Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 8:51 pm

For-profit education: The “bugs” are features

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 8:51 pm
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I’m not saying for-profit education can’t benefit students. It probably can, if investors are willing to bake that feature into their business model. But I’m pretty sure that that feature is not baked into any existing model:

By almost every educational measure, the Agora Cyber Charter School is failing.

Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.

By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers.

Agora is one of the largest in a portfolio of similar public schools across the country run by K12. Eight other for-profit companies also run online public elementary and high schools, enrolling a large chunk of the more than 200,000 full-time cyberpupils in the United States. …

The New York Times has spent several months examining this idea, focusing on K12 Inc. A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed.

Instead, a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.

Current and former staff members of K12 Inc. schools say problems begin with intense recruitment efforts that fail to filter out students who are not suited for the program, which requires strong parental commitment and self-motivated students. Online schools typically are characterized by high rates of withdrawal.

Teachers have had to take on more and more students, relaxing rigor and achievement along the way, according to interviews. While teachers do not have the burden of a full day of classes, they field questions from families, monitor students’ progress and review and grade schoolwork. Complaints about low pay and high class loads — with some high school teachers managing more than 250 students — have prompted a unionization battle at Agora, which has offices in Wayne, Pa.

A look at a forthcoming study by researchers at Western Michigan University and the National Education Policy Center shows that only a third of K12’s schools achieved adequate yearly progress, the measurement mandated by federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

No one could have predicted, right? It was absolutely inconceivable that private, for-profit companies would take tax money and not act in the public interest. It would have been impossible to see that coming. But we want to drug-test people getting unemployment benefits.

“What we’re talking about here is the financialization of public education,” said Alex Molnar, a research professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education who is affiliated with the education policy center. “These folks are fundamentally trying to do to public education what the banks did with home mortgages.”

Because that worked out so well and all.

Look, folks, this might be the most important, overarching issue of our time in this country: The IGMFY folks want to steal everything. Everything. And they’re using the power of government to do it. They stole our retirement, they stole our home equity, they’re doing their damnedest to steal our Social Security and now they’re going after the money we spend to educate our children. Enough is never enough with these people, and this crap will keep on until they have taken everything we have or until we bust them in the chops hard enough to make them stop and send them whimpering back into their corners.

And even if we can do that once, we’ll have to watch out forever. Because they will be back. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and that vigilance needs a 360-degree field of fire.

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