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Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Report: Virtual schools lack solid oversight

April 25, 2007

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State auditors Tuesday posted warnings on the explosive increase of virtual schools in Kansas.

Because students don't have to be physically present to attend a virtual school, this form of education creates the risk of abuse in the form of manipulating student performance and state funding, the report by the Legislative Division of Post Audit warned.

The report found that Mullinville, a small district in southwestern Kansas, had "given" 130 of its virtual students to three nearby districts to count as their students for funding purposes.

While the effect of that situation was in dispute, the audit stated, "Kansas' actual oversight of virtual schools is weak."

The audit recommended that lawmakers conduct a full study of virtual schools after the legislative session "to preserve the integrity and promise of this alternative form of education."

"I think we have some problems," said state Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, a member of the Legislative Post-Audit Committee, which recommended more study.

Acting Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said the Department of Education would increase staffing to monitor virtual schools.

Kansas has 28 virtual schools with a total enrollment of about 2,000 students, up from 60 students from the 1998-99 school year, when the first virtual school was formed. The number of virtual students represents less than half a percent of the state's 440,000 students, but that number is growing.

The Lawrence Virtual School, which began in 2004, has about 510 students in its kindergarten through eighth-grade program, and 75 students in its virtual high school.

The audit cited no problems with Lawrence's operations. But the report focused on the lack of oversight by the state in determining whether virtual school students were being properly counted for funding purposes and properly monitored to ensure the students were getting a sound education.

Lawrence Superintendent Randy Weseman said he thought Lawrence's virtual program was doing a good job.

"This is not just e-mailing each other," Weseman said.

He said virtual school students still must take tests and meet with teachers.

"Our primary goal isn't to grow bigger and recruit," he said. "We're just trying to serve our own kids. It's an alternative form of education."

To view the audit on virtual schools go to www.kslegislature.org/postaudit and click on "K-12 Education: Reviewing Issues Related to Virtual Schools."

Comments

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

The devil is in the details.

Well well well we must be careful and not read too much into this. The last time the state was brought into this matter about 5 years ago was because CHECK, a fundamentalist Christian Kansas homeschool organization, was concerned about the oversight. They busted the program for spending money with Bob Jones University specifically for one family per a request from that family for school supplies.

Could it be "christian" students are being lured towards another educational opportunity thus not "enrolling" through them? Like the last time this group protested and shut down a well organized system that did monitor the students? Wichita legislators were the ones that led to that program getting axed.

Same concerns have just returned to the surface. Actually homeschool students are tested daily by the virtue of extreme parent involvement. Homeschool parents do not need to wait for grade cards.

Archie 7 years, 8 months ago

Lawrence Superintendent Randy Weseman said he thought Lawrence's virtual program was doing a good job.

"This is not just e-mailing each other," Weseman said.

He said virtual school students still must take tests and meet with teachers.

"Our primary goal isn't to grow bigger and recruit," he said. "We're just trying to serve our own kids. It's an alternative form of education."

Dear Mr. Superintendent, if your not recruiting why are only about 70 of the 600+ virtual students from Lawrence?

acarlson 7 years, 8 months ago

My son attends the Lawrence Virtual School as a senior instead of finishing his education at Lawrence High. He is very bright and has learned to work independently and in a networked situation with his teachers, much like we do in the professional work force.

There is a lot of communication and one on one interaction with his teachers, far more than when he attended regular public high school. He is very motivated, has learned how to do sound engineering, is on a record label in Japan, and tours with his band. Because of his motivations, the virtual school has been a God send to us this year.

The virtual school does a great job in communicating with parents and students. It fills a need for students that have other opportunities in their lives that don't fit the 9-3 school day. I can see where the virtual school fits a lot of different educational circumstances that involve hardships, emotional issues, travel, etc..

I suggest that before criticism of the nature that is in this forum, that you get informed. Online education is here to stay, in public education, university, and professional capacities.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps this virtual school in Mullinville is pissed because its' students want to go elsewhere.

http://www.mullinville.org/21stCLA.htm

21st Century Learning Academy Charter School

200 Main Mullinville, Kansas 67109 (620) 548-2289 or (877) 685-5468 Fax: (620) 548-2389

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

FYI- There are a few excellent virtual/homeschool programs out there. My wife was an "instructor" for a Waldorf based program which also involved USA families living abroad.

A few of these programs have some depth and creativity to them. Then again not every family should be homeschooling.

prioress 7 years, 8 months ago

The supervision issue is related to money, of course. If a school wants reimbursement from the state, they should prove their virtual program is good enough to get it. Some virtual schools and many home schools are excellent; others are not. Someone needs to figure out the difference and the only organization with legal and regulatory authority to do so is KSDE.

Steve Jacob 7 years, 8 months ago

Another FYI, If you read the story in the KC Star today, the report was much harsher then the way it reads in the JLW. "There's virtually no oversight," said Sen. Nick Jordan, a Shawnee Republican."

http://www.kansascity.com/105/story/82849.html

fed_up 7 years, 8 months ago

The Lawrence VS requires proof of residency in Kansas, (copy of mortgage, driver's license, utility bill etc.) a birth certificate, immunization records, and transcripts before they will enroll your child. Do other virtual schools not do this?

At LVS, parents still pay tuition fees and every Friday the kids have the opportunity to go to the school for art, drama, P.E, and interaction with other students. (not required though) The parents are required to stay on the grounds during this time so it's not used as daycare or errand time for the parent.

You can email or call a teacher at any time if you have questions about assignments. You can even make an appointment and load up your stuff and take it down to the school to meet with a teacher if something is particularly complicated for your student to grasp.

The parents, are REQUIRED to have a phone conference weekly or bi-weekly with your child's virtual teacher to assess any problems or ask any questions. (can't remember if it was weekly or bi weekly though)

If your student takes the chapter test and gets below 80%, the student has to re-read the chapter and look over their work and then retake the test until they get it right and see where they are making their mistakes. (What a fabulous way to ensure they really do know the work instead of flunking them and moving on to the next chapter where so often the understanding of the previous chapter is extremely important!)

The child's daily work (in a workbook or sometimes printed pages or essays or research papers) can be requested at any time by LVS, so the kid had better be doing the work and doing it themselves.

The kids enrolled are still required to take state assessments as well.

The program is designed to make sure the student completes each level. For instance, if your child transfers in December to LVS after attending a regular public school, they have to start at page 1. They do not just get to jump in where the parent thinks their child left off. They must also reach a certain percentage of completion of the program to go on to the next grade. Also, a certain degree of progress has to be made EACH week to maintain enrollment at LVS or the student may be forced to go back to regular school or find another option.

Sounds to me like LVS is doing it right! Thank you LVS for being here!!

RightinLawrence 7 years, 8 months ago

Fed...sounds like lots more than my high school student gets from the teachers at LHS...I can't get them to even give me a grade update or return e-mails!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

There are legislators who do not know what they are talking about and seem to be responding to a disgruntled party out there somewhere. Some district must be losing students so they should improve their offerings.

Virtual school would be better than kids spending 2 or three hours on a school bus. If it's a western Kansas school district remember it is YOUR legislators who DO NOT see the value in local schools and will not fund them.

fed_up 7 years, 8 months ago

I am probably extremely biased on LVS. We home schooled because it was better than the alternative.....my child was giving up on their education early on because of a teacher, a couple of students that were just bad eggs, and rules/expectations that didn't come close to being healthy for a child at that age level. (Lots of rules are decided at the building level) Several other paents put their children in private school instead of going the LVS route, but we truly could not afford that, and we're not members of any church that would help or give us a discount. We did LVS for 1 year then my child was confident enough that they went back to public school, but a different public school. My kid is doing great now, so LVS has my gratitude forever. It gave my child confidence, motivation and an almost anxiety free education that year. Not every family can home school, but they made it easier and it can be done at whatever time of day is convenient....we were lucky and it worked fabulously! Without the LVS option, I'm not sure what might have happened to us. Even though it was a lot of work on our part to teach the assignments, I am convinced that it saved us. Plus, I relearned some things in History and Science that I had completely forgotten! = )

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