Thursday, December 06, 2007

Virtual School Scheme Goes Down

A company started by right-wing scold Bill Bennett and others to try to steer public money into their already-deep pockets will have to go somewhere other than Wisconsin state taxpayers to make their next dirty buck. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals in the Second District ruled on Tuesday that the too-clever-by-half "virtual" school scheme divised by one of the state’s school districts did not comport with that unfortunate (for them) entity called state law and should not get taxpayer money for its operation. This led radio and other wing-nuts to spin furiously on behalf of throwing more tax money out the window at out-of-state education profiteers.

The damaged Bennett, who holds himself out as an intellectual heavyweight on the right, was one of the founders of K12 Inc., but quit the board in 2005 after saying this stupid, racist thing on his radio show: "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Of these thoughts are the purported saviors of our nation’s children made.

Never letting a racist founder get between them and a public dollar, K12 moved forward, joining Wisconsin’s always-creative right-wing foundations to find a way to siphon public funds away from and otherwise try to destroy public schools in the state. Having already succeeded in brow-beating weak legislators into pouring millions of dollars into the pockets of various fly-by-night "educators" in the Milwaukee school "choice" program, the usual cast of characters in the heavily-funded cheesehead right-wing brain-trusts had the bright idea to get a school district to buy K12's virtual snake-oil and sign up a bunch of students from around the state who were going to be home-schooled anyway as "open-enrollment" transfers to pay for it with money from the taxpayers.

The Northern Ozaukee school district was apparently pliant, right-wing and/or stupid enough to go along with the for-profit, tax money-sucking scheme. Following a blueprint designed, no doubt, in the lush suites of the Bradley Foundation and its ancillaries, the North Oz school board declared that it had created the Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA), as a "charter" school. As of this year, they had signed up over 600 students from all over the state to "attend" the virtual school, instructing them to apply to the Oz schools under the state’s open enrollment program, which allows students living in one school district to attend a school in any other district, as long as the receiving district has space.

In devising its scheme, the district and its outside developers did make some – but, alas, not enough – concessions to the (for them) inconvenient state law that defines charter schools and controls public school funding. WIVA has a couple of administrators were actually physically in the school district, but no school building for teachers and students. It hired a few certified teachers, who live in various places throughout the state, to conduct on-line classes. The typical student is on-line with each of his or her "teachers" for all of 30 minutes, two to four times a month. The certified staff member also gets on the phone with each student once or twice a month for 10 to 20 minutes. The rest of the supervision and instruction is provided by the student’s parent, who is provided with the teacher manuals and is required by a contract with the school to devote at least five hours a day to provide the primary instruction. In other words, WIVA is basically an outrageous attempt to hijack public funding to support home schooling.

The Court of Appeals had no problem seeing through this fairly thin scheme to take over $3 million in public funds to facilitate home-schooling, slapping down K12, the North Oz board and the ludicrous decision rubber-stamping the plan by the trial judge in a fairly short opinion. "We cannot believe that the plain and ordinary meaning of the statutory term 'school' excludes both teachers and students," is only one of the fairly obvious conclusions drawn by the court. The court committed the outrageous act of actually reading the statutes relating to charter schools finding at least two ways in which the scheme did not comply with state law: 1) a school in which neither students nor their certified teachers are in the North Oz district is not "in the district" under the statute; 2) since most of the instruction is provided by parents, the parents are therefore uncertified "teachers" under the statute and the scheme fails for lack of certified teaching staff. The decision is an entirely proper interpretation of the statutes and it’s very unlikely the Supreme Court is going to change anything, or even take the case for review.

You could imagine the kind of bleating this entirely-expected decision generated on wing-nut mainstream radio (MSR) on Tuesday and, depending on how much they are able to twist and spin the result into an unrecognizable distortion, will continue for the balance of this week. At least two of the MSR shows featured a spokesperson from WIVA/K12, who whined about the slap-down, with the usual sympathy from the host wing-nut enablers. Mark Belling in particular enjoyed flexing his usual anti-WEAC shtick, squawking about how the teachers only care about money and not about the kids’ education and they are union hacks and blah-di blah blah.

One of the tactics used always used by the wing-nuts is to define the decision as something that it is not. Both the MSR hosts and the company flacks said that the decision means that parents of a regular school student helping with homework is now in violation of the law, which is typically nuts, and the court itself anticipated the misinterpretation: "We underscore that no one is suggesting that a parent assisting his or her child to whatever extent the parent finds necessary is 'illegal.' The question is not whether and how a parent may assist his or her child with schoolwork; rather, it is whether the District can establish a public school, using public funds, that relies upon unlicensed individuals as the primary teachers of the pupils." The spinning hacks also said the decision means a student could not be part of his or her education on-line – again, another red herring, floated for all to smell.

Once again, when the law gets in the way of the right-wing, the rule-of-law crew thinks it’s entirely acceptable to ignore the law. If the legislature decides they want allow school districts to throw money at national companies to support home-schooling, there is nothing preventing it – although Belling admitted such a scheme would never make it through. The school "choice" proponents knew they couldn’t take money from the Milwaukee Public Schools for religious and entrepreneurial "education" through the charter school or open-enrollment law or in any other way other than changing state law to allow for it. Why K12 and North Oz thought they could take this gamble and win is anybody’s guess. Once again, for the right-wing, the law is for suckers.

It makes you wonder what the district’s contract with K12 says about what happens if (when) the scheme is struck down. My guess is that K12 gets paid in any event. Since the state’s not paying, the taxpayers of North Oz are going to be left holding the bag. Since their school board signed off on this nonsense, it serves them right.

36 comments:

Fraley said...

For a more informed, rational, and less partisan review of the actual decision, see:
http://sharkandshepherd.blogspot.com/2007/12/signing-off-virtual-schools.html

Once you get passed the irrational fear of for profit interests involved in education (do you think the book publishing companies make money, Mike? Why, yes, yes they do) and actually look at both the legal issues and the human cost, it's a much different picture than the one you paint.

These students excelled in a Wisconsin public school, taught by WEAC dues-paying, certified, licensed public school teachers. WEACs only problem was that the student-teacher ratio was larger than they prefer, thus limiting the numbers of dues-paying members per classroom.

In Court, the plaintiffs even said that the academic excellence displayed by WIVA kids was irrelevant.

So, to recap, you can have a low performing, unsafe school in MPS where the truancy rate exceeds the graduation rate, but that's ok because the student:teacher ratio suits the union.

But this school, which isn't for every kid, but works for so many, is inherently bad.

This isn't home schooling. The District chooses the curriculum. Public teachers teach the classes. WIVA kids have more interaction and more meaningful, personal interaction with their teachers than most kids in Wisconsin's public schools.

Mike, you'd probably be surprised to know that hundreds of these parents hold political beliefs closer to yours than to mine. And now, thanks to WEAC, DPI and three judges, they and all the parents will be forced to send their child to a school not of their choice. A school wherein their kids will not do as well as they did in WIVA. Where is the justice in that?

This ruling is a damning indictment of teacher's aides, too. The fallout of this ruling will be sweeping.

Anonymous said...

This isn't home schooling?

Well, it's at home. But apparently, it's not schooling, in the sense of having a trained teacher more than an hour a month.

You don't like the law, you don't get to be a lawbreaker, Fraley. You change the law -- or you leave.

Fraley said...

In order to have an informed debate, you need to be informed. Want to know how the teachers teach? Take if from a WIVA teacher. Here's part of Kathy Hennings' testimony before a DPI panel on virtual schools...

July 19, 2005

My name is Kathy Hennings and I am a 1st and 2nd grade teacher with the Wisconsin Virtual Academy, one of Wisconsin's most successful public virtual schools. I will be starting my 3rd year with WIVA this fall. In addition to my employment of 33 years within the public school system, my two daughters have been enrolled in public education from Kindergarten through college. I am a dues-paying member of WEAC and a member of the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families. I'm a proponent of the public school system in Wisconsin and proud to be a part of it...

Public virtual schools offer students a unique opportunity within the public school realm. A rigorous and rich curriculum, which meets and goes beyond the WI State standards, is provided for each child enrolled. In my school, licensed, experienced teachers instruct students and partner with parents (who strongly value their child's education) to ensure the curriculum is carried out to the mastery level. On-line scripted lessons, written by professionals in the field, are presented to the students at their own pace. Because a student does not need to move along with the masses in a classroom of 25-30, individualized attention can be poured into each one. This tailor-made education meets the learning needs and styles that range from the struggling to the gifted learner. Individual goal-setting, evaluation of objectives learned, enrichment of lessons, appropriate pacing, and remediation strategies - are only some of the topics dealt with through this partnership of teacher and responsible adult.

Beyond the biweekly conferences, I have many contacts with the students through field trips or outings, email exchanges, newsletters, postal letters, student workshops, tutoring sessions, on-line literature discussions, small group meetings, camp jamborees, and more. Students submit assignments required by their teachers on a regular basis. WIVA teachers administer the state standardized tests, and let me say we are proud of the most recent state test scores.

Each year of our school's operation, we hold before us our mission: Providing a choice for Wisconsin families, the Wisconsin Virtual Academy is a learning community comprised of students, parents, and staff working together in a powerful partnership, empowering children to reach their full potential through a curriculum harnessed in rich technology to create individualized mastery learning.

I am so proud to be a public school teacher and so pleased to be a part of these innovative efforts.

Steve said...

My 5 year old daughter is enrolled in WIVA and is excelling.

A frustrating part of the coverage of this story is the impact to the students.

How do you explain to a 5 year old that her school is going to close because the teacher's union didn't like it?

WIVA is a much better environment for her than our local public school for a variety of reasons. The most important is that she is far ahead of her kindergarten age group at math. She is about to begin 2nd grade math.

What is the implication to her, and the many other students like her?

State law should obviously be changed to explicitly allow virtual schools, but failing that, what options do we have?

She could go to her local public school, where there is no gifted education at this level and no possibility of her continuing to out pace her "grade level" at various subjects. She would be rounded down to the lowest common denominator. In other words, WEAC's solution is to dumb her down so there can be more teacher jobs.

The focus of Mike's blog post was how great the ruling was because it means K12 gets less money.

The big message of the ruling isn't whether K12 gets money or doesn't, it's what happens to the kids that excel in this environment.

By the way, the K12 materials are very high quality. I don't see why their status as a for profit company, nor the fact Bill B. was involved matter. The materials are great and aid learning. Isn't that more important than whom was involved in the early stages of the company?

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that it's not being mentioned that District two is a conservative court and that it's conservative that are complaining about it.

Real Debate said...

Yeah that evil conservative court enforcing the law instead of making it up.

Change the law.

WEAC brought the suit.

They can not have kids doing well for less money, it is too challenging to their monopoly

Mike Plaisted said...

Belling actually said the District 2 court was all liberals. Shows what he knows.

I'm sure there are many success stories associated with the on-line education provided by WIVA and K12 but it doesn't change the fact that it's not a school as defined by statute. WEAC didn't write this law nor did the legislature in anticipation of knocking out schemes like K12/WIVA. The law is there and the court can't ignore it. And the Big Bad Teachers union? Well, if they didn't do it, someone would have. The union is not the only entity with a stake in the protection of public funds from education profiteers.

There is a difference, Fraley, between buying school books and supplies (indeed, a big business) and contracting for the entire means and delivery of the educational process.

The bottom line is that most of the WIVA parents and students won't be packing off to their local schools -- they will stay in home schooling, where they were in the first place, and they'll have to buy their own software. And I'm sure they'll be getting an e-mail from K12 soon, ready and willing to sell it to them.

This is just a short note -- have to run back to court. More later.

Steve said...

Mike, I don't see a difference between buying books and K12's materials. K12 isn't involved in the means and delivery of the educational process.

They provide books, clay, paint, and the on-line website with classes, curriculum, etc. They do not "run" the classes, and they don't deliver the instruction. My daughter interacts with licensed teachers employed by NOSD - not anyone from K12.

Book publishers create the same curriculum, but confine themselves mostly to printed books and supplies as the way to access the material -- albeit even that is changing as book publishers augment with web-based material.

The "big" difference is that K12 created a curriculum that is highly integrated. Book publishers haven't yet.

As education shifts from books to online learning, book publishers will launch more comprehensive programs to compete with K12 for materials. Possibly one of them will decide to buy K12.

What big differences do you see between K12 and book publishers?

You're kind of funny. You seem to hate the idea of education money going to private companies.

Do you think the state government should develop school books too, or are you only against educational websites?

elrond hubbard said...

I suspect that if the law was changed to allow virtual schools (and it won't be, given the politcal clout of WEAC) Mike would still object; if only because of the hateful idea that someone, somewhere, might make a profit on it.

David Casper said...

"You don't like the law, you don't get to be a lawbreaker, Fraley. You change the law -- or you leave."

I'm not sure who anony is, but I'm going to pull that quote out on A LOT of other topics!

billie said...

WEAC's tagline was (and may still be) "Every kid deserves a great school." WIVA appears to be an innovative new model that seems to be having extremely positive results, which fits my definition of a "great school."

If WEAC wanted to live up to its own claims of being concerned first with the quality of education, wouldn't it have been easier and more constructive for WEAC to try to help WIVA?

How much is WEAC spending in legal fees to kill WIVA? What if they used those same resources to help remove the legal roadblocks and/or collaborate with WIVA to make changes to bring them up to snuff?

I don't know the nuances of the law, but it seems to me that an organization whose first priority is the kids would have found a way to make this work.

Instead, they used their considerable might to kill it. Can we all agree now on where WEAC's priorities lie?

Mike Plaisted said...

The more I read these comments and the more I think about it, it is more and more clear that K12/WIVA is simply a Cadillac-level, taxpayer-funded program of support for home schooling.

And, you're right, Elrond, I would oppose a change in state law to fund home-schooling in this or any other way. Without negating all the hard work, commitment and, yes, success of some parents involved in home-schooling (I said "some"), it is an elitist program that very few are able to commit to -- not to mention a largely religious movement to boot.

State law already gives parents fairly free reign to declare they are home-schooling and avoid mandatory attendance in a real one. I don't see any reason for the state to pay for it on top of that.

As for WEAC, their interest is, by law, that of their members. I happen to know from personal experience (I worked for their competitor/companion WFT for several years in the '90s and was involved in some lobbying and other joint projects) that WEAC members are very concerned with the state of education in Wisconsin. They are fighting a rear-guard action against schemes by various right-wing activists that don't give a damn about Wisconsin children; who are only interested in destroying public education and padding their own fat pockets. There are many times -- such as the fight against school "choice" where the interest of WEAC's members also match the public interest.

The fight against state-funded home-schooling is one of those fights.

Anonymous said...

I think you are off the rails on this one. I'm a liberal homeschooling mom, a community activist, and I have a high school daughter in a virtual school in WI. If k12/WIVA was doing religious indoctrination, I could see that as a reason for shutting it down. If the kids were not learning, fine shut it down. All we seem to have in this case is caring families who need support in getting their children a fine education.

So the big issue is who pays? We all pay into the system. If my local district had an attitude of openness and change, I would work with them and have my kids in public school. They don't. I did not want doors to close on my kids before they were in middle school and frankly, I didn't have all the time in the world to make change in the system. Kids get older, and then it is too late.

Public schools work for the vast majority of kids and their families. The better the school, the more they attract students. I'm in the SW part of WI and this year there were no National Merit semi-finalists west of Madison, except my older daughter. She would not have this level of achievement in the rural public schools. So my younger one wanted the structure of a virtual school. Why on earth should I have to pay for this kind of curriculum if the public school system can serve this need?

Finally, homeschoolers are not elitists in my experience. Most live fairly simply and with one spouse not working they make some sacrifices for that lifestyle. I agree that some families are motivated by religious swoon, but that subset typically want curricula steeped in the Bible. That is not what public virtual schools offer, and so would not naturally attract this group. I'm sure you wish this was a radical wing-nut bunch of religious extremists that are easily pushed aside for the purposes of the high ground of public schooling. I say it isn't so, and in your rant you lost the high ground.

Anonymous said...

Has there ever been a time and program that public school teachers went to people's homes to assist parents in educating children?

I think children always had to go out, regardless of the weather to go to a public school.

I don't know of any situation that public teachers made house calls, which is essentially being done here albeit, electronically.

Sarah said...

Anonymous,

Please consider that school districts are permitted to provide homebound instruction to students who are unable to attend school due to physical or mental health issues. In my research, I discovered one school district that included homebound instruction as part of their response to "managing agressive student behavior". At least one district indicated that the amount of actual face to face contact with the homebound teacher could be as low as 1/2 to 2 hours per week for 7-12 students and 2 to 3 hours for K-6 students.

Sarah said...

Point of clarification: My son is enrolled at WIVA. I have never been “required by a contract with the school to devote at least five hours a day to provide primary instruction.” I have been told that the rigorous curriculum may require my child to devote 5 or more hours to his schooling.

Also, I am not home-schooling my son. We did not enroll our son at WIVA because he was “going to be home-schooled anyway” and we did not “attempt to hijack public funding to support home schooling” My son is being schooled at home. My son attended our local public school for three years prior to his enrollment at WIVA. His needs were not being met at our local public school and so we chose the best public school option available to him. My younger son is attending our local public school and is thriving there. I am familiar with families that home-school and there are clear distinctions between virtual schooling and home-schooling. We cannot and do not expect to have the autonomy of a home-schooling family because we are aware that our schooling is being funded by tax dollars (ours included). Additionally, as a charter school, WIVA is accountable to even a greater degree than most public schools. Please refer to DPI’s website for further information on this requirement of accountability

http://www.dpi.state.wi.us/sms/csindex.html

“The Wisconsin charter school law gives charter schools freedom from most state rules and regulations in exchange for greater accountability for results. The charter defines the missions and methods of the charter school; the chartering authority holds the school accountable to its charter. The charter school motto is "Autonomy for Accountability".

Anonymous said...

Mike, these posters are really taking you to the woodshed, you may want to step away from this one.

Anonymous said...

Sara-

Are you saying that the Virtual Program should be allowed for children with special needs rather than teachers actually going to the home?

I'm not aware of the program you say allows teachers to go to someones home. I do know a family with kids that have special needs that decided to home school because both private and public education was not working for them. However, to my knowledge they're no programs that allowed teachers to assist them in there home.

There may be some merit to this for children with special needs to remain home. I think the schools do there best to take care of these kids but maybe it would be better with a program like this.

Anonymous said...

I also wanted to comment that I know for a fact that Headstart in Oshkosh will send teachers to your home if you decide you don't want your child to go to the school. So, yes teachers do make housecalls.

Anonymous said...

I guess because I homeschool I shouldn't have to pay taxes on your public school then right? Wrong. Get over it. We all have to pay taxes for things we don't agree with or support.

Anonymous said...

The WEAC needs to make up their minds. Either they want parents involved in their own children's education or they don't. Above the article on shutting down the Virtual school because parents are too involved in their education they now have a article talking about parents being able to take more time off of work to be more involved in their children's education. What a bunch of hypocrites.

http://www.weac.org/news/2007-08/dec07/fmla.htm

Anonymous said...

anon 1:02 PM -

I never heard of that before and I would think that Public Schools are very careful about things like that because of equal treatment requirements.

I don't think they can say that they'll assist one parent in educating there child at home and say that they won't do the same for another.

Our blog host is a lawyer and maybe can provide more insight on that.

The more I read the worse I feel for the people affected by this decision. Was this decision based on the law or other considerations?

I support our teachers and don't want to do anything that would hurt them, but it appears these people really want there help. I don't know all the reasons why people won't send there kids to the schools but it is something that I would like to hear more about.

Roland Melnick said...

Mikey, how can you call yourself a progressive when you so staunchly support the status quo? I read your entire post Mike and was not the least bit surprised to see you totally gloss over the performance levels of the students of WIVA.

Not that I expect an honest answer, but how does that not factor into this equation?

Once again, you are playing the role of the loyal shyster who can craft an argument for/against anything. You quote technicalities like some bureaucrat, but we all see through your smoke. Your socialist diatribe against WIVA and K12 is nothing more than hollow grandstanding on behalf of your Party allies, unionized teachers.

Kudos to the many good posts made here by fraley, elrond, various anonymouses and others.

WEAC and their minions do not want to make this an examination into whether or not the students of WIVA are doing well. It's an easy thing for them to do, since student wellness/performance is at least 4th or 5th on their list of priorities.

Other Side said...

It's an easy thing for them to do, since student wellness/performance is at least 4th or 5th on their list of priorities.

Talk about hollow grandstanding.

Mike Plaisted said...

There is a question in the midst here whether teachers can make home visits. Of course they can, and many do. I know many teachers who will visit a home out of concern for a child's performance or attendance. I'm not sure whether they would actually do it to tutor -- I don't know any teachers who would have time for that -- but nothing prevents it that I am aware of.

The performance of the highly-motivated home-schoolers who are taking advantage of the K12/WIVA tax-funded support is not surprising and assumed by all parties. But the courts can't just say "they're successful, therefore we can ignore the law". This is more than a technicality -- state law simply does not allow for taxpayer support for home-schooling, no matter how cleverly K12/WIVA tried to shoe-horn it into the charter school-open-enrollment law.

I'm sure the WIVA parents appreciate the program. They are getting the best home-schooling support money can buy, without having to buy it themselves. But the state legislature has to decide if they are going to support home-schooling in this manner. For various reasons, I say "no", but if you can get it done, good for you.

patrick said...

Mike:

There are tow other points you need to consider aside from the performance of the virtual school students. The first is the motivation of WEAC. Even they admit that these students are receiving a quality education--unlike many students in other schools. What are the motives of WEAC here? And why are they shielded from the type of criticism you heap on K12--another special interest here. If you believe that K12 is taking advantage of the situation, surely WEAC is too. Further, WEAC's actions ruin a situation that worked for many, and we have been content as a society to enforce some laws and not others. Secondly, as a public school teacher, I'd argue that home schooled students have every right to the $5200 or so dollars, since money clearly follows students, not buildings or districts in Wisconsin.

The person who mentioned that this is a progressive issue made a strong point as well. The virtual school was a solution, not a problem. WEAC was the big corporate interest that squashed it.

Anonymous said...

Mike, yes, they make home visits -- if students are in public schools. But that's a sad reason that some are not -- a few cases, as you may not know, of abusive parents pulling out their kids from public schools when teachers or school social workers see evidence of abuse and try to investigate it. This is only a small group, of course -- but no child is to be left behind to be abused. . . .

I would guess that WVA, with its public funding, did mean that those parents could not block access to the site of their schooling, their homes. And that is an aspect of accountability that may have been lost by North Ozaukee's poor structuring of its virtual school so as to run afoul of the law. So it may be worthwhile for wise heads to get together and come up with a way to do this within the law -- for one thing, to ensure safety of the few students who parents may have run afoul of abuse laws and just ran for homeschooling for the wrong reasons.

Whether WVA, with its limited interaction of teachers and students for an hour a week or so, also paid anything for school social workers to be involved with these students on site would seem doubtful. But perhaps a restructuring of WVA within the law in terms of teacher-student contact also could include some funding for other services provided by public schools, such as home visits by teachers -- and others.

Mike Plaisted said...

Thanks, Patrick, for defining our progressive issues for us. You'll excuse me if I let those things be sorted out by actual progressives. Be that as it may, I know how some progressives -- particularly those doing home-schooling -- think that Wisconsin's liberal home-schooling law should be supplemented by public funds. Other will disagree. I certainly do.

But at least we are making progress. You are the first commenter, Patrick, who has admitted that the K12/WIVA scheme is simply support for home-schooling. I hope to expand on this in a new post sometime this weekend, but the state needs to make an eyes-wide-open determination about whether it is going to do that and, if so, to what extent, rather than ignore the law (please make a list of other laws you would like to see ignored) by rubber-stamping this bastardization of the charter/open-enrollment law.

That determination stands on its own as a policy issue, regardless of what WEAC on one side and the Bradley Foundation/K12/MSR say or do.

What the right-wing does in these situations is try to prevent advancement of a policy position by pointing to who supports or opposes it. The WEAC membership has its own reasons for protecting public schools from well-funded attacks like "choice" and the K12/WIVA scheme. That doesn't make them wrong. And I know for a fact that the interest of WEAC's membership is more than financial -- they are genuinely concerned with the quality and availability of public education in Wisconsin. The same cannot be said of the K12 profiteers.

Like I said, I'll get into this more later, but those who make the choice to ditch the public schools for home-schooling are often brave, committed people who are trying to do the best for their kids. But part of the committment and the price for that choice means that public funds won't be available -- any more than it would be for those who choose private schools (outside of Milwaukee).

Anonymous said...

"What people do in the privacy of their own lives as adults is their business. If they bring it into the public square and ask me as a taxpayer to support it or to endorse it, then it becomes a matter of public discussion and discourse."

An apt quote from a conservative presidential candidate -- although he was talking about gay marriage (and about quarantining people with AIDS).

Steve said...

We can agree to disagree, but I maintain that there are important distinctions between public virtual schools and home-schooling.

Unlike WIVA, home-schooling parents are not required to use or follow any approved curriculum, nor do they have any interaction with public school teachers. Due to this and more, home-schooled students are not subject to the same academic accountability.

WIVA students in contrast use and follow a curriculum approved by NOSD that meets state standards. WIVA students are required to meet with WEAC dues-paying teachers and are taught and evaluated by those same teachers. WIVA students are then held to the same standards as other public school students, by taking the same standardized tests.

Said another way, by any measure, WIVA is not "state funded home schooling" because 1) WIVA students are held to the same curriculum, 2) are taught and tested by WEAC paying teachers, and 3) held to the same level of academic accountability.

The stated and obvious mission of Wisconsin public schools is to insure all students have access to high quality educational programs and are held to high standards. This is happening by design at WIVA and other virtual academies. Fulfilling that mission is not at all guaranteed with home-schooling.

Mike Plaisted said...

Steve:

K12/WIVA isn't any less support for home-schooling just because it's really good support. The only reason there are administrators in the district and certified teachers involved at all is to try to skirt the law. It didn't and shouldn't work. A "school" that, by necessity, cannot function without the basic structure of home-schooling is not a school -- it's support for home-schooling.

Anonymous said...

If I read one more convoluted argument trying to explain why WVA, which is in homes and is schooling, somehow is not home-schooling . . . well, it's all evidence that some parents could benefit from a course in logic. Or at least a course in rhetoric and persuasion.

Steve said...

"Anonymous" and Mike, it's clear we're talking two different things when we say "home schooling".


I'm referring to the traditional home school "movement" as supported by WPA and the HSLDA. The traditional movement rejects government mandated curriculum, oversight and testing.

You're referring to the generic concept that it is education that is physically occuring in the home.

I agree with you: virtual academies support education that is physically occuring in a home.

Virtual academies, despite the delivery method, fulfill the mission of public education.

The question is whether alternate delivery methods of public curriculum, oversight and testing are ever acceptable.

To be clear, is there a place for the government to fund education that doesn't have the student's butt in a seat in a school building?

borges said...

"student's butt in a seat in a school building"...that is a good one. And as a homeschooling family that has had one of my kids jump ship and join a public virtual school, I can confirm that the virtual school is completely different than real homeschooling. She answers to her teachers, who make the assignments, grade her progress and call all the shots. It is truly public schooling. If I have an idea for primary sources my kid should read in history, or an interesting experiment for Biology, too bad for me. Obviously I'm not enthusiastic about public education as a one way stream of information and expertise, but there you have it. Welcome to the big house.

So don't anyone confuse virtual public schooling and homeschooling. They are completely different world.

Anonymous said...

Okay, thanks -- the terms help a lot to distinguish the difference.

But then, I've read homeschooling parents also upset about this in posts on blogs. That seems out of line and only muddling the line you draw between the two.

The court case was about virtual public schooling. The ruling does not threaten homeschooling. Got it now. Hope the homeschooling parents understand that, too.

Roland Melnick said...

Why do you say these kids are "taking advantage" of taxpayer support? Don't all kids in public schools, and even some private ones, "take advantage" of taxpayer support?