Online schools go after ‘cyber-truants’

Minnesota’s online schools are pursuing cyber-truants, reports AP.

Stacy Bender, dean of students at Minneapolis-based Minnesota Virtual High School, uses software that analyzes the time students spend on lessons and their progress, so slackers are identified and quick learners aren’t penalized. She runs a web site on fighting cyber-truancy.

When a Minnesota school considers a student habitually truant, it’s legally obligated to notify the authorities in the students’ home county — meaning an online school may work with all 87 Minnesota counties. The notification triggers a process that typically includes meetings between educators, county officials and the student’s family to write a court-approved plan to get the student back to school. Violators can be sentenced to community service or fined. In very rare cases, parents can lose custody of the child.

State truancy law was written to force students to show up at bricks-and-mortar schools and has to be “interpreted” to go after online students who stop doing the work. With online enrollment growing, Minnesota legislators are working on updating the law.


Online students fall behind, transfer

Colorado’s online K-12 students fall behind their former classmates and often quit virtual schools to go back to brick-and-mortar classrooms, reports EdNews Colorado. The state compensates schools based on enrollment in the fall, so students bring no funding to their old schools if they give up on virtual schooling after a few months.

According to an I-News/EdNews analysis, half of Colorado’s online students quit within a year. Most lose ground on reading and math scores.  (See snapshots of the state’s five largest online programs.)

Online schools produce three times as many dropouts as they do graduates. One of every eight online students drops out of school permanently – a rate four times the state average.

. . . most are not struggling academically when they leave their traditional schools. Among the 2,400 online students who had taken a state standardized reading test in a brick-and-motor school the year before, the analysis showed that more than half had scored proficient or better.

At Branson Online School, one of the state’s oldest online programs, students beat the statewide average in proficiency in reading and were six percentage points short in math.

(Assistant Superintendent Judith) Stokes said growth slowed when the school focused on ensuring families understood the online program before enrolling because, “If you’re looking for easy, it’s not us.”

Full-time online students are exceptionally mobile in Ohio, as well, writes Bill Tucker on Education Next. He worries if teen-agers understand what they’re getting into when they sign up for a virtual school.


Report: Aid to adult students is essential

We’re running low on high school graduates, a new report predicts. College aid for “nontraditional” students  is essential to build a skilled workforce.

The never-seen, all-online student is rare. Most online students are on-site students too.

Bridges to college success

Bridge programs — often created by employers — are springing up to help adults learn the academic skills they need to succeed in college job training programs.

As part of National Journal’s discussion, Steve Peha of Teaching That Makes Sense rejects “bridges” to “readiness.” He argues that if the bridge programs are so great at teaching low-skilled adults their expertise should be used in K-12 classes so we don’t produce more low-skilled adults. And if the would-be bridgers have no special expertise, what’s the point of adding another layer to the education system?

In my response, I write:

Basic skills instruction tends to be more effective when it’s part of job training.  Adults are likely to be more motivated in industry-sponsored programs directly linked to a future job than they’d be in the traditional community college remedial class. So, let’s try the bridge concept and see if it works.

However, our real problem is not that older people forget academic skills when they’re years out of high school. The problem is that many people never master reading, writing and ‘rithmetic in the first place. A lot of 18-year-olds are on the wrong side of the academic gulch.

Maybe we need a “bridge” from third grade to fourth grade and fifth grade to sixth grade and eighth grade to ninth grade and . . . Well, I hate to beat a good metaphor to death. We need to get serious about teaching K-12 students so they’ll be able to learn as adults.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Online students need to learn academic computing skills — and it’s not just the older, returning students who are struggling, instructors say.  Johnny can use social media and play games, but doesn’t know how to format a term paper or do an Internet search.