Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ohio Parents, Teachers Stand Against ECOT (Electronic Classrooms of Tomorrow) by Kelly Ann Braun

In Ohio, ECOT (Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow), a for-profit online public school, could not adequately prove attendance or participation for nearly 9000 of its students, and therefore could have to pay Ohio back some $60 million dollars. (There are still appeals that ECOT will make.) I fight for children and public education daily. My Facebook pages have been plastered for years now with truthful facts and articles about ECOT, other virtual schools, and tons of charters, not just in Ohio but everywhere in the country. I have been on the leadership team of BATs, nationally and in Ohio for nearly four years. (BATs was founded June, 2013). But prior to that, for nearly triple the amount of years, I was a leader in homeschooling circles. My posts of celebration over ECOT’s court loss caused a bit of collision on my personal page. I wrote the following to hopefully clear up some confusion for some who think I have somehow stopped being me and crossed to some other side. I did not offer links --- look up William Lager. You will see!

"This, I feel, needs to be said and clarified right now, out here on my page. My personal page has many followers. I have layers of years of followers from my very active homeschool leadership days to my current public education activist days. I know for a fact that I have those whose children attend ECOT, other virtual schools, or public charter schools following me and reading my posts. I home schooled my 5 children for 26 years. My youngest son is currently a junior in a public high school. I am not against alternative learning choices. I chose to homeschool for spiritual reasons.  But while I believe in praying or the Bible personally, I have never, ever once believed against the separation of church and state. I absolutely hold to the reasons behind the separation of church and state. Through all of my homeschool teaching years, I always had connections to public school students, families, and teachers. Always, I was tutoring, or teaching after school programs, and for years I was in college working towards being a public school teacher. (Close, but no cigar yet on that one). I have for now returned to teaching Preschool.

I am NOT the enemy of those enrolled in ECOT, those who feel it works for them, their children's circumstances, and their family dynamics. However, even when I homeschooled (we did NOT do online schooling), those of you who knew me well, know that I was not a huge fan at all of any of the online or virtual academies from their inception. I abhorred them then as I do now. I was quite vocal about my reasons for hating them.  I convinced and helped many, many a family to leave off with those types of schools and to try traditionally homeschooling or to return to public schooling.

I saw online schooled children fall incredibly behind again and again and again. Public schools receiving these children back after a year or two would blame home schooling. I used to argue until I was blue in the face that because a child was doing public school at home via a computer did not mean they were home schooling.  The parents bought into the (expensive and proliferate) propaganda that charismatically presented online schooling as the magic cure-all. But the subsequent problems were often worse than the original sets of frustrations. (Think of all the side effects of a wonder-medicine.) 

I saw up close and personal, many, many families who struggled with not being able to access or communicate with the virtual teachers. I listened to tears of frustration, as the families would be promised this or that in the way of technology or internet hook-ups, only for months to go by and have none of that come to fruition. I heard kids stressed and completely overwhelmed as they did not understand assignments. I taught those distraught with ECOT, volunteering to help out however I was able.

I watched earnest numerous families try to scan and send in actual work in a timely manner only to have some technology glitch, and have their child receive zeros or F's for work they had actually completed. I painfully saw families, whose children had unmet socio-emotional needs, who were kicked out of public schools for disciplinary reasons and left with absolutely no choice. Their bound hands were absolutely forced towards the keyboards of the computer public school setting. I watched far too many single parent families, where mom was working two jobs, and the troubled teens were left home to a computer in the corner of the room. Though these disadvantaged youth had not been able to apply themselves in a regular school setting with real time teachers and support available, somehow it was thought (and promoted) that they then would miraculously become self-motivated and engaged enough on their own to achieve wonderful heights of learning. What a lonely lost idea.

Here is (and always has been) my angst with ECOT especially, but all other online schools, (even now, I flat-out hate all of the push in public schools towards digitalized portfolios and personalized learning), they really are being created and promoted in a PROFIT-SEEKING manner. They are greed-thirsty predators that advantageously prey on our most vulnerable students. I am the voice of the vulnerable.

It broke my heart last week to read through every single one of the nearly 300 comments on one of ECOTs daily sponsored ($$$) Facebook posts, and to hear the protective panicked parents crying out for their children. I have seen with my own eyes, parents with children whose 504s and IEPs were not being met in their local schools, and they desperately grasped at the sales pitches that were geared to do exactly that---suck them in. To the frustrated parents, it seemed as though it was the teachers, because those were the ones with whom they were immediately dealing. But, I have equally seen the teaching side and the public school side’s perspective in these unacceptable situations. They are not resourced enough, period the end. This back and forth blame game between parents and teachers and teachers and parents must truly STOP. The blame correctly belongs with the legislators and the inequitable funding from their policies which are now more than ever, overtly in the mindset of PROFIT-SEEKING.

One example, of which I have firsthand information from a former employee, is that OHVA (Ohio Virtual Academy) literally intentionally sought out families with students who had high absenteeism and truancy. You know why? Well, because those children were the bargain basement deal of the day. Each student enrolled equals $6000. They did not give one iota of care if the student actually "showed up". They never even thought about an opportunity gap closure. They did not really know that child's name. They just knew another checkmark on their accounting ledgers, and a low maintenance one at that, for no workload would increase in actuality. Hundreds of price-tagged children were these types of ghost pupils.  In homes, I sadly saw with my own eyes, students log in and walk away. Some parents too played the "log in game" for their own children.

It reminds me of New Orleans, when they suffered through Katrina. Opportunistic, crude & shrewd white (collar---uhhmm) businessmen swooped down in and purchased public education before anyone had a chance to even know what was truly happening. 7000 public school teachers were replaced with TFA, and software programs were purchased right/left and left/right. The bogus promise was that this was going to be an even better and brighter future for the hurricane survivors. Those claims, now a dozen years later, are proving to have been false. It is a mess truly. An education experiment that chipped and eroded away at so much that cannot now be undone. We all failed those families by allowing such an entrapment. The then hopeful are now stuck and scarred. The charter owners are sickeningly richer and unmarred. For the children, a whole generation, I cry.

It should not be that anyone can make a dollar off of anyone who feels desperate or disparaged. The state of Ohio has the capability to make it so that schools are funded in such a manner that phenomenal teams of counselors, paraprofessionals, psychologists, occupational therapists, nurses, and other specialists would be broadly available. Ohio could literally have awesome, incredible programs that meet academia desires but equally and vibrantly feed creative curiosity and all of the arts. Children could be physically fostered and emotionally nurtured. Schools could feel safe and sure. I do not believe for one second that Ohio does not have the money to do what they could and should for our schools and for our students.

BUT, like in the case of billionaire William Lager, postured politicians keep finding and funding millions upon millions of dollars to circulate among the rich boys' club.  Those of you fighting and worried sick that ECOT (or any other online or charter school) might get closed should be standing on those state house steps and shouting to demand that your students get ALL that they deserve, right where they are. (For all the money Lager raked in over this last decade, he could have been not only sending computers to your homes, but he could have offered one-on-one music lessons with the grandest of instruments included!)

You ECOT fans should be irate that you did not get all that you could have gotten. Your united fight should not be to keep ECOT rolling in the dough. YOUR FIGHT SHOULD BE AS MY FIGHT IS--- FUND SCHOOLS EQUITABLY! YOUR LOCAL SCHOOL SHOULD BE ABLE TO MEET YOUR EVERY EDUCATION NEED! If you are dealing with special needs ----- YOUR school should make special efforts to meet those needs. Now before you go off lambasting your school----do some checking and researching. Find out what programs have been cut from your schools recently (and follow the money trail as they send that money up and out to the ones selling software or professional development). How often does your school get the visiting rotation of a community-wide single nurse that all the schools are forced to share? How much recess is being offered? How many languages are offered? Is the mechanics garage open? Are woodshop and home economics still being offered? How about all those computer classes---are they coupled with cool chemistry labs?

If your school cannot and is not financially able to provide what your community needs and wants, THEN THE STATE SHOULD FUND IT. For sure, we do (at least for a little while depending on what all damage DeVos does) have Federal guidelines and laws in place that protect students with special needs. If online learning is the most sensible solution for your student, then the local schools should be more than amply able to supply such.

Our problem is that individuals are fighting for their each and every individual problem. Our solution will come when we all come together to fight for ALL of our children. What might seem good and right to you as a parent of your child, with regard to ECOT, or charters and vouchers, in the larger picture, is robbing thousands of other children of their opportunities.

I am a parent therefore I fight for all parents. I am a teacher and I fight for all teachers. I make $15,000 a year as a full-time Preschool teacher and I fight for all who are beat down by non-living wages. Ultimately I am a lifelong lover of children, of ALL CHILDREN, and I fight with all I am and all I have for all children. YOUR fight is still my fight."

Kelly A. Braun ^0^

1 comment:

  1. My local school (b&m) was and had been funded too care for my kids education. They refused to deal with my kids handicaps. Instead they would stand behind them and point out the right answers on their tests. Send them home not being able to read at the end of the year. And seems my child home every time he needed to use the bathroom rather than allow a mandatory health aide to come. Personally over the course of all my kids and 30 years of teaching them, K12, OHVA, have been the best they both included books and science supplies with technology, even Internet if you need it. As well as student get togethers. Ecot who we are with now sent technology and and Internet line with in a week. Treca is the only one I have personally had any trouble with, and heard many parents complain about. No teacher calls. No online classrooms. No student get togethers. Speak from knowledge not just what you see, and please don't wreck it for the ones of us who really do use it right and need it!