Sunday, March 29, 2009

Virtual Schools - the good, the bad, and the ...

Virtual schools have exploded across the country with enrollment numbers doubling and tripling each year since the mid-1990's. Initially, virtual schools were a great tool for parents with home bound students with medical conditions to stay home while receiving an accredited education. They were also great for parents who wanted to be home school parents but didn't know how to provide all the academic tools and guidance as an educator. What began as a tool to help parents who either could not or did not want their children in a local public school, has become a "choice" in most states for any parent to take advantage of.

Most states that initially began with their own curriculum and programs have now turned over the keys to their virtual schools to larger companies like Connections Academy and K12. There are hundreds of virtual academies that work as a private school/institution, but these two companies work directly with the states and county school districts to provide a free public school education. However, there are a limited number of seats available and parents must apply early to guarantee a position for a year-long program.

Students typically receive a computer, a printer, and all coursework material when they are registered. Parents receive the name and contact information for their student's guidance counselor and a syllabus that the student will follow. Parents of elementary students will have a hands-on day-to-day responsibility. They will act as the teacher and walk the student through each of their assignments and tests then follow up with the guidance counselor. Parents of high school students can continue this roll, but most students at this stage are capable of following directions and maintaining their own course syllabus. Most high school students are self teaching and communicating directly with the guidance counselor.

Other expanded utilizations of virtual schools are for high school students who need to take make-up classes to meet graduation requirements or for students who want to take additional AP and college credit courses. The virtual schools allow these students to take these additional courses outside of their daily public school routines at no additional costs (once approved). For the students and parents that truly take full advantage of the virtual school's programs and its academic purposes, this is a winning scenario. It's a true benefit for them.

However, there are some pitfalls for parents to watch out for.

Many parents of elementary aged students simply don't want to send their kids off to school and feel it would be "easier" to do it themselves at home. However, without the ability to control a teaching environment in the home a student can quickly fall behind. If parents do not engage their children in other extra curricular activities, elementary aged students will not learn how to socialize with other children. It is also up to the parent to include a portion of their day for physical activity and art/music to maintain a balance of education. It is unfortunate that some parents take on more than they can handle to the detriment of the student.

High school students are a different scenario with many of the same concerns; most of these students are self-teaching while their parents are on the job. Parents put a lot of trust and faith in their children relying on them to complete the necessary requirements all on their own. It is even easier for a high school student taking algebra, biology, and literature as their core subjects to fall behind than it is for the elementary student learning how to multiple and divide. There is also always concern for the extra time on their hands and what they will choose to do with it. Making sure a teenager keeps their mind on their academics while on the computer instead of cyber chatting, twittering, myspace, gaming, or the hundreds of other internet lures awaiting them will tend to be a challenge.

There is always the good and bad in every situation. But one of my questions in our current economy, is "Is a virtual school paid for by public funding more or less finacially and fiscally responsible than the brick-and-mortar public schools?"

Saturday, March 21, 2009

“the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens..."

I absolutely agree with something our new president has said.

“Let there be no doubt,” Mr. Obama said, “the future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens – and my fellow Americans, we have everything we need to be that nation.”

This is why Obama is putting 97 billion dollars into the education system from his stimulus package. However, there is some controversy over the "equation" used to disperse these billions of dollars. While no school district is complaining about the extra funds, they do wonder why some districts are receiving $2000 per student while others are barely receivin,g $1200. We have schools where students share books and never get to take them home, while other schools are providing lap-top computers for their students. How does this happen?

Eighty billion of the ninety-seven billion dollars will be distributed over the next two years, starting in the next few weeks, directly to the state governments which will then distribute allocations to each of its school districts. There's no direct mention of how this money is to be spent. We can guess that there will be less teacher lay-offs, less school closings, and more books in the less fortunate districts, but what will the schools do with the money when their students already have lap-top computers? Will these kids get the choice of steak at lunch?

It's reported that the reason for this discrepancy is the "Equation." The equation used to decide who gets how much is old and outdated, but the government wants to get the funds out to the schools NOW. Doesn't this seem like the "band-aide" effect. Let's just slap something on the boo-boo and make people happy? What happened to taking some time, analyzing the situation, and making a well-thought-out decision? Are schools going to close their doors if they don't get this extra money right now? I mean let's be reasonable; can't the schools wait just a couple of months?

This sounds like another great idea gone bad.

There is no doubt that education needs more funding. There is no doubt that President Obama is doing something good for education. And there is no doubt that educating our kids today leads us to a stronger nation tomorrow...

But shouldn't the educated people in government today come up with a better "Equation" to distribute the stimulus money to school districts with less discrepancies?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Illegal Immigrants in our Schools

This issue is tough morally, ethically, religiously, economically, name it.

"Every child has the right to an education." Our government holds true to this statement. No child should be turned away from our schools if they want to learn.

Did you know? School administrators are not allowed to ask a parent enrolling their child(ren) in a public school for the first time if they are illegal immigrants.


  • Pro - No child should be labeled an "illegal immigrant" only to be segregated and chastised by others in the school due to a decision made by their parents and not their own.

  • Con - These students are receiving all of the same benefits including special governmental funds as American Citizens because they are not classified as different from the rest of the student body.

Did you know? The number of illegal immigrants in our schools rose 60% from 1995 to 2005.


  • Con - Over crowded classrooms. Every student loses in this situation. It was hard enough for teachers to control their students' attention in classrooms with 15 students; now many schools across the US have classroom sizes of up to 28 students.

  • Con - Over crowding leads to the need for building new schools.

Did you know? It is the American tax dollar that is supporting illegal immigrant students in school.

Comments: Cost of a Child

  • Con - In most districts the dollars allocated per student are between $2200 - $3500 each year for books, materials, and admin. costs.

  • Con - Many illegal immigrant students receive Free or Reduced lunches. This is in addition to the student allocation. It is reported that during the 2007-2008 school year the average free lunch cost $2.66 a day. A free lunch can cost upwards of $500 per student per school year.

  • Con - Many of these students do not speak English and are receiving additional services through the No Child Left Behind act of up to $1800 a year.

  • Just one illegal immigrant coming from a family not paying income tax can take between $4500 - $5500 of our American Tax dollars away from other students.

Comments: Additional Cost for Teachers/Curriculum

  • Con - Some schools have so many non-English speaking illegal immigrants they have had to hire additional ESOL teachers for their school. Not only additional teachers, but additional materials, and they have even rearranged the school day to add additional ESOL classes due to the shear number of students in these classes.

  • Con - Supporting the needs of this special group of children is taking funds away from other programs already in place for the school's American students.

My Opinion. I guess while putting down a few thoughts, I have come to one. Allow all students to attend public schools regardless of their citizenship. However, the administration should be required to know if the student is an illegal alien without any other faculty members knowing. Students with this status should not be allowed to receive any other governmental program dollars. They should have the right to attend school without receiving any additional benefits from governmental programs; American tax dollars should only be spent on the American students. There is not enough money in the federal budget to help all the students that are eligible for the No Child Left Behind program as it is.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cutting corners, cutting budgets, cutting what cost?

It seems that all we ever read about in the news today is cutting cost. No matter what school district you go to, they are all "losing" funds in the MILLIONS. They are closing schools, laying-off teachers, pulling "art" classes from the curriculum, no longer offering sports and extra-curricular activities, changing the school's hours to save on electricity and it goes on ...

Are we teaching kids or running a business? It sounds like the same types of budget-cuts that are happening in businesses across America.

To me it sounds like we have decided to down-size education!

When they cut these costs, how does it effect our childrens' education? Who decided that art/drama/music is not as important as geography, literature, or biology? Where would our society be without people with careers in the arts? Personally, I think it would be quite bleak.

Providing students with extra-curricular sports is an educational experience. Allowing students to participate in sports teaches them to make their own choices, to learn how to schedule their own time, to work with others as a team, and sometimes a chance to learn from their own mistakes. If we take away these after school options, we are taking away more than you think. We eliminate education that happens outside the classroom.

So after we take away the sports and the arts, let's close up the schools so the students can't stay late to receive extra help from teachers or peers. Let's eliminate library resources and science labs. Let's elminate all club activities like National Honor Society, Future Teachers of America, and Future Farmers of America; oh, let's not forget the National Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp. We don't need students joining the clubs to help determine what they want to do after they leave high school. Is it just me, or does this sound down right idiotic?

Taking away from our childrens' education is the worse place to cut costs.

On a side-note, if we don't produce well-rounded, think-for-themselves, adults of the next generation, who is going to make the intelligent decisions to get us out of the next economic crisis? We are having enough trouble trying to figure our way out of one now.