|The Home Schooler
A Biblical Light on Education -
With Special Emphasis on Home Schooling
From the HSLDA@Capitol Hill E-lert Service... September 7, 2000
The following message was written by Bruce Purdy, the Executive Director of Christian Home Educators of Ohio. We believe that it accurately describes the dangers behind eCOT, an online charter school beginning this fall in Ohio. Please read it carefully and pass it on to other home schooling families.
Darren A. Jones, Esq., Staff Attorney, Home School Legal Defense Association
On-Line Charter Schools for Homeschool Families? The proverbial "wolf in sheep's clothing"
A report distributed to educate families on Charter/Community Schools, by Bruce D. Purdy, Executive Director, Christian Home Educators of Ohio.
As the Director of Christian Home Educators of Ohio, I have had a tremendous amount of information pass over my desk in recent months concerning this "new" educational option. Some families are delighted with this option; others are deeply concerned over the possibility of state encroachment into the home. This article will address various aspects of these rapidly burgeoning schools and attempt to give you a broader perspective. Let me be up front with each of you. I have a definite bias against this school option, not due to its on-line, tutorial method of education, but because of State oversight with this educational option and the accountability that the State could eventually place upon the family.
What are they?
These are schools that utilize home computers, associated software, and the Internet to teach the student at home. The vast majority of the education is done at home, but some testing will be conducted at a separate site outside of the home. Every state has different names for this and, even within a state, you may run across a whole range of names that describe the school. However, all of the "schools" have one common denominator; they require state oversight and are bound to the same tests, goals and outcomes of public school students.
Ohio is starting up its first K-12, fully on-line school this fall. eCOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow), is under a charter approved by the Lucas County Educational Service Center and which a private company manages. A recent press release stated that "eCOT is the result of a public-private partnership funded by the state of Ohio and corporate sponsors, including Compaq computers, Xerox Corporation, and Sprint Telecommunications." However, similar programs have also been popping up around the country. In Kansas, a Virtual Charter School (VCS) was started three years ago, Alaska has offered a similar program for years, and in California they have Independent Study Programs (ISPs). Kentucky plans to start an on- line school next year and Michigan and Pennsylvania are also getting into the game.
Why are they springing up now?
I think that there are probably as many reasons as there are schools. Using the Internet for the purpose of education is not new. In fact, most home school children have been utilizing this resource as a means of supplementing their education for a number of years. I have compiled a number of articles from around the country and thought it best to provide quotes from these primary documents. Let us hear from those who are offering these schools.
With 10 percent of Kansas' school-age children now being home schooled, Superintendent David Pendleton of the Basehor Linwood Unified School District (Kansas), needed to find a way to keep those students a part of the public education system. Thus, the nation's first Virtual Charter School was born.
Joshua Anderson, an English teacher at both Basehor High School and at VCS, stated, "It's a way to welcome dissatisfied parents and students back into the public education system." He is also quoted as saying, "We believe all students who can be in public education should be in public education. We also believe all students who cannot be in public education should be in public education." (AASA-Leadership News, April 17, 2000.)
Proponents of eCOT point out that it provides a safe, secure, drug- free environment in which students and their parents can work together toward educational goals.
Dr. John Ledingham, an educational consultant for eCOT and professor at Capital University in Columbus, OH, stated "eCOT may not be for everyone, but it provides an innovative choice for those seeking an alternative to the traditional school setting." (Press Release-Business Wire, August 7, 2000, Columbus, Ohio.)
Dr. John Ledingham also states, "For most students, the traditional brick-and-mortar school is best. Our school is for students with special needs." (Columbus Dispatch, August 27, 2000.)
So, from just these quotes, we can see a number of motivating factors for the development of these schools.
* Enticement of students back into the public (government) school system
* Motivation that all students must be under the oversight of the public school
* Providing students with a safe educational environment
* An innovative alternative to traditional school
* For children with "special needs" (when did homeschoolers become a "special needs" category since home educators are one of the primary target markets?)
Editor's note: From this point forward in the article, I will be addressing the eCOT school being introduced here in Ohio. Many of the issues I bring up may or may not relate to on-line schools being marketed in other states.
What are the benefits?
What would motivate the parent or student to take advantage of this option? What is being used to entice families and market these programs? Following is a brief list:
* No-cost, in-home education
* A safe learning environment
* Free computer, printer, scanner, software, and Internet access with dedicated phone line
* Self-paced learning
* Certified teachers
* Accredited high school diploma
Sounds great, doesn't it! I can't imagine why every home school family is not running to get signed up. Hold it, just a minute! Perhaps there are some pitfalls to this after all. Are these schools doing this just to better serve their students and make sure that all students get a superior education? Let us look at some potential reservations to this alternative.
What are the pitfalls?
Nothing is free! State funds ALWAYS are followed closely by State accountability. Most of these programs may be "free" to the family, but are being funded by some other entity. Whether the money is coming from federal grants, the State Department of Education, the local school district, or a private corporation, someone IS paying for this education. For most of these entities, it is the taxpayer footing at least part of the bill. The argument that, "I pay my taxes and therefore entitled to the money or service" is a lame excuse! This argument in effect says, "Because my neighbor uses resources wrongly confiscated from me by the state, I am therefore justified to have what the state steals for me from my neighbor (Ray Stalker, ICHE Leadership News, spring 2000)."
Students will be required to take all the same tests (including the state proficiency tests) that the public school student is currently taking. This is because THEY ARE public school students not homeschoolers! For over eleven years, Ohio homeschoolers have had Ohio Administrative Code regulations that have outlined what families who choose to homeschool in Ohio must do. Annual notification and assessment are described in these regulations. Ohio homeschoolers currently are NOT required to take the state-mandated proficiency tests. These are criterion-referenced (not norm-referenced) tests and ask many invasive, personal, and social questions that have nothing to do with academics, but are meant to assess the child's attitudes and worldview as well as skills and abilities. Homeschoolers in Ohio should NOT WANT to participate in these tests.
The parent is actually taken "out of the learning loop" with this method of education. Though these schools are being promoted as an "environment in which parent and student can work together," in reality the parent only assists the student and school mentor. The primary educator in this option is the computer software and the teacher/mentor who will be assigned to each student. This roaming teacher will conduct an in-home visit on a per-quarter basis. Students will be required to master all learner outcomes and will follow the goals set forth by the Ohio Department of Education in the Model Competency-Based Programs. For those of you that have followed educational reform in the past few years, you will recognize the previous phrases as inherent to an outcome-based model of education.
This creates a gray area between home education and government education. The strength of the home education movement is that we "take nothing from the state and we ask nothing in return." The responsibility for discipling and educating the children rests solely on the shoulders of each family. In a national rally I attended last fall in Washington, hosted by HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), the message sent out across our Capital and throughout out land was "Just Leave Us Alone!" I believe that on-line schools are going to cause many to be unable to discern the difference between home education and state-controlled education. HSLDA has already said that any family enrolling in eCOT or a similar charter/community school will not be allowed to sign up or continue as a member of their organization because eCOT is not home education; it is public education being conducted at home!
Additional comments to note:
The article about the VCS School in Kansas states "Parents act as primary educators, and teachers are support staff. Parents determine scope, sequence and method of self-paced instruction. All final exams, placement tests and standardized tests are proctored at a VCS site." Question. How will a parent be able to determine the scope and sequence, if the state is mandating the tests? Anyone who has researched curriculum and testing knows that the test ALWAYS drives the curriculum. We are seeing that in Ohio schools as districts are being coerced into designing their curriculum around the outcomes that the state mandates and the proficiency test administered each year. Parents may have freedom and flexibility, but only within the box of state-mandated testing.
This could become a real moneymaker for private individuals, corporations and the local district. In the article about VCS in Kansas, it again states, "VCS has benefitted regular public education students in the district as well. With the federal grant ($90,000 given to cover start-up costs at this school) and the $3,750 in federal monies the district receives for each VCS student, the district has managed to operate the school under budget, allowing some money to flow back into the district." These funds were used to purchase I-Mac computers for all teachers in the district, computer labs and equipment, hire a Webmaster, and initiate a 40-district digital learning center. If this is true, we will probably begin to see these on-line schools growing exponentially. If you can't beat the home schoolers perhaps it is time to join them (or at least co-op them back into the system).
The partnership that is growing between government schools and private corporations is a trend of which we should be cautious! One of the foundations of our country is the principle of free enterprise. When private corporations begin to build "relationships" with government, you have the beginnings of a monopoly. No private individual or company can compete with a similar business that is run by or significantly funded by the government. Also, anyone following educational reforms in the past 5-10 years will be familiar with the term School-to-Work (STW). The basic foundation of STW is the government (in cooperation with private companies) determining and planning the career paths of all citizens. A managed economy is designed where individuals are referred to as human resources. We are moving toward a society where private corporations are dictating to the schools what to produce (employees that can be productive) and colleges are dictating to schools what they want (students that do not have to be remediated). Why do colleges have remediation courses? Because they need to have the students (and their money) to continue to run. Here's a unique solution! Why not make the entrance requirements difficult enough that entering students would not have to take remediation courses? Why are corporations dictating what type of employee they want from the schools? It is better for their bottom line! Maybe if employers refused to hire substandard workers coming out of the schools, the schools would change to meet the needs. However, the change should come from supply and demand in the market, not from a government/corporate dictate. eCOT is being funded, not only with state funds, but also by private grant money. The emerging partnerships developing here should give us cause for concern.
In relation to the above paragraph dealing with funding, I recently read an article in the front page of the Columbus Dispatch (August 17, 2000) that made the claim that Charter Schools are draining dollars from the local public school districts. If this is true, we will probably begin to see public school districts begin to offer on- line schools for students in their district. Districts that are already struggling with finances may well look at this option to bring in additional funds. Also, the eCOT school has already been mentioning that they would be willing to offer assistance to local school districts (special on-line classes the local districts are not able to provide) in exchange for the use of the public school facilities and allowing their "students" to participate in extracurricular activities.
A recent conflict that is brewing in Colorado may have a direct impact on the liberties that charter/community schools may have in revising their curriculum. Liberty Common Charter School, a parent- run school in Fort Collins, CO, is in the middle of a court battle to determine if they will be required to teach evolution. Their original charter stated that they would teach this "theory" but the Liberty Common school board changed their mind at a later date. Some parents of students in the school are voicing their opposition to this change. I would raise the following question regarding this conflict: Who has control of the classroom? The parent? The Board of the charter school? The local district which approved the charter? If a charter school changes its mission or charter, does that nullify it and require the school to apply for a new charter with the sponsoring district? This court decision will not only set a precedent for charter schools in Colorado but could have an impact nationwide.
In the case of the eCOT school in Ohio, through the teacher/mentor supervision, could students be required to be taught evolution (or health/sex ed.) because these subjects are part of the standards/curriculum being developed here in Ohio? These are questions every parent needs to consider. For families that are currently home educating their children, with the freedom and autonomy we currently enjoy, do you want to give this up for a measly "computer and diploma"? As the lines between government schools, vouchers, charter schools, and home education begin to merge, we will see an attempt to integrate them all under one large umbrella, controlled by the Federal and State Departments of Education.
In closing, I would like to quote Sandi Cianciola (wife of the Chairman of Christian Home Educators of Ohio). Her comments are insightful and piercing.
"We must not fall for the trap. We must live by principles. The principle in this situation is that the children belong to the parents and government is not in the business of education. Also, we are not interested in their attempt to rope us in with another "welfare" program under the guise of a "free" computer. This is a test to see what home educators are made of. May God help us to pass the test!"
Please feel free to copy and distribute this report in its entirety to any individual or for reprint in its entirety in your support group newsletter. If you wish to receive supporting documentation for this report, please send a SASE envelope (along with a check for $3.00 to cover printing and postage costs) to:
117 West Main St. Suite #103, Lancaster, OH 43130
Home School Legal Defense Association
P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville, Virginia 20134
Dr. Cates will be in Germany September 11 to October 6. If you need to reach him you can reach him by e-mail during this time at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 9-11: Rockford,Illinois
October 12-13: Kansas City, Kansas: Last trip to Kansas for year 2000
October 16-17: Cincinnati, Ohio, Churchill Academy
October 18-19: Detroit, Michigan.
October 20: Office/Oliver Springs, TN
October 20-November2: Fall Conference/Pigeon Forge,TN. This will complete Dr. Cates's schedule until 2001.
These are excuse notes from parents (including original spelling) collected by schools from all over the country.
1. My son is under a doctor's care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him.
2. Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick and I had her shot.
3. Dear School: Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and also 33.
4. Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating.
5. Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.
6. John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face.
7. Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part.
8. Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins.
9. Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side.
10. Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels.
About Dr. Cates: Dr.Paul Cates, President of Faith Christian Ministries (FCM), stands alone in a world full of academic evaluators. A prior home school parent, Dr. Cates's twenty-five year track record of proven success, academic training, in-the-trenches experience and Godly commitment is unsurpassed! Each year, Dr. Cates travels thousands of miles, testing hundreds of students and training teachers and home school parents in his special techniques and methodologies. He personally designs customized curricula to ensure that each student gets the right fit. Dr. Cates holds a B.A. in Psychology, a M.A. in Special Education and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction.
Assisting Dr. Paul Cates in the testing and evaluation process will be Kirk D. Cates. He has been traveling and administering tests with Dr. Cates for many years. Kirk has a B.A. in Special Education, a M.B.A., M.S. and is currently in a PH.D. program at Frederick Taylor University.
Brenda Murphy: Is the director of the Murphy-Cates Learning Centers. The main center is located in Harriman, Tennessee. She also directs the activities of Faith Christian Academy on a daily base at the main campus in Harriman, Tennessee. Brenda is the author of Sail Away, a complete language arts learning system for reading.
¨ About the Conference
WHEN: Sunday, October 29, from 3: 00 P.M. until 5: P.M.Monday, October 30 through Thursday November 02: 9: 00 A.M. until 12:00 Noon and 1:00 P.M. until 3: P.M.Thursday: 9 A.M. until 12:00 Noon.
WHERE: Heartlander Resort HotelPigeon Forge, Tennessee (865) 453-4106 Directions: Take Route 40 East to Exit 407. The exit will say to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Go about ten miles into Pigeon Forge. You will see the Heartland Resort Hotel on the left about two miles past the Wal-Mart, which is on the right side.
WHAT: Curriculum: It's the fit that counts
Ö Intra-neuro-sensory Integration Activities
Ö Inter-neuro-sensory Integration Activities
Ö Time element is critical to success
Ö Using Brain Builder correctly
Ö Using Earobics correctly
Ö Visual Perceptual Skill Building
Teaching Math using Manipulative/ Must have your own Manipulative or can purchase at conference. Must notify Office ahead of time if need to purchase manipulative at the Conference.
About the Conference
You must register: (See below)
In addition to the conference, Faith Christian Ministries will be offering comprehensive testing services to help you tailor-make a school program to best develop your child's talents and potential. FCM evaluates all children - gifted, average, L.D., A.D.D., processing disorders, retarded and handicapped. After the testing, a consultation will be provided to help you understand how to best deal with your child's individual talents and weaknesses. You will also be assisted in selecting a curriculum and forming your schedule. Testing dates areOctober 29-November 2, 2000. ** Evaluation services are separate from the conference.
Costs vary depending on tests performed. Call Dr. Paul Cates for more info or to schedule tests: 865-435-6185
There will be counselors to meet with you privately at the conference. Appointments should be set ahead of time if possible. Please call the office to arrange.
We have done this conference for over twenty-five years charging nothing and will continue Lord willing to do so. It does cost though to put this conference on and those costs need to be covered by love offerings. We have been asked this year to suggest what would be a love offering per family that could help to cover all the expenses of putting this conference on and to give that to those who attend. If possible we would suggest $100.00 per family for the five day conference. We are aware some families could not afford that and that some families could only afford less and some are doing good to get to the conference. We want everyone to attend who needs to be there but if you can help with a love offering during the conference it would be greatly appreciated. Please make out all gifts to Faith Christian Ministries. Thank you very much. We are sorry to have to mention this but the last three conferences have cost us over $6,000.00 in the red and we need to make everyone aware of this or we will not be able to continue doing these conferences.
- You must register! Please return notice of your attendance.
Attending, Names & Ages & Grade Performance Levels: Please only list children who will be in the conference. (Please print clearly.)
E mail: ___________________ Phone: ___________________
Registration can be done by mail or e-mail. Please no telephone registrations.You must also call the Heartlander Resort Hotel to let them know you are coming to the conference. You must register with them. Please mail to Faith Lutheran Church, Faith Christian Ministries, 864 Poplar Creek Road, Oliver Springs, TN 37840 865-435-6185 E-Mail: email@example.com Web Site: faithchristianmin.org
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