Internet

Online Charter Schools Make Teachers Unions Nervous

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From the NYT:

Diane Ravitch, a leading educational historian who until recently favored charter schools, is strongly critical of the virtual charter system. Ms. Ravitch said the system eliminated "brick and mortar schools and it bypasses the unions," mainly for the benefit of for-profit companies.

My mom told me never to accept bricks and mortar from strangers

Not to put too fine a point on it, but: Duh. That's the whole idea.

Virtual charters are just what they sound like: Online charter schools that allow kids and parents from a state or district to choose online schooling, while remaining part of the public school system. They are only possible in states with charter laws that allow, or don't expressly forbid, those charters to go virtual and open up enrollment to the larger population. Kids often, although not always, take classes at home. The schools are frequently run by national companies like K12 Inc. or Connections Academy, which have developed working models for this new kind of education and contract with charters to provide content, equipment, and staff.

In her attempt at criticism, Ravitch has managed to articulate one of the strongest arguments for virtual charter schools.

As the article notes, Ravitch recently switched sides in the debate on education reform. Her despair is understandable: Charters and vouchers have not (yet?) produced the kind of radical systemic change that reformers hoped for, and standards-based reforms like No Child Left Behind haven't dazzled either. But having recently been on the side of reform, Ravitch retains her keen eye for stuff that freaks out unions and the educational establishment. Virtual charters don't tend to use unionized teachers, and if enough kids opt for online schooling, the way education dollars are allocated could change dramatically—undermining the unions' lock on the education industry.

The Times reporter's phrasing "for the benefit of for-profit companies," is odd, however. I suspect it slightly mischaracterizes what Ravitch, a smart and economically literate woman, actually said. Virtual charters are in competition with traditional schools, and they are often (although not always) run by for-profit firms. But that's like saying speedy taxi drivers are trying to beat out lumbering, unpredictable city buses "for the benefit of for-profit companies." It's technically sort of true, but doesn't explain why someone might want to take a cab.

To read more about the fraught relationship between teachers unions and virtual charters, check out my upcoming feature in the next print issue of Reason. (Update: that's the August/September issue.)

NEXT: David Souter, Jim Crow, and the Living Constitution

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  1. If Hit & Run doesn’t immediately post something about the successful launch of Falcon 9, I’m going to stamp on the floor and hold my breath until I pass out. Dammit.

    1. Here I am with sore feet and unconscious. Grrrrr.

      1. This is for being a baby.

        More specifically, the corporations that have abandoned Detroit, creating a city with a sky high unemployment rate and escalating foreclosures, are part of a capitalist system that creates and reinforces structural inequality through wage gaps and unequal access to jobs and resources. This system disproportionately impacts women, especially women of color; transgender people; gender non-conforming people; single mothers; immigrant women; and lesbian gay, bisexual, and queer people.

        1. Way to punish the rest of us SugarFree.

          1. It’s scary to see how their minds work.

            1. Minds or feeling?

              1. They have minds, they just don’t use them well. Cars, for example, work fine when you aren’t constantly ramming him to brick walls.

            2. The Stupid is strong in this one.

        2. lesbian gay, bisexual, and queer people.

          Are they missing a comma here somewhere? Cause as it’s written I have no idea what group(s) this is supposed to describe.

          1. They’re missing a comma and the have several misplaced semi-colons.

            1. There should be a fine for abusing the semi-colon so terribly.

              1. I really don’t think you want to encourage fining people who fuck up grammatically, as you may find yourself a pauper very quickly. An example from above:

                “Cars, for example, work fine when you aren’t constantly ramming him to brick walls.”

                1. That’s one of those Fordian slips. Har, har.

                2. Mis-typing is not the same as abusing punctuation. I’m full of Korean food and all sleepy, anyway.

                3. To be fair, SugarFree’s sentence didn’t abuse a single semi-colon.

              2. lesbian gay, bisexual, and queer people
                I also don’t care for the abuse of colons…

            2. We’ll place our colons anywhere we damn please!

        3. I’m too thrilled with the launch to care.

        4. Is this what we get for someone burning U$100,000 for a degree in gender studies?

          https://reason.com/blog/2010/06…..l-i-got-wa

        5. Usually I can laugh off their crazy, but this:

          When Detroit is in the news (as it was recently due to the tragic murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven year old who was killed by a Detroit police officer), it is usually portrayed as a place where a culture of hopelessness and lawlessness leads to violence and aggression. But the mainstream media often leaves out the bigger story of how corporations have abandoned Detroit because they prioritize profit margins over people

          is a whole ‘nother level of stupid. The Evil Corporashun’s didn’t kill that girl, and co-opting her death to score cheap ideological points makes you a grade A scumbag.

          1. So, let’s go with this nitwit’s plan:

            1-Companies value people over profit margin and stay in Detroit
            2-Companies go out of business, since they no longer make a profit
            3-???
            4-Profit!

          2. Actually, this is the best part:

            Nora Dye is bicycling to the US Social Forum with the Spoke N’ Heart Collective, a group of activists dedicated to bike touring for social change.

            To quote Laurie Anderson: Dancing about architecture.

            1. We’ll dance the blues
              (suuure we will)
              We’ll dance the blues
              (we’ll dance them very much)

          3. One would think that since, in their worldview, corporations are evil and the cause of all suffering in the world, they would consider corporations abandoning a city to be a good thing.

      2. Pro Libertate was pronounced dead at 4:16 EDT.

        Thanks for hearing my pleas, Hit & Run.

        1. I can only be so many places at once, Pro’L Dib. It’s a scalpel, not a magic wand.

          CLEAR!!!!!!!!!

          1. I’m not quite dead yet.

            1. Maybe you should go for a walk?

            2. You’re not fooling anyone.

            3. I’m not quite dead yet.

              Funny anecdote from first year residency. A patient was admitted to ER and was placed in a semi private for observation, non-cardiac condition, and the leads hadn’t been placed on him yet, and one of the interns had turned on the EKG, which showed a flatline and someone called a code. All of sudden, another intern burst into the room (I was in the hallway at the time doing a HX) and he had a defib with him, screamed “CLEAR” and initiated defib protocols. Well, he apparently didn’t wait for the nurses to clear the patient and the got thrown into the wall and stunned the patient. The nurses were knocked unconscious (they were fine), patient ended up having free care for a long time, and if you think my rants are classic, R. Lee Ermy had nothing on the attending that pulled in the group of interns to give them “constructive criticism.”

              The interns, shockingly enough, were not discharged from internship, but did have all sorts of unpleasant repercussions happen, and were mercilessly hazed for the rest of the year.

              1. If I were the patient, on each anniversary of that event, I’d taze the idiot. Kind of like the Poe Toaster. But with a taser.

              2. That’s hilarious.

  2. When is the next print issue of Reason sent out?

    1. I got mine yesterday (6/3)

  3. To the topic at hand, my oldest daughter did Florida Virtual School last semester. I have to say that it seemed substantially easier than regular school appears to be.

    Speaking of regular (public) school, my kids seem to be doing some pretty grade-schoolish activities still, even in high school. What gives? When I was a kid, the getting points for decorating your notebook thing ended in 6th grade. And this is happening in AP classes!

    1. My niece was reading Beowulf for her English Lit class as a sophomore in high school. Her project, to display her reading and understanding of 12th century Anglo-Saxon epics, involved a shoebox, a He-man action figure, and construction paper. She made a fucking shoebox diorama for her English Lit class in high school.

      She graduated 3d in her class and got a full ride to a state school. I shudder to think about what they’re teaching the kids down in the middle of the pack.

      1. Was the He-Man doll one of the original action figures still in the manufacturer’s packaging?

        1. No, man, he was in a shoebox fighting a construction paper dragon.

        2. “I bent my Wookie.”

          1. “Here are the grapes, and here’s the wrath!”

            1. Young lady, cow hearts belong in a butcher’s window, not in the classroom.

      2. In junior high I had a friend who made a diorama of a blacksmith’s shop, using the Rancor keeper as the blacksmith.

        http://afotd.blogspot.com/2009…..83-84.html

      3. …to display her reading and understanding of 12th century Anglo-Saxon epics, involved a shoebox, a He-man action figure, and construction paper.

        This sounds more like sex ed in the new education paradigm.

        1. Not really. There’s no peanut butter, for one thing.

      4. FFS you’ve got to be joking. Someone please tell me he is joking.

        1. Nope. Not in the slightest.

          1. we’re doomed. The last diorama I made was in the 5th grade.

          2. Nope, he’s not joking…I was there.

      5. Traditional school, clearly. Hep schools use deconstruction paper, Yo.

      6. My wife was telling me a couple of days ago that back in the day, for extra credit in their high school chemistry class, they let the students make and dress up “moles” (the critter, not the quantity). Modern education is such a waste of money. Just do the basics in elementary/middle school, and then let kids apprentice in a trade or take college prep.

      7. I purposefully requested to be put in “Middle of the pack” classes, despite the advice of my counselor. I slept through the classes and passed. With A’s. (Grad of 2009)

    2. Part of KERA (KY Ed Reform Act) is that every class has a writing component. Imagine the inanity of writing a term paper in gym class.

      1. Public school is almost totally broken. And that is not libertarian rhetoric. If I didn’t have fifty children or I were wealthier, they’d be in private school. As it is, we’re tempted to homeschool the youngest.

        1. Fifty kids? How big is your harem?

          1. I exaggerated: Four kids, one wife.

            1. Please tell me one of them in named Leto.

    3. All you really need to learn in high school is Calculus and how to write decently. Perhaps a few basic facts about history and geography.

    4. I noticed this, too.

      I’m not convinced that the curriculum is less challenging, however. Probably it’s “easier” to learn because the expectations are more age appropriate, less pointless busy work, and no de-motivating “homework” to cap off a long day. Not to mention how much easier it is to focus.

      I think the only thing harder about conventional schooling for my kids was keeping up with the endless paper shuffle.

    5. Florida Virtual’s that bad, eh? Dang, I was hoping it’d be a good solution for one of my nieces who is too good to be one of the massive, massive crowd at Western, but missed the deadline for the entrance exam for American Heritage.

  4. When I was a kid, the getting points for decorating your notebook thing ended in 6th grade.

    I’m only old as two old kids, and the last time I remember that happening was in 1st grade.

    Our grandkids will get philosophy Ph.Ds for scratching Slayer logos on their desks with paper clips.

    1. Our grandkids will get philosophy Ph.Ds for scratching Slayer logos on their desks with paper clips

      No, dummy, they’ll get NEA grants. Geez.

    2. I never got any points for decorating my notebook! Of course I don’t remember ever decorating my notebook, other than with drawings of various teachers being raped and killed by wild animals, so that might explain it.

      1. I take it your human half dominated over your Vulcan half, Tulpa Lecter?

        1. You’ve got it backwards — sociopathy is only indicated by violence towards animals and fantasies of such. Fantasies of violence by animals are just part of the normal activity of a healthy young mind.

          1. Who said your teachers were human?

    3. Our grandkids will get philosophy Ph.Ds for scratching Slayer logos on their desks with paper clips.

      That only gets you a Masters in Metal.

      Besides, Gene Simmons had a MD…in Love. God, I hate Kiss. They’re like the proto-Insane Clown Posse, and all their retarded fans with the face makeup are proto-juggalos.

      1. The only song of theirs that I like much at all is “Detroit, Rock City.” Not sure why that is, but there you go.

      2. “And here’s another song about my penis…”

        1. Oh, wait, there’s “Domino”, too. In fact, the key line from that song is, I believe, a direct quote from Episiarch:

          Every damn time I walk through that door,
          It’s the same damn thing.
          That bitch bends over,
          And I forget my name – ow!

          1. As much as I’m not a fan of the group, that is a great line. I think it’s from Shakespeare or maybe the King James Bible.

      3. Yeah, Gene Simmons sucks. Except for that final scene in Runaway which was awesome. Too bad that wasn’t a live shot. Not sure about comparing Kiss fans to juggalos though. Their certainly both insufferable but I think the comparison ends there.

        1. The make-up and the undying loyalty is the connection. KISS made better music, of course, but they are definitely linked in music history.

          1. Also, whenever I see ICP, I always mis-read it as IBS. Which has to be some sort of metaphysical RC’z Law.

            1. Your projecting (in more ways that one) Saccharin Man.

        2. Agreed. Though you neglected to mention the end of Wanted: Dead or Alive. Rutger Hauer ended Gene’s existence most satisfactorily in that flick, too.

          1. I believe that I did see that movie but for the life of me can’t remember anything about it.

            1. It ends with Rutger Hauer, a bounty hunter, jamming a hand grenade in Gene’s mouth. He leads him around with his finger in the pin for a while, then says something like WTF and pulls the pin.

              1. Oh ok, yeah that scene is actually what I was thinking of in my original post. I thought it was Runaway that ended like that. I barely remember either movie. I did a little partying back in those days:)

                1. Runaway ended quite nicely with Gene getting probed by a bunch of killer robots in the head.

        3. Let’s see: they both wear retarded makeup, go apeshit over their band, their bands both suck, and the fan base is composed of cretinous morons.

          By the way, did you know Groovus Maximus is a juggalo? Seriously.

          1. That’s low, dude.

          2. Am I the only person here who has suspected that Episiarch is, in fact, Gene Simmons? I mean, come on, the parallels are unsettling.

            1. I’m not Jewish. Yet.

              1. That was the one flaw in the theory. Maybe Gene/you are lying about that?

                1. Make that “is lying.”

                  1. That’ll be $20. You can give it to NutraSweet because he’s already out of money, and how am I going to take all his money playing poker if he doesn’t have any?

                    1. Actually, the slash is deprecated in formal grammar, too, so I owe you $40.

                    2. Can you make change for thirty denarii? I’ve got fifty ha’pennies, if that will help.

          3. By the way, did you know Groovus Maximus is a juggalo? Seriously.

            That’s gigolo you lysdexic poltroon! And I have only one woman in my life and she get’s all my thunderous maximus God Emperor gigolo-y goodness.

            Did you know Epi moonlights for indy pro-wrestling leauges as a ring valet? Seriously! His nom du ring is Spooge McFucked.

      4. You need a hug, Epi. Here.

      5. A constant problem for me is people stealing my lighters. When replacing one such stolen lighter I asked the friendly, helpful and well-read gas station attendant for a lighter that was “so lame nobody will steal it.” She gave me a Bic with the KISS logo on it.

  5. My mother teaches for Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA), an on-line charter based outside Tacoma. Her students are all basically home-school kids whose parents realized that they were not actually competent to home school their kids. The students that do well are the students that would do well anywhere – self motivated, disciplined. The majority of her students need to be in a classroom with supervision that their parents aren’t giving them.

    Look, we can drink the kool-aid of charters and on line schools, and I’m all for school choice. I even support on-line schools as a reasonable alternative that is right for a certain sector of students. But Ms. Mangu-Ward’s motivations seem more about destroying the NEA than about anything else (a worthy aim, I might add, but that’s beside the point).

    For the record, while WAVA is a charter, WAVA teachers are all unionized teachers employed by the Steilacoom school district.

    1. The sort of parents who “home school” kids by sending them to their room alone for class are going to get the same results as using state run schools as day care.

      1. Though their kids will probably be a bit safer, provided mommy and daddy don’t get raided for smoking pot.

      2. The sort of parents who “home school” kids by sending them to their room alone for class are going to get the same results as using state run schools as day care.

        True. If you don’t actually shackle them to their desks and regularly feed them amphetamines, leaving them in their rooms doesn’t work too well.

  6. Sounds like a good way to supplement home schooling; get the basics from an online school and the rest can be “lab” time..

  7. What are the advantages and disadvantages of online education?

    1. Didn’t you read the article? The disadvantages are that “the system eliminated “brick and mortar schools and it bypasses the unions,” mainly for the benefit of for-profit companies.”

      These also happen to be the advantages.

      1. Plus there’s less incentive to act like a moron all of the time to fit in.

        1. That’s best saved for here, anyway. 😛

  8. I work at Connections Academy as a teacher and find that the career ladder and bonus structure, based on personal professional and school goals on anything from student contacts to state testing results, reward me for doing my job well each year. My students are held highly accountable. We review our program often using data that shows clearly that our families are very satisfied with our program and that the longer the student is with us the better they do on their state tests. In short our teachers and students are held highly accountable and we are continuously improving from changes based on solid data and feedback.

  9. It depands what you feel constitutes getting a “good education.” It seems the last thing our society needs is for children to spend MORE time in front of a computer screen and less time physically interacting with other people to exchange complex ideas. Reading words is only one of many ways that we become educated people.

  10. The WAVA K1 through 8 is great but this is a very damaging school at the high school level. We live in a rural area where Internet access is sometimes down. WAVA gave us no means of catching up. My son spent an average of 8.5 hours a day, 6 days a week trying to succeed. Contacting teachers and administrators was always difficult and required hours of phone tag and being placed on hold. At the end of the year my son was about 2 weeks behind and was failed for the entire year. After repeating 9th grade my son had a GPA for the year of 3.40. But his Cumulative GPA was 1.864 due to the lost year at WAVA. This school had no business destroying a year of my child’s life. He is still paying for my mistake of putting him in this school.

  11. Charters and vouchers have not (yet?) produced the kind of radical systemic change that reformers hoped for, and standards-based reforms like No Child Left Behind haven’t dazzled either.

  12. That is one of the best images I’ve ever seen online… LOL… Great article.

  13. Home School > Charter Schools (in my opinion)

  14. YES!! Agree. ——> The WAVA K1 through 8 is great but this is a very damaging school at the high school level. We live in a rural area where Internet access is sometimes down. WAVA gave us no means of catching up. My son spent an average of 8.5 hours a day, 6 days a week trying to succeed. Contacting teachers and administrators was always difficult and required hours of phone tag and being placed on hold. At the end of the year my son was about 2 weeks behind and was failed for the entire year. After repeating 9th grade my son had a GPA for the year of 3.40. But his Cumulative GPA was 1.864 due to the lost year at WAVA. This school had no business destroying a year of my child’s life. He is still paying for my mistake of putting him in this school.

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