2005, enrolls 4,400 students statewide who receive online instruction at home.
The Education Department, which oversees the 11 cyber charters in Pennsylvania, alleges that Agora's board of trustees violated the operating charter by contracting out management services. To make matters worse, state officials say, the company, Cynwyd Group L.L.C., is controlled by Brown.
Cynwyd was to be paid $2.8 million from Agora's $41 million budget this academic year - although, according to the Education Department, most of the management work was performed by another company, K-12 Pennsylvania L.L.C.
On June 11, the state told Agora's board to cancel the Cynwyd contract and to resign in 10 days. When the board did neither, charter-revocation proceedings were begun and a two-day hearing in Harrisburg was scheduled for next month.
The Education Department already had started to divert Agora's local, state, and federal funds into an escrow account, to prevent money from flowing to Cynwyd.
In court documents filed this week, Agora's board contends that education officials had known about the Cynwyd contract since 2006 but raised no objections until April 29.
Joel L. Frank, an Agora attorney, is asking the courts to halt the revocation proceedings and to return the money, which he contends was withheld in violation of state law.
"We will review the complaints and respond in a timely manner," Leah Harris, an Education Department spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail yesterday.
School districts, she added, have been asked "to place their tuition payments to Agora into an escrow account from which the costs of the students' education will continue to be paid. All federal funds will be paid to Agora. There is no intention on the part of [the department] to withhold federal dollars from Agora."
Despite the revocation proceedings, state officials have said Agora is expected to operate in 2009-10.
Also on Monday, Agora's board sued K-12 in Chester County Court. Although the state maintains the escrow fund, the trustees contend that K-12 has had some access to the money in order to pay bills, and they are seeking an accounting.
Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., the attorney who represents K-12, said that under the escrow procedures, the state must preapprove all Agora bills paid by K-12. Any expenditures, he said, "have been for the educational needs of the students."
K-12 Pennsylvania is a subsidiary of K12 Inc., a for-profit education company in Herndon, Va.
The cyber school's finances also are under scrutiny by the Philadelphia School District inspector general and by federal investigators as part of a general criminal probe of local charter operations.