Maine Virtual Academy Celebrates Start of 2016-2017 School Year

Statewide online school welcomes students back on August 29th

August 26, 2016 04:02 PM Eastern Daylight Time

AUGUSTA, Maine–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Maine Virtual Academy (MEVA),a statewide online public charter
school, will begin the 2016-2017 school year on August 29. As an online
public school program authorized by the Maine Charter School Commission,
MEVA is tuition-free for students in grades 7-12 who reside anywhere in
the state.

The first day of school for MEVA students is August 29!

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MEVA incorporates online lessons and instruction from highly qualified,
Maine-licensed teachers who monitor student progress, provide
professional insight, and work in partnership with parents. Teachers
communicate with students and parents via phone, email and the online
classroom technology in order to provide an individualized approach that
helps prepare students for post-graduation career or college success.

“At Maine Virtual Academy we ensure the success of our students through
a dedicated approach to individualized education,” said Dr. Melinda
Browne, Head of School of Maine Virtual Academy. “Our teachers work
closely with students and their families to develop an individual
learning plan, which allows each student to work at their own pace and
meet his or her academic goals. We have an exciting year ahead of us and
look forward to our students’ continued success both in class and in the
MEVA community.”

Students can chose from a diverse middle school and high school K12catalog
of courses, including many electives that are not offered in traditional
schools. Students have the freedom to progress through lessons at their
own pace, while receiving quality instruction, support, and individual
attention from teachers. The school also offers clubs, school outings,
dances and other activities to foster community.

MEVA students receive instruction from their teachers during live,
interactive online classes, as well as through recorded sessions.
Teachers are also available to students and their Learning Coachesvia
email, phone and one-on-one online instruction.

MEVA is authorized by the Maine Charter School Commission and is
governed by an independent, non-profit board of directors. The school’s
team of educators and school leaders are based at the school’s
administrative headquarters. Interested families are encouraged to visit meva.k12.com
for more information on the school and how to enroll.

About Maine Virtual Academy

Maine Virtual Academy (MEVA) is a full-time online public school program
that serves students in grades 7 through 12. Authorized by the Maine
Charter School Commission, MEVA is available tuition-free to students in
the state of Maine and utilizes the award-winning curriculum from K12
Inc. (NYSE: LRN), the nation’s largest provider of proprietary
curriculum and online education programs for grades K-12. For more
information about MEVA, visit meva.k12.com.

Contacts

Maine Virtual Academy (MEVA)Donna Savarese, 703-436-3273dsavarese@k12.com

Maine’s new virtual charter school sees 25% enrollment drop since opening

The Maine Charter School Commission may explore ways to better inform students about what to expect, perhaps with a ‘tryout’ week.

Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Maine’s newest charter school, Maine Virtual Academy, has seen 25 percent of its student body withdraw from the school since it opened this fall and continues to have a high number of “truants” who are not logging on enough for their lessons, school officials say.

At the 90-day mark for the school year, 76 students in the initial class of 297 had left the school, according to a Dec. 31 report by three members of the Maine Charter School Commission who are assigned to oversee the school.

On Tuesday, commission Chairwoman Shelley Reed said representatives of K12 Inc., the for-profit online education company that was contracted to provide Maine Virtual Academy’s curriculum, told the commission they should expect to see an initial 20 percent to 25 percent withdrawal rate.

But Reed said the commission may explore ways to better inform incoming families about what to expect, to lower the withdrawal rate. Suggestions include requiring students to take a “tryout week” in the school.

“People have to have a general understanding of what to anticipate,” she said, after the commission’s regular monthly meeting at the State House.

“We need to find a better way,” said commission member Jana Lapoint, agreeing that a tryout period is a good idea. “Maybe a better screening job.”

Maine Virtual Academy board member Peter Mills said Tuesday that school representatives explain to prospective students and families what the school will be like, but the school must, by Maine law, accept any applicant. As more successful students return in subsequent years, the withdrawal rate is expected to decline, he said.

Mills said Tuesday that some students left because they weren’t prepared for a virtual school experience, which requires each student to log on from home, be self-directed and work closely with an at-home learning coach, usually a parent or relative. The school, like all charters, has attracted students who are unhappy with their previous schooling, or have had trouble at previous schools, he said.

“We’re dealing with a certain segment of the student population that has apparently got some problems and they have come to us as a last resort …” he said, adding, “I’m deeply concerned about this phenomenon.”

Supporters of virtual schools say they are good for students who may not fit in at traditional schools, such as athletes in training or students who have been bullied or have special needs. But virtual charter schools also have drawn criticism, in part because local school boards outsource their management to for-profit companies that are beholden to shareholders.

Maine Virtual Academy holds exit interviews with departing students, and reports those results to the commission. That information includes how long the student was enrolled, their reasons for leaving and where they will go to school next. The information wasn’t available for public release Tuesday because students’ names and other identifying information hadn’t been removed, said Bob Kautz, the commission’s executive director.

Some students who were listed as having dropped out never even logged on – so they effectively never attended the school but are still registered as withdrawals, he noted.

Mills didn’t have details from the exit interviews, but the board had requested that information from school officials.

Maine Virtual Academy has a contract with K12 Inc. of Herndon, Virginia, the nation’s largest online education company, for academic services. The state’s other virtual charter school, Maine Connections Academy, contracts its services from Connections Academy, a division of Maryland-based Connections Education, a for-profit company that is owned by Pearson PLC in London, a multinational corporation that formulates standardized tests and publishes textbooks for many schools in the United States.

A spokesman for K12 Inc. didn’t return calls Tuesday regarding the national average for the first-year withdrawal rate at their other schools nationwide.

According to a research study in July 2012 by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, virtual schools tend to have higher withdrawal rates than physical schools, indicating parents may see virtual schools as a temporary service. Citing a K12 Inc. report on student performance, the study said that 23 percent of students in K12 schools around the country were enrolled for less than a year and 67 percent had been enrolled for fewer than two years.

The withdrawal rate at Maine’s other virtual charter school, Maine Connections Academy, was 11 percent 90 days after it opened in the fall of 2014. This year, its 90-day withdrawal rate had dropped to 7 percent.

Mills said K12 provided the school with a locally hired family support liaison at no cost whose responsibility is to support the students and family, and address the withdrawal and truancy issue.

The school’s exact truancy rate was not available Tuesday, commissioners said.

The school also is struggling to get students tested, officials said. Only about 60 percent of students this fall took the NWEA test, which is supposed to be used to set a baseline for assessing student growth – a key factor in evaluating whether a charter school is successful and whether its contract with the state should be renewed.

Mills said that he thought the testing rate was related to the issues with the truancy and withdrawal rate, and that many of the families who are attracted to charter schools also dislike standardized testing and traditional education.

Commission chairwoman Reed said the commission intends to request more data from Maine Virtual Academy and continue site visits and meetings.

The school has kept a steady enrollment because it filled vacant positions with students on a waiting list, Mills said. That means its overall enrollment, used to calculate state payments, has not changed significantly and there is minimal impact on its budget.

While state funding for Maine students follow the student, there is no significant impact financially on MVA students’ traditional school districts if they return, because the state budgets payments based on an estimated enrollment for the school year, and then on actual headcounts of students Oct. 1.

A 2012 Maine Sunday Telegram investigation of K12 and Connections Education showed that Maine’s digital education policies were being shaped in ways that benefited the two companies, that the companies recruited board members in the state, and that their schools in other states had fared poorly in analyses of student achievement.

Both Maine Connections Academy and Maine Virtual Academy received approval to open only after significantly changing their business plans to require more direct management by the Maine-based boards, and decreasing the role and authority of K12 and Connections Education.

Also Tuesday, the commission said the state was withholding $441,000 earmarked for the commission, requiring it to tap into its surplus to make up for a higher-than-expected per-pupil cost.

The state had estimated paying $14 million overall to the charter schools, but the actual cost was $14.7 million. Kautz, the executive director, said the commission could afford the one-time cost while the state Department of Education works out whether the funds were considered a loan to be repaid by the state or a permanent one-time cost to the commission.

Kautz said the main reason for the higher-than-expected costs was that the charter schools enrolled more special education students, who have a higher per-pupil rate – about $8,000 more per student.

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Jeb Bush’s Friends are Cashing in on Kids – Cashing in on Kids

Jeb Bush’s Friends are Cashing in on Kids

Emails between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), founded and chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and conservative state education officials show that the foundation is writing state education laws and regulations in ways that could benefit its corporate funders. Further, two former aides from Jeb Bush’s time as governor formed Meridian Strategies, a lobbying firm that has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE).



The emails, obtained through public records requests, reveal that the organization, sometimes working through its Chiefs For Change affiliate, wrote and edited laws, regulations and executive orders, often in ways that improved profit opportunities for the organization’s financial backers. Education Week has referred to Bush as the “godfather” of Chiefs for Change, an alliance of conservative state superintendents and education department directors with significant authority over purchasing and policy in their states.



Education has the potential to be an enormous business opportunity and corporate America is looking for a way in. In 2010 Rupert Murdoch, who now has a growing education division called Amplify, said recently that “[w]hen it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S.” Amplify is one of FEE’s corporate donors.



The emails conclusively reveal that FEE staff acted to promote their corporate funders’ priorities, and demonstrate the dangerous role that corporate money plays in shaping our education policy. Correspondence in Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Louisiana paint a graphic picture of corporate money distorting democracy.



“These emails show a troubling link between Jeb Bush's effort to lobby for ‘reforms’ through his statewide Foundation for Florida's Future, his national Foundation for Excellence in Education, and the powerful corporations who want access to billions of our tax dollars by reshaping public education policies just to create markets for themselves – none of which is in the best interest of our children,” said Kathleen Oropeza, a Florida parent.



You can read Maine’s Portland Press Herald reporter Colin Woodard’s award-winning investigative series, Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine here.



To read the emails, please visit: http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/node/2747

The High Price of For-Profit Education and Jeb Bush

Profits ahead of education: Bloomberg news has an extensive article on K12 Inc. and the myriad problems that their charter schools are facing across the country. The article even features a former marketing director of K12 Inc., who goes on the record with criticism about the company putting profits ahead of education. The former executive, Houston Tucker makes an allegation made by public education advocates for years that K12's brand of digital learning is focused on profits and not serving the 130,000 students that it's supposed to serve. The article goes on to describe how the focus of the schools is marketing and recruiting new students to make up for the churn as kids are pulled, or just churn out of their schools. Tucker even pulled his kids K12 Inc.'s school in Tennessee because teachers weren't able to provide individualized instruction.

“In the early years, K12's mission was something to rally around,” Tucker said. “It was brand new in the world of education. The K12 I joined isn't the one I left.”

Tucker, the former K12 marketing director, said that one of his sons had scant feedback from his teacher at Tennessee Virtual. The school put profit ahead of education, said Tucker. He now works as a consultant, helping regular public schools with online programs.

Extreme Workloads for Teachers: As a teacher at Pennsylvania's K12run Agora virtual academy points out in the article, teachers are often administering classes of 150 or more students with a high turnover of staff and students.

Michael McNulty teaches online high school math to 150 Agora students, and sometimes more because of “massive staff turnover,” he said. “We were scrambling to hire enough teachers.”

As enrollment surged, Agora drew more students who had been truants at regular schools, and they didn't show up online either, neglecting to log on or hand in homework, he said.

Student-teacher ratios in online schools are “generally higher than traditional classrooms where space constraints and classroom management are issues,” K12 said. Agora students' improvement on test scores is “competitive with other Pennsylvania cyber charter schools,” K12 said.

Agora monitors truancy, contacting families and school districts to get students back in class, the company said. It removes students from its rolls after 10 consecutive unexcused absences, it said.

K12 Inc.'s spokesperson is right that Agora charters perform as well as Pennsylvania virtual charter schools. Since their inception reporters, regulators and parents have complained about the poor performance of Pennsylvania's virtual schools. As Bloomberg makes clear K12 is putting profit margins and investors over the future of their studentsa their performance shows. There's a long history of K12 Inc. trying to squeeze as much money from taxpayers as possible to maximize its profit.

Made Possible By Jeb Bush: Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education has been a long time booster of K12 Inc.'s expansion, education and business model. He worked to benefit cyber charters and K12 specifically when he was governor of Florida and in the ensuing years his Foundation for Excellence in Education has been working with ALEC to make it easier for cyber charters, including K12 Inc. to expand nationally.

Jeb Bush's Digital Learning Now has had K12 Inc. as a sponsor of its events, an advisor on policies and its website rates states on how lax regulatory environment for companies like K12 Inc.

In fact, in 2012 Maine's Portland Press Herald reported that along with ALEC, Jeb Bush's foundation had worked hand in hand to try to expand virtual charter schools in Maine. While the report and the outrage around Jeb Bush and Paul LePage's efforts seemed to have kept virtual charters like K12 out of Maine. However, Bush and LePage's efforts finally paid off when K12 Inc. was given a green light to open a virtual charter school in Maine.

jeb

Profits ahead of education: Bloomberg news has an extensive article on K12 Inc. and the myriad problems that their charter schools are facing across the country. The article even features a former marketing director of K12 Inc. who goes on the record with criticism about the company putting profits ahead of education. The former executive, Houston Tucker, makes an allegation made by public education advocates for years: that K12’s brand of digital learning is focused on profits and not serving the 130,000 students that it’s supposed to serve. The article goes on to describe how the focus of the schools is marketing and recruiting new students to make up for the churn as kids are pulled, or just churn out of their schools. Tucker even pulled his kids from K12 Inc.’s school in Tennessee because teachers weren’t able to provide individualized instruction.

“In the early years, K12’s mission was something to rally around,” Tucker said. “It was brand new in the world of education. The K12 I joined isn’t the one I left.”

Tucker, the former K12 marketing director, said that one of his sons had scant feedback from his teacher at Tennessee Virtual. The school put profit ahead of education, said Tucker. He now works as a consultant, helping regular public schools with online programs.

Extreme Workloads for Teachers: As a teacher at Pennsylvania’s K12run Agora virtual academy points out in the article, teachers are often administering classes of 150 or more students with a high turnover of staff and students.

Michael McNulty teaches online high school math to 150 Agora students, and sometimes more because of “massive staff turnover,” he said. “We were scrambling to hire enough teachers.”

As enrollment surged, Agora drew more students who had been truants at regular schools, and they didn’t show up online either, neglecting to log on or hand in homework, he said.

Student-teacher ratios in online schools are “generally higher than traditional classrooms where space constraints and classroom management are issues,” K12 said. Agora students’ improvement on test scores is “competitive with other Pennsylvania cyber charter schools,” K12 said.

Agora monitors truancy, contacting families and school districts to get students back in class, the company said. It removes students from its rolls after 10 consecutive unexcused absences, it said.

K12 Inc.’s spokesperson is right that Agora charters perform as well as Pennsylvania virtual charter schools. Since their inception reporters, regulators and parents have complained about the poor performance of Pennsylvania’s virtual schools. As Bloomberg makes clear, K12 is putting profit margins and investors over the future of their studentsas their performance shows. There’s a long history of K12 Inc. trying to squeeze as much money from taxpayers as possible to maximize its profit.

Made Possible By Jeb Bush: Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education has been a long time booster of K12 Inc.’s expansion, education and business model. He worked to benefit cyber charters and K12 specifically when he was Governor of Florida, and in the ensuing years his Foundation for Excellence in Education has been working with ALEC to make it easier for cyber charters, including K12 Inc., to expand nationally.

Jeb Bush’s Digital Learning Now has had K12 Inc. as a sponsor of its events, an advisor on policies, and its website rates states on how lax the regulatory environment is for companies like K12 Inc.

In fact, in 2012 Maine’s Portland Press Herald reported that along with ALEC, Jeb Bush’s foundation had worked hand in hand to try to expand virtual charter schools in Maine. While the report and the outrage around Jeb Bush and Paul LePage’s efforts seemed to have kept virtual charters like K12 out of Maine. However, Bush and LePage’s efforts finally paid off when K12 Inc. was given a green light to open a virtual charter school in Maine.

The post The high price of for profit education & Jeb Bush appeared first on Cashing in on Kids.

This prize-winning story by investigative reporter Colin Woodard follows the money trail in Maine, as Governor Paul LePage seeks to make a name for himself in the world of digital learning. It was originally published two years ago, but remains relevant. Woodard dug through more than 1,000 documents that he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and his story won the George Polk award.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog » K12 Inc. http://ift.tt/1mLqCAR

This prize-winning story by investigative reporter Colin Woodard follows the money trail in Maine, as Governor Paul LePage seeks to make a name for himself in the world of digital learning. It was originally published two years ago, but remains relevant. Woodard dug through more than 1,000 documents that he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, and his story won the George Polk award.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1mLqCAR

Maine Legislature Enacts Moratorium on Virtual Schools | Diane Ravitch’s blog

Maine Legislature Enacts Moratorium on Virtual Schools

Although K12 Inc. and Pearson’s Connections Academy have lobbied for approval of virtual for-profit charter schools in Maine, the state senate voted 22-13[1] to put a freeze on them until further study about their effectiveness. The vote fell two short of the 24 needed to override a veto by Governor Paul LePage, a recipient of campaign contributions from the online industry.

Lobbying by the online industry and ties between former Governor Jeb Bush and the LePage administration were the subject of an award-winning exposé[2] in the Maine Sunday-Telegram last fall. LePage’s Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, and the exposé last fall revealed that Bowen relied on Bush’s Organization, the Foundation for Educational Excellence, for ideas and legislative language.

Bowen still relies on Bush for policy guidance. Last month he announced an A-F grading system for Maine schools, an idea first implemented in Florida by then-Governor Bush. It is used in some places, like New York City, as a means to close schools and replace them with charter schools.

Regarding the moratorium, Commissioner Bowen said that the moratorium was “designed to halt the development of virtual schools.” Well, yes, that seems to be the point.

Maine Legislative Democrats Conflicted on Virtual Schools

Maine Legislative Democrats Conflicted on Virtual Schools
04/16/2013 Reported By: Jay Field

The debate continues in Augusta over the right way to develop online – or “virtual” – public schools in Maine. Gov. Paul LePage strongly supports virtual charter schools, while Democratic leaders have generally resisted them. But as Jay Field reports, Democrats in Maine are facing pressure from Washington, and are more openly conflicted about how to proceed on the issue.

Related Media
Maine Legislative Democrats Conflicted on Virtual Duration:
3:34

At a recent gathering of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, Senate President Justin Alfond, one of the Legislature’s top two Democrats, took a hard line on virtual charter schools. “I stand here today, urging the committee to put a moratorium on virtual public charter schools,” Alfond said.

In fact, Alfond is sponsoring a bill that would do just that.

“I’ve always felt that technology should play a huge part of a student’s learning,” he says. “But where I differ, I think, from at least right now, the full-time virtuals is that I don’t believe we should be replacing the classroom. We should be enhancing the classroom.

Two years ago, the Legislature, controlled by Republicans at the time, passed laws allowing both virtual schools and charters in Maine. Last spring, two out-of-state, for-profit companies – K-12, Inc. and Connections Education – submitted applications to the state Charter School Commission to open virtual charters.

Maine Democrats had immediate reservations about the proposals. Democrats in many states take their cues on education policy from groups such as teachers’ unions that are largely opposed to both charters and virtual schools.

Democrats here also point to national research that has raised serious questions about the performance of virtual schools tied to K-12, Inc. And last fall, an investigative series in the Portland Press Herald exposed the ways that a Florida foundation – connected to both K12 and Connections Education – had worked with the LePage administration to influence the development of virtual education in Maine.

“The for-profit status of a lot of the players in online education has been a difficult issue for some Democrats,” says
Joe Williams, who heads the group Democrats for Eduation Reform. He says Democrats tend to take issue with the for-profit model when applied to public virtual schools.

“On the flip side, though, it tends to be for-profit operators that are most willing to invest in research and development to come up with the kind of game-changing innovations that we’re looking to see in education,” Williams says.

It’s a big reason why, at the national level, President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan have embraced virtual schools and charters, and pursued policies designed to push states to do so as well.

Williams says this sort of pressure from Washington means it’s not quite so easy for Democrats in places like Maine to simply write off these kinds of approaches to education reform – which may explain why Democratic Sen. Emily Cain, of Orono, is behind a bill to create a state-run virtual school.

“I think looking at other state models would be good. Because the first question is, ‘Who’s going to need to use or access the virutal academy?‘” Cain says.

The state-run model may garner more support from Democratic colleagues. But Joe Williams says there’s a potential downside. “If a state-run system is being created as a way of trying to shut down the marketplace for innovation, it could end up being problematic,” he says.

Still, Williams says Cain’s idea of experimenting with virtual education through a state-run, online school could work – provided that the school is open to tapping into innovative approaches from the private sector that have delivered proven results.

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