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Invisible Schools, Invisible Success

Invisible Schools, Invisible Success

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Published by ProgressTX
Progress Texas examines the virtual school movement in Texas and its ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).
Progress Texas examines the virtual school movement in Texas and its ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: ProgressTX on May 22, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/17/2013

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Invisible Schools, Invisible Success
How ALEC Promotes Virtual School ProfitsOver State Standards & Student Success
“Performance at cyber charter schools was substantially
lower than the performance at brick and mortar charterswith 100% of cyber charters performing significantly worsethan their traditional public school counterparts in both
reading and math.”
 
 –
 
Charter School Performance in Pennsylvania” 
 Stanford University, April 2011
“ 
A portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeezeprofits from public school dollars by raising enrollment,increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.
” 
 
– 
 
“Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools” 
 New York Times, 12/12/11
May 2012
 
 2
I
NTRODUCTION
 
In Texas, virtual schools are operated through the Texas Virtual School Network, whichis run by the Texas Education Agency. As the Texas Tribune explains
1
:
Through the Texas Virtual School Network, two dozen school districts, community colleges and universities offer online coursesin which students across the state can enroll. To develop thecurriculum, the districts can subcontract with private companies,universities or even other districts.Starting in third grade, Texas students can also go to virtual school  full time [at] what [are] now three campuses operated out of bothtraditional and charter school districts. The Texas Education Agency has the ultimate authority to approve the courses for boththe online schools and the virtual school network, though the
network’s operations take place in a service center in Houston.
 
Virtual schools are popular because they are profitable.
Estimates show that “
revenues from the K-12 online learning industry will grow by 43 percent between 2010 and 2015, withrevenues reaching $24.4 billion.
More than 200,000 K-12 students are enrolled in full-timevirtual schools across the country; when expanded to all students enrolled in at least onecourse, the number explodes to 2,000,000.
2
The more children enrolled in virtual schools, thegreater the profit for the companies
 –
especially now thatretiring Republican Senator Florence Shapiro has passed alaw that requires the same amount of taxpayer dollars goto virtual school students as students attending traditionalschools.
3
This for-profit scheme was supported by thePublic Education Committee Chairs in both the House andthe Senate
 –
Senator Florence Shapiro and StateRepresentative Rob Eissler
 –
each of who
sit on ALEC’s
Education Task Force.With the support of the American LegislativeExchange Council (ALEC) and the Texas Public PolicyFoundation (TPPF)
 –
which serves as a home away fromhome for ALEC here in Texas
 –
for-profit education companies are attacking Texas publicschools, promoting virtual schools, and putting profits ahead of the education needs of Texaschildren.
1
 
“Online Classes Booming, But With Red Flags.”
Texas Tribune
2
 
“Why is Public Education Being Outsourced to Online Charter Schools?”
 AlterNet 
3
Senate Bill 1. 1
st
Called Special Session of the 82
nd
Texas Legislature. http://bit.ly/JJHTaL 
The Public EducationCommittee Chairs inboth the House and theSenate
– 
Senator Florence Shapiro and Representative RobEissler 
– 
 
sit on ALEC’s
Education Task Force. 
 
 3
In December 2004, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) approved the
“Virtual Public Schools Act.”
4
That model bill sparked a rush by private companies to embracevirtual schools and virtual learning across the country. Today, there are more than 230nationwide accredited private virtual schools in the country.
5
 In 2007, the virtual school wave prompted theunanimous passage of Senate Bill 1788 in Texas,creating the Virtual School Network. The networkwas originally created to facilitate online learning inTexas classrooms and support virtual schools acrossthe state. The state of Texas sends taxpayer dollars tothese schools, to keep them open and operated, eventhough the full-time virtual schools are run by for-profit companies. Almost five years after it wasestablished, the Virtual School Network
 –
along withvirtual schools across the country
 –
remainsunproven and unaccountable to Texas taxpayers.
Here in Texas, the Texas Virtual Academy failed to meet state standards for two years.
 Yet rather than being shut down or forced to change its methods, the virtual school wasallowed to continue operating without question due to a loophole in state law that allowed theTexas Virtual Academy to simply be reinstituted into a different charter school system, withouthaving to undergo any changes.
6
 Virtual schools are underperforming in similar ways occur across the country. A recent
study by Stanford University’s Ce
nter for Research on Education Outcomes found that 100% of virtual schools in Pennsylvania performed significantly worse than traditional public schools inreading and math.
7
Over half the students at Ohio Virtual Academy dropped out by the end of the 2010-2011 school year.
8
Why are virtual schools and virtual learning programs so oftentrumpeted as the savior to education?
Invisible Schools, Invisible Success
is a report that attempts to collect and explain themoving pieces of the virtual school movement in Texas, and how ALEC and TPPF are promotingfailed learning techniques at the expense of Texas students and taxpayers. The report examineswho is promoting virtual schools through ALEC, how those corporations are tied to Texas, theevolution of virtual schools in Texas, and why virtual schools don
’t work.
 
4
 
“Virtual Public Schools Act.”
 ALEC EXPOSED
, a site by the Center for Media and Democracy. http://bit.ly/JwI6gc 
5
 
“List of Virtual Schools.”
Wikipedia
. Accessed 5/14/12. http://bit.ly/Kapxux 
6
 
“Virtual Schools, Virtually Unregulated.”
Texas Observer 
7
 
“Charter School Performance in Pennsylvania.” Center for Research on Education Outcomes, April 2011.
8
 
“K12 Manifesting Its Corporate Destiny.”
Seeking Alpha
Almost five years after it wasestablished, the Virtual SchoolNetwork
 –
along with virtualschools across the country
 –
 remains unproven andunaccountable to Texastaxpayers.
 

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