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Michigan Senate Approves More 'Cyber Schools'

Vote also removes other limits; still needs approval from House of Representatives before going before Gov. Rick Snyder.

A package of education bills sponsored by Michigan Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, got a green light from the Senate, according to a statement released by Colbeck's office Thursday afternoon.

Senate Bill 619, which lifts the cap on cyber schools for Michigan students in kindergarten through 12th grade was approved by the Senate but must also be approved by the House of Representatives before going to Gov. Rick Snyder to be signed.

While Senate Bill 619 removes restrictions on cyber schools statewide

But the measure could cost the state more, according to a non-partisan analysis of the bill submitted to the legislature on Oct. 6. That report indicates that online classes could attract students who never attended public schools or have dropped out, meaning state per-pupil funding could increase by a minimum of $6,846 per student, based on 2011-12 figures.

Colbeck said cyber schools could individually tailor classes to each student's needs "while providing increased one-on-one communication with a teacher.”

The bill requires that news cyber schools be approved by the superintendent of public instruction and governed by independent, non-profit boards, school district boards or public charter school boards. The online schools would have to meet the same certification standards, curriculum requirements and testing requirements as other Michigan public schools.

“There are mechanisms in place to measure the results of a student’s cyber school education.

Colbeck’s bill is part of a larger education reform package that removes district boundaries, age limits and other conditions from student attending schools.

“These bills are about empowering parents with the education choices and opportunities that work best for their children and giving schools the flexibility they need to innovate and excel,” said Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, chairman of the Education Committee.

Supporters of SB 619 and other bills bundled with it: SB 621 – 623, and SB 709 – 710, refer to them as the Parent Empowerment Education Reform package. The bills next will be considered for a vote by the Michigan House of Representatives.

Scott Craig October 28, 2011 at 01:53 PM
This expansion of cyberschools is dangerous and potentially very costly to Michigan tax payers. On-line instruction can play a role in delivering education to bolster in-class instruction or to help students who have failed a course., But this bill opens up the potential for tax dollars to be spent on a wholesale conversion of education to unproven computer based instruction. As a teacher I have seen a fair number of students try to take a course on-line, and receive an "A" grade for completing the course. However, our district policy still requires the student to take the final exam in the equivilent course before granting credit toward graduation. The vast majority of students who've completed a cyber course are unable to score higher than the 60% range - a "D", on the final exam. Most of these students have not mastered the material, however the private cyber school receives full payment for delivering the instruction. The students and their tax paying parents are the losers in this proposition.
Denise Nash October 28, 2011 at 04:50 PM
@Scott Craig, I agree. Check out what is happening in Colorado. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/10/05/07enc_virtualachieve.h31.html?intc=bs#.To00r0yhnLg.facebook I also read a story (can't find it just now) about a small school district in Colorado (a rural area) where many of the kids decided one year to go to online school. Many didn't like it, and decided to go back to neighborhood school. In the meantime, the head count stripped a lot of funding from the neighborhood school, and they laid off teachers. There was no money to hire them back. These students all needed special instruction to get them back up to where they needed to be in their grade. I am not saying this would happen in Michigan, I am saying it could happen without proper regulation and safeguards.
Susan M. October 29, 2011 at 11:14 PM
I would give this a second thought, but you provide no source for your claims - therefore, it really doesn't deserve a second thought. Currently, K12 provides the curriculum base for Michigan Virtual schools. Contrary to your claim, they DO have a proven program in which students who graduate from K12 go on to some of the top universities and colleges in the country. Students are still required to participate in state mandated standardized testing - just like students at a brick and mortar school. In Ohio, Business Week magazine has ranked K12 virtual school as THE BEST HIGH SCHOOL in the state. Not the best virtual school, THE BEST HIGH SCHOOL.
Denise Nash October 30, 2011 at 02:55 AM
@Susan M. As far as giving no source, how about your source for the Business Week article? I searched for about 10 minutes and didn't find a thing. I did find this - that the top high school in Ohio is a neighborhood school in Toledo. http://www.schooldigger.com/go/OH/schoolrank.aspx?pagetype=top10&level=3 So please, I'm interested in reading about the outstanding virtual school to which you refer. I would say that Virtual schools could possibly be effective in two scenarios: 1. A very good motivated student 2. A parent very much on top of the situation. *or both*.
Scott Craig November 05, 2011 at 11:02 AM
The Colorado experience with cyberschools is very disturbing. Here are a couple facts from the Education Week article of October 5, 2011. 1. Half of online students end up leaving within a year. 2. when online students return to traditional schools midyear, the traditional school has to scramble to educate them without receiving the funding - funding stays with the cyberschool. 3. Online students are three times as likely to drop out of school permanently as tradiitional school students. The main reasons cited for failure are lack of direct contact with a teacher and parents inability to stay home and monitor their children's online education.
Denise Nash November 05, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Thanks Scott. Susan M, I am still waiting for that article about that great virtual school............
Susan M. November 08, 2011 at 02:06 PM
Sorry Denise! Somehow I got linked into the Canton Patch, and I've been typically responding to a similar article in my own hometown Patch. Let me get that article for you.
Herb Helzer November 10, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Another bill co-sponsored by Sen. Colbeck is S.B. 637. This little gem has two mandates: One is that every public school building must have a full-sized flagpole and fly the U.S. Flag at all times during school hours; said flags and poles (plus installation) would be paid for by the school district. "Not so bad," you think. "Don't schools already have flagpoles?" If it was just that change to the Revised School Code (1976 PA 451), I'd agree. It's the second part that screams overreach. Here's the whole paragraph: "The board of a school district or intermediate school district or board of directors of a public school academy shall ensure that each pupil in each public school it operates is required to recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States each school day. In addition to the display of the flag at the school required under subsection (1), the board or board of directors shall ensure that a United States flag is displayed in each classroom or other instructional site in which pupils are required to recite the pledge of allegiance under this subsection." So...a Flag in every classroom, and every pupil required to recite the Pledge every day. But...only the PUBLIC SCHOOL kids. Students at the Cyber and Charter schools Sen Colbeck wants aren't covered; perhaps merely ATTENDING a Charter or Cyber school is patriotic enough for Sen. Colbeck and the other eight co-sponsors. Also, the Supreme Court declared this unconstitutional...in 1943.
Herb Helzer November 10, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Look up "West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette," argued on March 11, 1943 and decided on June 14, 1943 by an 8-1 margin. Specifically, it says that "The action of a State in making it compulsory for children in the public schools to salute the flag and pledge allegiance...violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments." Link: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0319_0624_ZS.html
Herb Helzer November 10, 2011 at 09:28 PM
Sorry, that was a 6-3 vote, not 8-1.

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