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  • The NYT Online Learning Smear Campaign

    Last week The New York Times published what can only be described as a “hit piece” against online learning and leading virtual education provider K12 Inc. Light on evidence and heavy on word count, author Stephanie Saul levels allegations of bloated class sizes, underpaid teachers, and unsupervised learning environments.

    Online learning meets a wide range of student learning needs, is customizable, and is unrestricted by geographic boundaries. But the Times’s piece overlooks these advantages, failing to interview, for example, the student with disabilities who can work at his own pace or the student in a rural state who would never have had access to AP physics or Mandarin Chinese if it weren’t for online options. Instead, Saul dismisses the benefits that virtual education holds for so many students.

    The growth of for-profit online schools, one of the more overtly commercial segments of the school choice movement, is rooted in the theory that corporate efficiencies combined with the Internet can revolutionize public education, offering high quality at reduced cost.

    Tom Vander Ark, a director for the International Association of K12 Online Learning, writes of the Times’s article:

    The sensational barrage is against K12, the online learning provider, but it really isn’t about the company. It’s the shift from print to digital, the shift from place to service, and the emergence of the private sector as an important partner in the delivery of public education.

    The backlash from the Times is not unlike that from education unions, who view online learning as a direct threat to their power. But while the Times and the National Education Association may lament the growing availability of choice in education, families are fighting for more school choice options, including online learning.

    Online learning is certainly not for every student. But the principle behind it is: At its core, this is a movement about choice. And that’s why opponents have reacted so vehemently to it.

    The existing public education system, practically devoid of choice for millions of American families, is the antithesis of what online learning has the potential to produce: an education tailor-made for the individual student.

    Thankfully, changes in education financing (which include permitting dollars to follow children to the school of their choice) and rapidly advancing technology have made better educational options of a family’s choosing within reach. And many families have already made this choice.

    The Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi writes about the opportunity online learning is providing children in National Review Online and highlights a video of Rocketship Academy, a blended learning school that leverages online learning in combination with the traditional classroom. Out of 3,000 low-income schools in California, Rocketship is the fifth-highest-performing.

    Rocketship’s performance is consistent with findings released in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Education. In a meta-analysis of more than 1,000 empirical studies on virtual learning, it found that “online learning has been modestly more effective, on average, than the traditional face-to-face instruction with which it has been compared.”

    Every day, the customization of education is evolving as more and more online learning options proliferate and state education leaders work to free resources to help increase access for families. The shift toward online learning is a shift in the delivery of education. It’s a guarantee of access to educational opportunity and a giant leap toward providing a vast array of options for families.

    Posted in Education, Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    17 Responses to The NYT Online Learning Smear Campaign

    1. Bobbie says:

      This shuts up a lot of complaints from the public educated government union teachers who won't work up to their expected standards because they can't get enough benefits for themselves. Less cost, classes of any size, no bullying, no over-staffing, no unfair or unearned wages, no discrimination, no social engineering, no limitations on intelligence, no need for free (tax paid): gas guzzling bus rides, breakfasts, lunch, dinners and NO EXPLOITATION OF AMERICA'S CHILDREN FOR POLITICAL GAIN! what political party would hold children back from this great and independent opportunity?

    2. Dennis Beck says:

      The problem with this post is that it only tells some of the truth. Online schools do provide a less expensive option, but it is often at the cost of quality. K12 Inc., for example, has a less than stellar reputation. But the point is, that their reputation is due to their nature – they are a for-profit company. Can we really expect a for-profit company to NOT try to make the most money? Of course not. And sometimes, making the most money does not mean giving kids the highest quality of education.

      I am all for giving students choice, and actually, I teach online full time. But asking a meat-eater to suddenly begin to eat vegetables is probably asking too much. And asking a for-profit company to fore go profits in order to provide a high quality education probably is too.

      • Bobbie says:

        Dennis, you write "making the most money does not mean giving kids the highest quality of education?" we learn that the hard way through the public education system. for years now known, public educators are highly paid with benefits and paid by hire not performance. the results are in today's society and in the actions of the youth. Most children today are unable to grasp common sense because all of what children do is accepted not corrected, for government tax paid programs sake. You may be an educator but I'm a parent with children who have to be taught what they should already know.

        If it's "for profit" tells me there's accountability to which no one I know in government education holds themselves to without their expenses paid through tax dollars to fight to defend themselves from what they're accountable for and then they're still not justifiably penalized for their violations and aren't held to the expense they've caused and are still paid even though their violation is cited. I have no trust where there is no reason to trust unconstitutional government. "unconstitutional" deems the government corrupt! unreal…

      • Muvaffak GOZAYDIN says:

        Dear Dennis
        It is a matter of trust . With your logic car companies also do not produce highest quality of cars in order to make more money . Then do not buy cars . K12 Inc is the best company to provide the online contents in the world . Sure they have to make money in order to live up . But they do not live up at the expense of poor children .
        With your logic all American system is a shack . How can you live with that.
        be happy. Do not be pessimist .
        I try to make all schools( 60 million K12 students ) in the US to adopt K12 online courses. It is your luck and fortune.
        Also know that I do not work K12 even do not live in USA but I know K12 that good.
        Even you do not know what is good what is bad . It is sad .

    3. mgozaydin says:

      Unfortunately most people do not know what the online is .
      In online a child can learn one concept in 5 different way at no cost. A teacher can teach in only one way.

      An online courses can be adopted to any criteria of the child, fast learners, slow learners, learning better from pictures, from video, from doing the things or from voice and sound at almost no cost.
      Unfortunate thing is greedy capitalist companies who want to make a quick buck .
      We need vendors with morality and social responsibility.
      But as long as they find silent customers they keep going to make money .

      Thanks God, OWS is here to wake people up .

    4. allen says:


    5. DHarper says:

      Not to mention the efficiencies of providing possibly thousands of students with the very finest teachers.

    6. Lloyd Scallan says:

      What! You mean the New York Times is actually bias. What a shock!

    7. Caroline says:

      Thanks for the piece Lindsey. You are right- this is all about proving students and families with choice!

    8. A.Tyler says:

      One consideration no one seems to mention: if people (parents and children) weren't using curriculum provided by their states, they would be making up their own! Having done this both ways, I will admit that my curriculum was not even close to what is provided. Most people in these schools would homeschool anyway. Another thing that seems to get overlooked, what kind of parent takes time out of their precious schedules to teach their children instead of shipping them off to brick and mortar classrooms?

    9. Jill Thorne says:

      A lifelong educator and conservative living and working among liberals, I would be homeschooling my children today if they were still of school age. However, I would be providing them as many handson, real life experiences as possible. Any online resources I used would be just that, resources. With the exception of the few cases mentioned in the article, exclusively online learning is not a wise choice. Unfortunately, it is an easy and somewhat seductive choice. Blended learning, or real world learning blended with virtual learning, provides great opportunities for learners, however. The public, at this early stage, does not understand very well the quality of learning issues that are true problems with a steady diet of online learning.

    10. Dennis Beck says:

      love that you eliminated my post (coincidentally the only one that took the opposing position). Great job of bias.

    11. Lynn says:

      Today kids don't have the respect of others and bullying is just simply a way of life for them..K12 offers a great education without having to worry about how you child is being treated at school. Teachers are so busy teaching to the SOL's that they don't have time to watch what is happening in the schools. I watched for a 5 years my grand-daughter come home from school and cry because the way she was treated at school. Her fifth grade year was the worst. We even had to change her class to get a smile from her. The sad thing is the main trouble makers live in our neighborhood and can't stand the fact she isn't in regular school to keep up their behavior without parents to see.

    12. Collie123 says:

      Hey thats My school! That is yellow Journalism

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