# PRESS RELEASE #
Common Sense Democracy Foundation of Idaho
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 6, 2012
Contact: Travis Manning, Caldwell, ID
SERIOUS QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT RESEARCH CITED FOR THE “STUDENTS COME FIRST” EDUCATION OVERHAUL
It appears that Idaho policymakers have not actually read their own research
BOISE, ID — Idaho policymakers and the Idaho Department of Education (DOE) appear not to have read their own research cited to support the Students Come First (SCF) education reform measures.
The Common Sense Democracy Foundation of Idaho, a collection of education experts and concerned parents centered in the Treasure Valley, has read through and analyzed the research and has come to very different conclusions about claims the DOE and others are making with SCF. (See “Luna’s Research Doesn’t Add Up” on our website, listed above, for our analysis.)
Superintendent Tom Luna and other policymakers have touted SCF as needed and necessary, but the research posted on the Idaho DOE website is ambiguous, at best, in support of the sweeping reforms. (See “Summary of Research on Students Come First”http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/studentscomefirst/research.htm )
“Essentially, the Department of Education threw everything but the kitchen sink into their reform plan,” said Travis Manning, Executive Director of Common Sense. “Students Come First is less about true education reform based on rigorously, externally peer-reviewed research and more about enforcing an ideological perspective.”
In a Jan.26, 2012, visit with the Idaho Press Tribune editorial board, Mr. Luna said, criticizing hard-selling education vendors, that, “In business, you never try to sell a product unless it has proven to have results.” Common Sense questions policymakers’ loose interpretation of the research on which they relied to base new education laws.
“The reform ideas in Students Come First are nothing new,” said Manning. “They’ve been tried in other districts and states across the country for years, but most of the ideas have been abandoned because they’re simply too costly and ineffective.”
In one SCF peer-reviewed paper cited by the DOE, “A Synthesis of New Research on K-12 Online Learning,” it mentions numerous concerns with online learning, including: the divergent data between studies when comparing online students to traditional; program effectiveness, socioeconomic status, school climate, parental involvement, teacher qualifications, learner characteristics; and, perhaps the most critical, virtual school student characteristics: intrinsic motivation, independent learning skills, reading and writing at grade level, consistent parent support and guidance, self direction, and the ability to work well in their own time frame. It was noted that students who lack such skills will find the online environment difficult and un-engaging. Lastly, other major concerns were lack of teacher training, lack of release time, no extra funding, little acknowledgment of teacher efforts, and teachers feeling overwhelmed.
Online learning in particular should be an optional opportunity for students, not a mandated one. Mandated choice forces many students to take classes in a format they simply will not do well in and do not enjoy.
Yet, Superintendent Luna continues to pressure lawmakers into funding online learning, despite numerous concerns from every conceivable direction. On Feb. 2, The Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey and Kevin Richer both wrote about the recent lawsuit by shareholders against K-12, Inc., the countries largest online provider based in Herndon, VA.
K-12 CEO Ron Packard, a personal friend of Luna’s, along with K-12 CFO Harry Hawks, are accused of making false statements to investors about students’ poor test scores, and boosting its enrollment and revenue by practicing “deceptive recruiting practices.”
In Idaho, K-12, Inc. runs the Idaho Virtual Academy and iSucceed Virtual High School.
In a damming expose on K-12, Inc. by New York Times reporter Stephanie Saul on Dec. 13, 2011, she notes that “a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.”
Common Sense questions the practice of turning over schools to Education Management Organizations (EMO’s) like K-12 because they use their massive, tax-payer funded profits for marketing efforts, call centers for aggressive recruiting purposes and exorbitant CEO salaries instead of adequately paying teachers.
If the DOE’s own research doesn’t support SCF, if Idaho’s largest online course provider is being sued by its own shareholders because of substandard test scores, and if we fire more educators and increase class size each year to support the SCF laws—what is Idaho gaining from Students Come First?
We encourage citizens to research this issue at our website listed above, to contact their legislators with their concerns, and to vote these laws down Nov. 6, 2012.
The Common Sense Democracy Foundation of Idaho is an Idaho citizen think tank formed in May 2011. They advocate for Idaho parents, teachers and students in governmental affairs.
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