News Articles and Editorials About the
K12 Curriculum and Texas Virtual Academy

Compiled by
Texas Citizens for Science
2008 August 15

Bill Bennett's Online Schoolhouse

The former U.S. education secretary says homeschooling parents can be more successful than teachers.


Interview by Wendy Schuman
Beliefnet
November 14, 2001
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/91/story_9103_1.html

William J. Bennett, America's favorite "compassionate conservative," bestselling author of books on values and education, Ronald Reagan's secretary of education and George Bush Sr.'s drug czar, is founder of K12 Inc., a new online curriculum being marketed to homeschoolers and virtual charter schools. He spoke recently with Beliefnet's family producer, Wendy Schuman.

You used to be skeptical about using computers in education. What changed your mind?

David Gelernter changed my mind. David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale, he's a well-known writer and social critic, he's a conservative like I am, one of the few professors at Yale who's a conservative. He's probably most famous for being the first target of the Unabomber. He's a brilliant man who is probably more skeptical about technology than I am. When I was approached about being the chairman of the board of K12, I called David and asked him, Can we do this, can we use the technology and do it right, and make the technology a helpful auxiliary, not the end in itself and not get so enraptured with the technology that we lose sight of the main aim of the project? And he said, Yeah, we can do it. And so we have built the system, the program that has done just that. The technology's good, it's simple, it's clear, I don't understand it. It's very complicated underneath. But it's a means to an end, and the end is to get the child and the parent to the substance of education.

You mentioned that you were approached. Did this idea not originate with you?

The idea of a school that everybody could go to via technology has long been an idea of mine, but the specific proposal was put forward by Ron Packard, who is a member of the advisory board of Empower America and works for the Knowledge Universe Learning Group. When Ron came to see me, he was carrying a copy of the book "The Educated Child," which I wrote three years ago. He said "We want to turn this book into a school. How would you like to be principal of the largest school in the world?" I said maybe, maybe.

Are you saying there's something missing with what's already out there?

I think there's some very good things out there. What our program does that's different is, first of all, it's comprehensive, it's not a tutoring program for this course or that course. It's everything, every lesson everyday for 13 years. Our curriculum has a point of view. We believe in certain things, we believe in certain ideas of right and wrong, and of knowledge and truth and that's manifest in our program. We're centered in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we do not ignore faith and religion, we do not ignore the arguments against evolution, because there are some. And we have put together a first-class intellectual program which we think will well equip children for the challenges of the next century. The technology lets you self-pace and makes things accessible and keeps good records for you, and we think it's attractive and entertaining. But the heart of this program is the solid excellent educational basis it provides.

How do you teach character or virtues in the program?

It's implicit. That's the best way to do it. We make it plain to parents and other adults involved in the education of children, that their example, their prodding, their behavior is the critical element. There's nothing like the quiet power of example. We cannot substitute for them, we cannot substitute for the teachings of their church, for that instruction each week, but we can make it clear throughout our curriculum that these ideas, these virtues matter to us. We do that through the literature and through the history, primarily. So the stories children read from the very earliest grades have morals in them. Many of them are taken from the Junior Great Books, from "The Book of Virtues," from "World Compass," and our history is written with a view to making it clear that the acts of men and women matter, that acts have consequences.

Do you feel that untrained parents can do as good a job as professional teachers?

They're showing they can, they're showing it everyday, you prove the possible by the actual. I think what the success of homeschoolers has shown in the last five years is that the large-minded amateur can often be much more successful than the professional. The amateur meaning someone who doesn't have a school of education degree-which is probably a good thing if you want to educate a child.

Are the public schools so bad that you'd recommend homeschooling with this curriculum over going to public school?

I think that's a decision each parent has to make. We sent our boys to Catholic schools, because that's very important to us, that's our faith. Parents need to decide based on what their options are, where they live. What we've done in K12 is give people an option no matter where they live. We think homeschoolers have done extremely well on their own, there's no "think," there's no doubt about it. It's just a fact. This is a four-barrel carburetor for a homeschooling engine. We think this will increase efficiency and learning to an even greater degree. But we think it's a powerful tool in the hands of any committed adult and her children.

Are you going to use it with your own kids?

We still have a 12-year-old at home, and when the material gets up to that level . we're just going to have K through 2 this September and will be adding about four years each year. We'll be doing a number of our courses with Joe. And we will use it as a supplement to what he's getting in school. Parents who want to do stuff in the summer, who want to check what they're getting in school or what they're doing at home against somebody else's standard. And that's what K12 can provide as well.

You mentioned evolution. How does the curriculum does address the topic?

It will, it hasn't yet, we're not up to that [age group] yet. I think what we'll say is, Here's evolution, this is a definition, this is what other people think, this is what a lot of the scientific community thinks, this is what a lot of the criticisms are. You decide, parent and child, working your way through this how you want to evaluate this.

Is God mentioned in the curriculum?

Oh sure. It's kind of hard to explain the history of civilization without him.

How about questions of diversity, addressing the subject of homosexuality, people of color?

We don't take much cognizance of that. We address children as children. I think of them more as children of God, as moral and spiritual beings, and Americans. Those are the labels that I'm interested in. I'm not much interested in their color, or other accidents. And I think that the more we do of the approach we're taking, the better.

I've heard K12 can be an expensive package, between $1200 and $5000 a year.

It's not that high. If you have a computer and you are going to buy the entire K12 curriculum for kindergarten, first grade, or second grade this fall, it will be about $880. If you're lucky enough to be in Pennyslvania and you can sign up for the Pennsylvania virtual charter school, you will get the entire curriculum, plus a computer, plus a lot of other things, plus access to a teacher if you want one, and the state will pay for it.

The charter school is a home school?

Yes, you teach your child at home or in whatever environment you want. Pennsylvania is far-sighted on this, this is a nice deal for normally homeschooling parents. A lot will depend on what state you're in.

So you can apply for public funds for this program?

In some states, if you want to. A lot of homeschooling parents do not want anything to do with public funds or public structures. In Pennsylvania you're required to keep a time sheet and your child has to take an exam at the end of each year. To some parents that's not too bad, to others that's a real burden.

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Rating the Bennett Curriculum

Parents give it high marks so far; religion and creationism are down the road.


By Wendy Schuman
Beliefnet
November 14, 2001
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/92/story_9292_1.html

Bill Bennett's ambitious K12 curriculum only spans kindergarten through 2nd grade at the moment, but it already includes many references to world religions. According to current lesson plans, first graders get colorful pop-ups of the story of Joseph's coat of many colors as well as the Buddhist tale of the Monkey King. Hinduism, Buddhism, and the ancient Egyptian gods are introduced, along with the Old Testament figures of David, Moses, and Solomon.

Kids in second grade learn about ancient Roman gods and goddesses--and have almost as many history lessons on Islam as they do on the foundations of Christianity. Shinto and Japanese Buddhism get one lesson apiece.

Jason Bertsch, K12's vice president of government and public affairs, explains, "Religion has been a shaping force in human civilization for millennia. We cannot understand Egypt's pyramids or Mesopotamia's ziggurats, Homer's Odyssey or Virgil's Aeneid, without understanding ancient beliefs about the divine. Similarly, in American history, the founding of the thirteen colonies cannot be understood without an appreciation of religious motives."

He adds, "It is, of course, the choice and responsibility of parents or other caregivers to explain and nurture personal religious beliefs in the home." In the curriculum, kids are taught about religion as history, not that any one religion is right or wrong-an approach not even secular humanists could find fault with.

The problem may lie down the road when, according to Bennett, the science curriculum presents evolution, creationism, and intelligent design as equally tenable explanations for the existence of life. Schools critic Diane Ravitch, a frequent supporter of Bennett, notes, "My own view is that creationism is not science, it's religion. To me it would be like saying that the North won the Civil War because God intervened. That's not a scientifically justifiable, rational explanation. It's a belief statement."

Meanwhile, parents in their second month of using the brand-new program give it high marks thus far. Denise Wetzel of Fayetteville, North Carolina, who is homeschooling her three children, says, "They expect a lot from the child, and they don't water it down." A fan of Bennett's books for children on virtues and heroes, Wetzel notes, "The values are woven throughout the curriculum, but always in a way that makes sense, without being preachy or overbearing."

Sally Settle, who teaches her eight children-ages three to 14-at home, says, "It's nice to have history and language arts stories which actually exemplify desirable moral characteristics and explore not-so-desirable ones."

Both moms say their kids haven't studied any lessons on religion yet. "It's hardly noticeable at the K and 2nd level," says Settle. "I guess we haven't gotten that far yet," observes Wetzl.

Both call the program better or among the best they've seen, though a bit pricey. "Too expensive, I think, compared to some of the great choices out there," says Settle. "I hope the price comes down." Wetzl, who is getting the program free this year as a reviewer, says it is expensive, "but I would definitely spend to obtain it."

And there is a downside to online education: "I have to sign on each day and download the lessons," reports Wetzl. "If their server's down or mine isn't working, you can't have a lesson."

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The REAL Bill Bennett

DWG
Beliefnet
9/23/2003
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/91/story_9103_1.html

As a photographer working in Washington, DC in the early 80's I had an assignment to photograph participants in an education conference. Among them was Bill Bennett, who would soon become Ronald Reagan's education secretary, and later drug czar. In those days it was acceptable to smoke at meetings, and Bennett took out a cigarette and lit up.

When I started to take a picture of him with a cigarette in his hand, he turned to me, smiled, and conspiratorially whispered, "No cigarette pictures; my wife thinks I quit!."

So, the author of "The Book of Virtues" is a liar, and expects us to look the other way at his failings, while he attacks those whose behavior he disapproves of. Bennett has a long history of judging others by a different measure than he judges himself, all the while maintaining an arrogant self-righteousness. He is a modern day Pharisee, and utterly contemptible.

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They don't get it

Opinions
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
October 26, 2003
http://www.dfw.com/mld/startelegram/news/opinion/7101999.htm
[No longer available; go here]

The Bible tells about Jesus raising a man named Lazarus from the dead. It's an inspiring story, but it only happened once; the next time Lazarus died -- well, he died and presumably went on to his heavenly reward.

Efforts to set up virtual charter schools in Texas died three times during the Legislature's regular session this year. And guess what? They're alive again.

Pushed by officials from the University of North Texas, the State Board of Education is scheduled to consider measures next week to make it easier for proponents of statewide, computer-based schools to apply for and receive a charter and millions of dollars in public funding.

There are good reasons to believe that teaching through the Internet eventually will have a place in Texas public education. One day, children who face circumstances that prevent them from going to a brick-and-mortar school, or who simply don't learn well in the classroom setting, will get their lessons online.

But three times this year, the Legislature said that Texas isn't ready to do that yet -- or at least isn't ready to pay for it. The state must first solve the very serious funding crisis that is eating away at its neighborhood public schools.

Still, some key staff members at the Texas Education Agency and at least one influential State Board of Education member say that they believe the idea of virtual charter schools could soon move ahead, despite the legislative rejection. And UNT is pushing hard to do just that.

When did it come about that action by the Texas Legislature is treated, only a few months later, as if it were meaningless?

It shouldn't be that way.

The House and the Senate dealt with virtual charter school bills on April 23. Opponents said that the measures were tailored to pay for educating home-schooled children -- estimates at the time said that there were 70,000 to 150,000 home-schooled kids in the state -- at state expense.

A report from the Legislative Budget Board said that by 2006, virtual charter schools could take $10.6 million in annual funding away from neighborhood public schools.

Just before the legislative session began in January, the TEA sent lawmakers a report saying that Texas was not yet ready to fund and regulate full-scale virtual schools.

But UNT put a lot of weight behind the idea, as did K-12, a for-profit company led by former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett that sells a curriculum for Internet-based learning. The lobbying effort was vigorous and well-funded.

The virtual charter schools bill passed in the Senate, but amendments limited it to two university-sponsored schools and only 2,000 students.

The House bill had no such limits. Not only did a bipartisan majority of House members reject the bill, but they then voted to never bring it up again. That's the parliamentary equivalent of throwing the virtual charter bill on the floor and stomping on it.

Only a month later, the idea was alive again. It resurfaced in the Senate as a "technology pilot program" amendment to a House bill on science education. Supporters even attached a rider to the biennial state budget so that the amendment would have funding if it survived.

Limited again to 2,000 students, the virtual school pilot amendment passed the Senate but then disappeared from the bill by the time it came out of conference committee.

The twice-dead proposal stirred a third time on the next-to-last day of the session, in a Senate bill aimed at boosting school performance. But House members inserted into the record a statement that nothing in that bill could be used to establish virtual charter schools.

Three rejections of one idea in a single legislative session should be enough to convey a clear message.

Still, next week, the State Board of Education will conduct its annual review of the charter school application process. It will consider UNT's request that this process, which was tailored for brick-and-mortar schools, be revised to accommodate virtual charters.

Perhaps the most crucial change would be to allow virtual charter schools to receive funding based on something other than the current average daily attendance model, which requires all schools to count the number of students sitting at their desks every day. That model doesn't work in the virtual environment, where students may work at different times and at their own pace.

UNT's plans call for a virtual charter school serving 3,000 to 4,000 students across Texas, from kindergarten through seventh grade. Charter schools this year are expected to receive almost $6,500 per student in state funding.

Texas Education Agency officials say that, if the changes to the application process are approved, they expect UNT to submit its application for a virtual charter early next year.

David Bradley, the State Board of Education member who heads the committee that will examine the charter application process, says that the board has statutory authority under earlier law to approve UNT's application, despite the Legislature's clear disapproval this year. David Anderson, the TEA's chief counsel, agrees.

That makes next week's action on the charter application process a crucial turning point: Give UNT something more accommodating to virtual schools, and the school's soon-to-follow application faces few further hurdles. And in the process, the State Board of Education thumbs its nose at the Legislature.

It also sends the message that yet one more thing is more important than finding the money to properly pay the teachers, fund the programs and take care of the buildings in neighborhood schools.

It shouldn't be that way.

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Cyberschools Rise From Grave

The Austin Chronicle
October 31, 2003
http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2003-10-31/pols_naked8.html

Despite repeated rejections of "virtual charter schools" -- using public school funds for online home-schooling -- during an otherwise extremely conservative 78th Legislature, the State Board of Education and the University of North Texas are attempting to do an end run next week and approve a UNT virtual charter application covering some 3,000 to 4,000 students from kindergarten through 7th grade (eventually 12th), at a potential cost of millions of dollars in public school funds.

Mind you, the Lege -- hardly unfriendly to "school choice" scams and gimmicks -- explicitly gave a thumbs-down to virtual charters; the House even recorded floor discussion of "legislative intent" to confirm its rejection. But UNT is determined to move forward with its application, and at least some members of the SBOE seem set on showing their backsides to legislators, arguing that they already have the authority to approve virtual charters, just as they have the authority now to OK physical charter schools. But the SBOE's current charter school rules, as written, don't allow for online schools. So UNT is lobbying the board to change the rules.

There's another, more lucrative lobby in the shadows -- former U.S. Secretary of Education William "Snake Eyes" Bennett's K12 Inc., which failed miserably to get through the front door at the Lege but is likely to be the well-rewarded software contractor if UNT can get its virtual charter through the back door. Teachers groups and public school advocates are organizing to head off UNT during the SBOE meetings Nov. 5-7; the board's Planning Committee will consider the proposed changes to the charter rules at its meetings Nov. 5 and 6, and public testimony is invited for the Nov. 6 meeting, which is posted for 11 a.m. but is subject to delay pending other board business. Those wishing to testify need to register on the Friday (Oct. 31) or Monday (Nov. 3) preceding the meeting; call the committee at 463-9701.

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Stop Virtual Charter Schools at SBOE

Carolyn Boyle, Coordinator
Coalition for Public Schools
October, 2003
[URL not available]

Contact State Board of Education members to oppose online virtual charter schools

The Coalition for Public Schools is in the throes of a continuing battle to stop publicly-funded statewide virtual charter schools for home-schooled students in kindergarten-12th grade. This week we are concentrating on one of several battle fronts where we need immediate assistance.

Advocacy With State Board of Education: Goal--To stop revisions to applications and guidelines for university charter schools and open-enrollment charter schools that would allow virtual charter schools for home-schooled students.

Background: At its September meeting, Chancellor Lee Jackson of the University of North Texas asked the State Board of Education to amend its charter application guidelines so that UNT could apply for a university charter as a statewide online virtual school. Current application forms and guidelines are applicable for a campus-based charter school in a single geographic location, which would not be applicable for a statewide virtual school.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to take action at its November 7 meeting to adopt new guidelines and application forms for university charter schools and open-enrollment charter schools. An agenda packet for the meeting has already been sent to the SBOE members, but the charter guidelines and application forms were not provided. I've just been informed by a Texas Education Agency official that the changes appropriate for virtual schools requested by University of North Texas were not made, because the Board did not give the staff adequate guidance on the issue at its September meeting. Proposed changes to charter application forms and guidelines will be discussed by the Planning Committee on Wednesday, approved by the Planning Committee on Thursday, and considered by the full State Board of Education on Friday.

We are urging activists to contact State Board of Education members to express opposition to any proposed changes in the guidelines and application forms that would allow statewide virtual charter schools for home-schooled children.

Here are some sample points to make, but please add your own thoughts and use your own wording:

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The Anti-Science Curriculum of Virtual Charter Schools

William Bennett's K12 curriculum is religious-based, will deliberately distort evolution, and will be anti-science

by Steven Schafersman
Texas Citizens for Science
October 31, 2003
http://www.texscience.org/files/virtual-charter.htm

The virtual charter schools program being considered by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is nothing more than a virtual home school vouchers program. The intent of its sponsors is to allow parents--primarily fundamentalist and evangelical Christian parents--the means to educate their children using a Christian curriculum at state expense. The intended virtual charter school program and curriculum is the one proposed to the Texas Legislature earlier this year by William Bennett. Bennett was defeated on three separate bills during the recent legislative session. He visited the Capitol twice during the session to personally lobby on behalf of virtual charter schools. In the first vote on virtual charters, the House voted to not bring the issue back the entire session because there was such strong opposition to it.

The proposed SBOE charter involving the University of North Texas (UNT) has been advertised to focus on grades K-7, but the program is severely flawed. The state would pay for a computer, Internet connection, and printer for all students, which in effect is a free computer for home-schooled children. There is a place for online learning and educational technologies, but this is not appropriate for children at this age. Young students need adult supervision and instruction; distance learning is for older students who have already developed the necessary study skills and self-discipline and motivation to learn on their own. Speaking from over two decades of experience, only college-aged students have these capabilities.

But there are even worse problems with virtual charters than the pedagogical ones. The virtual charters proposed during the legislative session exempted students from taking standardized tests and conforming to the state curriculum (the TEKS, or Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). In effect, there is to be no accountability. Lack of accountability is fine for parents who want to indoctrinate their children in the tenets and beliefs of their religion rather than teach them the usual TEKS sciences, social studies, and humanities of the public school system. Shortchanging one's own children in their educational needs that allow them to live and succeed in the secular world may seem to many to be egregious, but frequently the ultra-religious have different priorities than other people.

The SBOE wants to change the rules that apply to charter schools so that a university, such as UNT, can use a virtual charter school as a laboratory school. University charters have less regulation and are deemed unnecessary to monitor. The motivation of some members of the SBOE to see a virtual charter school program enacted is obvious--they want to initiate such a program with a single school so that it can achieve some stability and acceptance, and then enlarge and duplicate such schools throughout the state, thereby giving religious parents the opportunity to escape the public school system and have the State of Texas foot the bill for their children's sectarian schooling. But the motivation of UNT remains a mystery; such schools would offer no opportunity for teacher training in a classroom setting--the ostensible purpose of laboratory schools.

The last problem with this virtual charter school is the curriculum. William Bennett's K12 curriculum distorts the topic of evolution and is thus anti-scientific. The distortion is by design, not accidental. The following statements reveal Bennett's pseudoscientific objectives:

"We're centered in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we do not ignore faith and religion, we do not ignore the arguments against evolution, because there are some."

You mentioned evolution. How does the curriculum does address the topic?

"[W]e're not up to that [age group] yet. I think what we'll say is, Here's evolution, this is a definition, this is what other people think, this is what a lot of the scientific community thinks, this is what a lot of the criticisms are. You decide, parent and child, working your way through this how you want to evaluate this." (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/91/story_9103_1.html)

[A]ccording to Bennett, the science curriculum presents evolution, creationism, and intelligent design as equally tenable explanations for the existence of life. (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/92/story_9292_1.html)

The K12 curriculum has reached the fifth grade without mentioning evolution. That is not unusual. However, Bennett obviously plans to misrepresent the true scientific nature and stature of the topic of evolution in his curriculum, and this is plainly wrong. The only possible reason to distort science in a home school curriculum is to pander to fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who believe in creationism rather than evolution. Bennett's virtual home school curriculum is explicitly based on Judeo-Christian traditions, and today that is a code-phrase for diminishing or distorting evolution.

In the final analysis, William Bennett's K12 science curriculum will be an educational disaster from the viewpoint of legitimate modern science, and is thus not acceptable for adoption by any state that values quality science education for its students. The virtual charter school program and its pseudoscientific curriculum should thus be rejected by the Texas SBOE, just as it was rejected by the Texas Legislature.

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Vampire Vouchers Rise Again!

'Virtual' or 'Pilot' - Lege begins the biennial campaign to siphon money from public schools


BY AMY SMITH
The Austin Chronicle
MARCH 25, 2005:
http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/column?oid=oid%3A264135

[photo]
Carolyn Boyle, coordinator of the Coalition for Public Schools, has been leading the charge against vouchers.

Does it surprise anyone that the legislators who voted to deny health insurance to thousands of low-income children in 2003 are now invoking poor kids to justify school vouchers? Poor kids, indeed. Put in that light, the pro-voucher rhetoric comes across sounding wholly disingenuous – but don't expect that to stand in the way of lawmakers propelling this ideological agenda forward.

Exhibit A is House Bill 1445 – a "virtual voucher" proposal and the first of a handful of related bills to go to a public hearing this week before the House Public Education Committee (see below). The House killed a virtual relative of this bill in 2003, which gives opponents some measure of optimism for a similar rejection this year. But in the larger scheme of things, school vouchers will command more attention this session, if for no other reason than that Gov. Rick Perry and House Speaker Tom Craddick have already deemed the "choice" issue a key component of education "reform." With that, expect both vouchers and an expansion of charter schools to figure into lawmakers' discussions when they take up a sunset bill to reauthorize the Texas Education Agency.

The dilemma for several House Republicans, however, is that they may have to decide between their constituents' wishes and the speaker's marching orders. Carolyn Boyle, coordinator of the anti-voucher Coalition for Public Schools, says she is sympathetic to the GOP members' predicament, given the strong-arming that went on during the debate on the widely unpopular House school finance package (House Bills 2 and 3, currently undergoing cosmetic surgery in the Senate). Boyle believes, however, that there is a certain amount of safety in numbers – and the numbers, at least at this writing, tell her that there aren't enough votes to pass a full-on voucher bill. "There seems to be more bipartisan opposition to vouchers than there was last time," Boyle said. "But what complicates the issue is [political] pressure." That pressure is further compounded, she continued, by a common refrain of "Let's just give vouchers a try and get it over with."

That's one of the reasons the pilot proposal of HB 1263 has emerged as a particular favorite, evidenced by the nine other lawmakers who have signed on to the legislation authored by Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, and co-author Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney. ("Re-emerged" is perhaps more precise, since some form of the pilot proposal has been a voucher stalking horse for several sessions.) The bill would create a pilot school-choice program for low-income students in eight school districts in five urban counties – Travis, Bexar, Harris, Dallas, and Tarrant. (Proponents have even established a Web site, www.texaschoice.org, devoted to the HB 1263 cause.)

Chronicle readers will be shocked to learn that many of the legislative backers of the bill have received substantial political money from pro-voucher funding sources. Harper-Brown and Paxton, for example, were among the recipients of a huge windfall of cash that the national pro-voucher group All Children Matter dropped on a select number of (mostly GOP) House candidates in the 2004 election cycle. The Grand Rapids-based outfit gave $15,000 to Harper-Brown and $10,000 to Paxton, although it was unclear at press time whether they also benefited from the group's last-minute money drop just before the election.

In Texas, right-wing millionaire Dr. James Leininger finances the younger state affiliate of All Children Matter, along with a number of other pro-voucher entities. The San Antonio tycoon's money is driving much of this session's voucher phalanx, which includes lobbyists Richard H. McBride, Sabrina Thomas Brown, Mindy Ellmer, and Charles W. Evans, all registered gents of Leininger's Texans for Educational Excellence. Even with this bounty of riches, it's still uncertain how proponents will make the argument for a tax-funded voucher program in the face of an increasingly tight budget, especially for schools. Harper-Brown's chief of staff, Erin Sanders, offers a familiar argument that school vouchers won't cost the state additional money, because the per-child cost remains the same with or without the voucher program.

Boyle, of the Coalition for Public Schools, takes issue with that. "Schools typically don't budget on a per-child basis, but on a per-classroom basis," she pointed out. And since school funding for districts is based on the number of enrolled students, every student who leaves costs the district money. Boyle also points out that the pilot boundaries for Harper-Brown's bill are neatly drawn to include Edgewood ISD as one of the proposed pilot districts. She suspects it was a deliberate maneuver to serve as a "government bailout" for Leininger, who seven years ago pledged $50 million to the privately funded Horizon Voucher Program for children who live in the low-income San Antonio district made famous by the school financing lawsuit that brought us the "Robin Hood" funding scheme for public education. At the time, Leininger said he would contribute up to $5 million a year for up to 10 years, or until a state-funded voucher program was established to pick up the tab.

State Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, has added a new dimension to the debate with a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow voters to decide the issue of tax-financed school vouchers. Raymond acknowledges his bill likely won't go anywhere, but he hopes that it will provide some leverage in the voucher debate. Last month, a Scripps Howard Texas Poll on private school vouchers found that 55% of those surveyed opposed tax-financed private school vouchers. Last week, the Texas Association of Business boasted of another poll – by Baselice and Associates – that showed 74% in favor of a pilot voucher program if, as the TAB press says, "it does not cost taxpayers any additional money."

By contrast, John Stevens, executive director of the Texas Business & Education Coalition, said that while his group supports the concept of school choice, "We think there are a lot of options for students to choose from within the public school system. The bottom line," he added, "is that since the vast majority of students are going to be educated in public schools, is it really a good investment to spend public money on private schools? If so, then they should be subjected to the same accountability standards as public schools."

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Evolution controversy poses issue for Lawrence Virtual School

By Alicia Henrikson
Lawrence [Kansas] Journal-World
Thursday, May 19, 2005
http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/may/19/evolution_controversy_poses/

Brandy Hurrelbrink's children aren't at the age where they would begin to learn in school about the origins of life.

But Hurrelbrink, a mother of children attending the Lawrence Virtual School, said she knew how she would handle those lessons when the time came.

"I definitely would skip over evolution and teach my own theory," the home-schooling mother said. "I feel with the virtual school we have that flexibility, and I don't agree with evolution."

Among all the debates over science standards, the theory of evolution could already be de-emphasized in some cases of public education. The Lawrence Virtual School, which is funded by state dollars, educates children through home-school programs. While parents opt to home-school for a variety of reasons, one of them is because of religious beliefs.

Jana Lloyd, education specialist in middle school science for the Lawrence Virtual School, said parents teaching their children through the program had been willing to teach evolution so far.

"It hasn't been an issue," she said. "The children are progressing through their lessons."

Children are required to complete 85 percent of the course work in order to pass into the next grade level.

"If parents wanted, I guess they could not teach (evolution)," she said. "But it would be difficult."

In the Lawrence Virtual School, students begin to learn the concept of evolution in the life sciences course work for seventh-graders. That's when K12, the company Lawrence Public Schools contracts with for curriculum for the Lawrence Virtual School, introduces the theory.

Phrases such as "scientists think" and words like "might" are used throughout the K12 lesson on the origin of life on earth.

"We deal with the theory of evolution as a theory -- not a fact," K12 spokesman Jeff Kwitowski said. "We believe that the theory of evolution is accepted scientific theory. So, we believe it's important for kids to have the opportunity to learn and understand evolution as a theory. We're very clear with the parents about it."

Parents have the opportunity to view this curriculum even before working with their child, Kwitowski said.

Lloyd said even when parents discuss evolution, they could use it as a base to discuss other theories, such as intelligent design, or their own personal beliefs.

Parents are going to have their own discussions in the home with their children regarding origins of life, Lawrence Virtual School Principal Gary Lewis said.

"They're just like any other student in the brick-and-mortar schools," he said. "Parents with children going to those schools have the right to teach and discuss these matters at home. But we deliver based on the state standards."

Lewis said he and district officials would work with K12 to make sure curricula align with state standards if they change. The district already has to supplement K12 curriculum for some areas, such as Kansas history. K12 doesn't have course work for Kansas history since it provides curriculum for home-schooled students nationwide, Lewis said.

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Media Matters exposes Bennett: "[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down"

Media Matters
Wed, Sep 28, 2005
http://mediamatters.org/items/200509280006

Addressing a caller's suggestion that the "lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years" would be enough to preserve Social Security's solvency, radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett dismissed such "far-reaching, extensive extrapolations" by declaring that if "you wanted to reduce crime ... if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett conceded that aborting all African-American babies "would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do," then added again, "but the crime rate would go down."

Bennett's remark was apparently inspired by the claim that legalized abortion has reduced crime rates, which was posited in the book Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. But Levitt and Dubner argued that aborted fetuses would have been more likely to grow up poor and in single-parent or teenage-parent households and therefore more likely to commit crimes; they did not put forth Bennett's race-based argument.

From the September 28 broadcast of Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America:

CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.

BENNETT: Assuming they're all productive citizens?

CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.

BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.

CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.

BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --

CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

Bill Bennett's Morning in America airs on approximately 115 radio stations with an estimated weekly audience of 1.25 million listeners.

—A.S.

============

White House Condemns Bennett's Remark

By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: October 1, 2005
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/01/politics/01bennett.html

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 - President Bush believes that recent comments by William J. Bennett, who served in two Republican administrations, about the abortion of black babies "were not appropriate," a White House spokesman said Friday.

William J. Bennett, the former Republican secretary of education, said that the nation's crime rate could potentially be reduced through aborting blacks.

Mr. Bennett, a secretary of education in the Reagan administration and drug czar in the first Bush administration who has become an author and radio host, said in a broadcast this week that "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." He said that would be a "morally reprehensible thing to do."

Under fire from Democrats and civil rights groups, Mr. Bennett defended his remarks on Thursday as a hypothetical argument that moral questions like the abortion debate could not be linked to pragmatic issues like the crime rate.

"One could just as easily have said you could abort all children and prevent all crime to show the absurdity of the proposition," he said in his broadcast.

Democratic leaders of the House and Senate condemned Mr. Bennett's initial statement and called on the administration to do so as well.

============

In Houston, a virtual academy or virtual vouchers?

Posted by Christopher Dawson
ZDNet Editor, ZDNet Education
April 25th, 2006
http://education.zdnet.com/?p=143

Texas has launched an online instruction course for grade-schoolers called the Texas Virtual Academy, the Houston Chronicle reports. The first of five pilot programs is up and running through the Southwest School, a Houston-area charter school. Four other school districts are expected to start their pilots shortly.

The program uses tax dollars to pay for the academies, and the Southwest School has hired William J. Bennett’s company, K12, to manage the program. The school pays the company about 80 percent of the $4,750 in state funding it receives per student.

That leads some people to call the virtual academy nothing less than "virtual vouchers," given the fact that Bennett was a key proponent of the voucher scheme.

"This is, more or less, subsidies to home schoolers to make money when the program has no proven benefits and high costs," said Karen Miller, a resident of the Cypress-Fairbanks district who has testified against virtual school legislation in the past five years.

But advocates say the quality of the program should put to rest all such concerns.

"There’s no question it can be done very well," said Kate Loughrey, director of distance learning for the Texas Education Agency. "I think online learning holds a great deal of promise for the state of Texas."

Janelle James, chief operating officer of the Southwest School, said her school’s program has built-in accountability such as state-required testing and end-of-course exams.

"This is not home school," she said. "There’s a whole lot that’s different."

The Chronicle profiles one enrolled student, 8-year-old Brian Reynolds. Brian says he enjoys the program but misses his friends. That’s an issue of concern for some educators.

Brock Gregg, governmental relations director for the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said he worries about how this type of impersonal schooling will affect children.

"We’ll be watching very closely," he said. "It may work, but I think we should move very slowly and not expand this program until we can prove the young children learn just as quickly and just as well this way."

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Texas Virtual Academy comes to DFW

By Jeff Melcher
Pegasus News
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2007/oct/02/texas-virtual-academy-comes-dfw/

Just as the Pegasus, on-line community, reader-supported news site gives Belo Corp the shivers; just as Dallas Morning News, Channel 8, D-Magazine and the Observer all tremble at the growth of online media; so too does the new century media challenge another entrenched info-market. This month, DFW's traditional public schools, state charter schools, church/parochial schools, private/secular schools, and a gaggle of home schools all face a new competitor in the education market. The TEA now debuts in DFW the Texas Virtual Academy, an on-line, private-subscription, self-paced charter school. The 21st Century classroom has arrived.

It's been a while getting here. In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill SB975 directing the Texas Commissioner of Education to develop information on electronic courses and virtual learning. To implement the new law the TEA established "Virtual School Pilot" (VSP) program for the 2001-02 school year. Twelve independent school districts (ISDs), nine charter schools, and various consortia of charter and public ISD participated in the pilot. Nearly 2,200 students enrolled in 357 courses including math, science, social studies, and English language arts.

By 2003 backlash mobilized against virtual schools. Critics asserted that efforts to extend schooling beyond the bricks-and-mortar model were a mask to allow "parents--primarily fundamentalist and evangelical Christian parents--the means to educate their children using a Christian curriculum at state expense." In particular, attacks against the commercially-developed "K12.COM" offerings singled out former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett. It was charged virtual schools would "pander to fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who believe in creationism rather than evolution. Bennett's virtual home school curriculum is explicitly based on Judeo-Christian traditions, and today that is a code-phrase for diminishing or distorting evolution."

Apparently, to whatever extent the criticisms were taken at face value, the State Board of Education's reaction was, "That's not a bug, that's a feature." A broad number of optional courses were established within the core curriculum, and parents began picking and choosing among menus of school subjects.

In March 2006, the TEA issued a charter to the first fully online public school program: The Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest, in Houston. Enrollment was recorded at 171. Eligibility for the school was restricted to those in Texas Education Service Center Region 3. TXVA was established as a full-time public school program. The students of TXVA meet the state’s academic and attendance requirements, like any other public school students in Texas. TXVA students all take assessment tests, including the TAKS test. The school chose the commercial on-line curriculum, K12, to provide a comprehensive, "research based" program. TAKS/AEIS results report no dramatic difference between the virtual charter and more traditional facilities. The TXVA "district" (TEA assigned number 101838) earned an "Academically Unacceptable" rating the first year. This is, as in many districts, failures to accomplish comparable progress among all demographic groups. However, results on particular tests showed comparable, if not better, performance than area schools readers may be familiar with.

The results were sufficiently good that TEA authorized the Virtual Schools to expand beyond the Houston/ESCC 3 region. This year, Dallas/Fort Worth area students in grades 3-8, served by Regions 10 and 11, are eligible for the Virtual Academy. Placement testing will confirm students are in the appropriate grade as they transfer into the online classes. The organizers promise all the lesson plans and materials needed for grades three through eight and that many parents find it easy to enroll multiple children in the program. Each family will be loaned a computer system (including computer, printer, software, and Internet connection) to support the learning process. These computer systems are instructional property and must be returned when the student leaves TXVA@Southwest. The school will arrange for technical support and troubleshooting for these systems. However, it is the teaching adult who needs to have at least basic computer skills. Use of the computer is an important part of the program, but in the early grades it is mostly the parent (or other responsible adult) who interacts with the computer.

Program materials argue that students will spend no more than 20-25 percent of their time on the computer in the early grades. TXVA believes in a balanced approach toward education. Computers help provide effective assessment, planning, and time-management tools. And computers also act as powerful teaching tools that can motivate, stimulate, and inform children about the world around them. They do not, however, replace a solid education. So, throughout the year, students are invited to participate in school outings, field trips (e.g., to historical sites, museums, zoos), picnics, and other social events. TXVA supports local clusters of students and parents to get together on a regular basis in their areas. The school also explores new ways to interact socially using the powerful reach of the Internet. With online discussions and forums, new types of communities can be formed that are based not on geography and place but on shared interests.

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Public Education Comes Online to Texas Homeschoolers

By Andy Opsahl
Texas Technology
June 18, 2008
http://www.govtech.com/tt/articles/302361

For most of the history of education, parents chose among sending their kids to brick-and-mortar public schools, spending thousands on private schools or going it alone by homeschooling their children. Now there's another choice: The Texas Virtual Academy (TXVA), in conjunction with Houston's Southwest Charter School, offers online public education to homeschooled children in grades three through eight.

Unlike traditional homeschooling, TXVA students take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test, intended to ensure students meet minimum performance standards. Parents doing traditional homeschooling are free to design their child's curriculum with minimal state oversight. That's not to say every homeschooling parent wings it. Many purchase professionally assembled curricula from private vendors, often including religious education unavailable in public schools.

The TXVA receives about $4,900 per student each year, the amount brick-and-mortar charter schools normally collect from the state. That means TXVA students participate and receive all supplies on loan by mail for free. Each child receives a computer as well as 50 pounds of boxed materials throughout the school year. Students who use a school-issued computer also receive a $12.95 subsidy per month to help pay for Internet service. That subsidy increases to $29.95 if the student declines a school computer. Enrollment imposes no other costs on parents.

"We ship microscopes, rock kits, sand, dirt, all sorts of different test tubes, goggles and everything," said Jeff Kwitowski, vice president of public relations for K12, the vendor managing operations for the TXVA.

The TXVA made 2006-2007 its pilot year, offering grades three through six and enrolling roughly 200 students, a cap imposed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The TEA raised that cap to 750 students for the 2007-2008 school year. The TXVA's enrollment climbed to 675 in January. TXVA teachers are state-certified and oversee roughly 50 students each, mostly by tracking progress via the Web.

TAKS scores for TXVA students were a mixed bag when compared to traditional brick-and-mortar school scores. For example, TXVA students scored 86 percent on the reading section while students in traditional public schools scored 87 percent. For math, TXVA students scored 66 percent while brick-and-mortar schools earned 75 percent. Only students in sixth grade and up took the science section: TXVA students scored 40 percent while students at brick-and-mortar schools scored 70 percent.

Despite the gap in science scores, "that was pretty good for a school just starting out," said Jack Evans, head of the TXVA.

Virtual Teaching World

TXVA students learn mostly via Web-based applications and offline tools with their parents. A certified teacher calls the family at least once a month, with additional calls to students who have questions their parents can't answer. One of the school's primary benefits is enabling students to schedule subjects at times of the day they learn those subjects best.

The certified teachers hold scheduled online teaching sessions for various subjects using a virtual classroom application called Elluminate Live. The setup includes a headset and microphone for each student, allowing them to talk with the instructor as he or she teaches using the application's "digital whiteboard."

The application combines several teaching tools, said Angela Deschner, a TXVA teacher.

"On the whiteboard, I can do all kinds of demonstrations - type things in. I also can pull in PowerPoint. I can take them on a Web tour on an interactive site and do different kinds of lessons through different types of technology available on the Web. I can load up things from different places to put on the whiteboard," Deschner said.

Students can reorganize content on the interactive whiteboard to suit their preferences by clicking and dragging. Students who miss lessons can access recordings of the sessions on their own time.

TXVA teachers also use software called QuizStar to give quizzes, which also function as an attendance taker. Teachers send out an ungraded trivia question and take attendance based on which students answer it.

"I can entertain questions and have them raise hands," Deschner said. "If I have a multiple-choice question with A, B, C and D sitting there, they can each choose an answer, and we can poll to see what people chose and talk about it."

However, a parent is usually a TXVA student's primary instructor. It may seem intuitive to think that parents lacking professional teaching backgrounds would produce lower-performing students. But kids who learn from their parents at home perform better than students in brick-and-mortar schools, according to Home Schooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream, a study conducted by the Canada-based Fraser Institute. It reports that 25 percent of homeschooled students perform one or more grade levels above their public- and private-school counterparts.

More surprisingly, the study asserts that homeschooled students taught by poorly educated parents perform better than public school students with similar parents.

"One study we reviewed found that students taught at home by mothers who never finished high school scored a full 55 percentile points higher than public school students from families with comparable education levels," said Claudia Hepburn, co-author of the study.

Teachers Telecommute

Deschner spent 10 years teaching in the brick-and-mortar public school system before joining the TXVA. Teaching for an online public school lets her work from home and tailor her job so she can care for her pre-kindergarten son.

"It's easier for me to go to an event at his school than if I were at a brick-and-mortar school. I can be available for my family and my students," Deschner said.

The TXVA gives her a laptop so she can handle her workload from most locations.

"I can work whether I'm at home or at the actual TXVA office for a meeting. I was in Virginia last week for a conference, and I was able to get back with families as I could through e-mail. My husband had a business trip, and I actually worked out of the hotel room and was able to travel with him at that time, make my conference calls to families and do everything I needed to do just like a regular day," Deschner said.

Bureaucratic Obstacle

The TXVA is one of two public online schools in Texas. The second is the Texas Virtual School, in conjunction with the Houston Independent School District. Both schools were founded through a TEA program called the Electronic Course Program (eCP), which enables interested school districts and charter schools to implement online programs and receive state funding for each participating student. Few schools applied for the program, and the aforementioned two were the only ones that satisfied TEA's accountability rating.

Participation has grown in the two schools for a combined enrollment of just under 700 students, but the TEA hasn't offered the program to more schools since 2005. The agency must process students' attendance for their school to get funding, and TEA's automated student database can't process online attendance, said Kate Loughrey, director of distance learning for the TEA.

"We can't just plug those students into our automated statewide system because that system wasn't designed for a world where students aren't physically present on campus. The system can't report the students as being present, because being present requires certain rules saying you're in your seat," Loughrey said.

For the two online schools, TEA personnel make do with an Excel spreadsheet to process attendance and release state funding for the students. However, that process would have been too complicated to do statewide, said Loughrey. The TXVA's funding is based solely on student participation and performance. The TEA deducts $150 for each subject that a student fails on the TAKS.

Loughrey said the TEA may someday allow more school districts and charter schools to offer online education. However, even if the agency proceeds immediately, it would take a few years because the statewide database would need adjustments.

User-Friendly

Caroline Hartung, the mother of a TXVA student, always homeschooled her daughter, Ashley, 9, who is in fourth grade. Caroline said the process became much easier after enrolling Ashley in the TXVA. In the past, she mostly "winged it" when assembling her daughter's curriculum. She spent more than $1,000 on lesson books and other materials at teacher supply stores each school year. She said it was nice to fund her daughter's education by taxes she has to pay anyway.

Caroline was reluctant, at first, to teach her children.

"I was one of those moms who thought that to teach your children school, you had to have a college degree in teaching. It's just not true. Anybody can homeschool their kids," Caroline said.

She said the TXVA's teaching manuals are user-friendly, and Deschner, Ashley's teacher, is always available for questions via telephone or e-mail.

"Say I have a lesson that totally stumps me - I might put that lesson off until the next day," Caroline said. "If I e-mail the teacher, she always gets in touch with me within 24 hours. Then I have it, and I'm on the road again. That really hasn't happened a whole lot because there are so many resources you can draw from if you don't understand something. It helps me to look through the lesson before I teach it."

Ashley said her favorite subject to learn from her mother is math.

"She gets really excited when she teaches me math because that's her favorite subject," Ashley said.

TXVA also provides physical education lesson plans.

"They offer exercises that they teach on a TV class, but we also do jump rope, hopscotch and relay races to make it a fun activity," Caroline said.

Ashley also plays soccer in a community recreation program and is interested in singing. The TXVA's music and arts curriculum is helpful, although it's below Ashley's ability level, said Caroline.

"They have the music class where she can learn to read music, pitch, tone and all of those things," Caroline said.

Ashley said her favorite part of learning at home is that she avoids bullies.

"There is a lot of gossiping. People tell other people promises that they really don't keep. When you're homeschooling, you don't have to deal with that," Ashley said.

What does she dislike about homeschooling?

"If I were in a public school, I'd get to be around my friends, like my next-door neighbor and the other people who live in my neighborhood a lot more," Ashley said.

Deschner said online learning meets the needs of kids who fell through the cracks in traditional public schools.

"I've got kids who have asthma who could not function well in a brick-and-mortar school and are doing wonderfully in this program," Deschner said, later adding, "I've got children who had attention issues, and the one-on-one they're getting through their parent is fabulous. You can't replicate that in a brick-and-mortar school very easily due to lack of teachers.

"We're seeing children grow academically who would not have grown in a brick-and-mortar school. It's exciting to see that we're meeting a need that hasn't been met before in utilizing this technology. The technology is awesome. I'm amazed each day at the new things I learn."

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Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest Online Public School Program Announces Expansion

Aug. 11, 2008
http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/texas-virtual-academy-southwest-online/story.aspx?guid={873D18A8-4226-4AD7-BB5E-E1A412059CFD}&dist=hppr

HOUSTON, , Aug 11, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Online public school will serve additional students in more regions across the state.

The Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest (TXVA), the state's largest full-time online public school program, is expanding to serve additional students across a wider geographic area. The program recently received approval from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to enroll up to 1,500 students in regions 1-8, 10-13, and 20. Those regional education service centers cover most of the eastern half of Texas including the state's largest cities: Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Corpus Christi.

In 2007-08 academic year, TXVA served 750 students in regions 4 (Houston), 10 (Dallas) and 11 (Fort Worth).

TXVA is a program of Southwest Schools, a public charter school located in Houston, TX. The online public school, which operates under TEA's Electronic Course Program, began operations in 2006. It is open to students in grades 3-8.

"Texas Virtual Academy has been a great success and is very popular with families throughout the state," said Janelle James, Southwest Schools Chief Academic and Operating Officer. "We are excited that more Texas students are now able to participate in our program."

James added, "Our goal at Southwest Schools is to give students access to high quality educational opportunities. TXVA provides an exciting education experience that provides kids with the benefit of personalized learning along with public school structure and accountability. We are grateful for the leadership and guidance of Kate Loughrey from TEA's Department of Distance Learning as we've expanded this program to meet the needs of more children across the state."

The online school program allows students to receive a complete education outside the traditional classroom. Every student receives an individualized learning program using a curriculum with web-based lessons developed by K12, the nation's leading provider of curriculum and K-12 online public school programs. Developed by renowned and respected education experts, the K(1)(2) curriculum is a highly effective curriculum that enables mastery of core concepts and skills for students of all abilities. The K12 program combines a cognitive science-based curriculum with individualized learning approaches, delivered by teachers specifically trained to educate in an online environment.

TXVA students access lessons through the innovative K12 Online School and use other K12 education materials (textbooks, workbooks, math and science supplies, and other hands-on projects) that are shipped directly their homes.

All students are assigned to state-certified teachers. The TXVA teachers work in partnership with the students and parents to help meet the students' learning needs. Teachers assign lessons, provide instruction, guidance and support and regularly communicate with students and parents via phone, email, Web-based "e-classrooms," and face-to-face meetings. Teachers also organize school outings and activities for students and their families. Students work with a "learning coach," usually a parent or responsible adult, to help guide them through their lessons.

Students must meet a number of accountability measures including academic progress and attendance requirements, and must also participate in state assessment tests. Because TXVA is a public school program, there is no cost to enroll.

For more on the Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest, including enrollment information and a complete list of school-sponsored events across the state, visit http://www.txva.org.

About Southwest Schools:

Southwest Schools was founded in 1999 with the goal of providing an exemplary education to students and parents through a public school of choice. The school provides many different excellent education programs and offerings, including classes from elementary through high school, online school program, summer programs, homework assistance, and much more. Students who attend Southwest Schools bring a diversity of interests, cultures, talents, and proficiencies. They have found an atmosphere that encourages students to develop lifelong values and skills.

For more information, visit: http://www.swschools.org

About K12 Inc.

LRN 25.50, -0.33, -1.3%) , a technology-based education company, is the leading national provider of K-12 curriculum and online education programs. K12 provides its curriculum and academic services to online schools, traditional classrooms, blended school programs, and directly to families. In the 2007-08 academic year, over 40,000 students in 17 states were enrolled in online public schools that use the K12 program. K12 Inc. also operates the K12 International Academy, an accredited, diploma-granting online private school serving students worldwide.

K12's mission is to provide any child the curriculum and tools to maximize success in life, regardless of geographic, financial, or demographic circumstances.

K12 Inc. is accredited through the Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation (CITA). It is the largest national K-12 online school provider to be recognized by CITA. More information can be found at http://www.K12.com.

SOURCE Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest

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Texas Virtual Academy opens online ‘doors’ in San Antonio

San Antonio Business Journal
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2008/08/11/daily18.html

The Texas Education Agency approved the Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest’s plans to expand its online public school program to students in San Antonio.

The Texas Virtual Academy had served 750 students in Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth during the last school year. With this latest approval in hand from the TEA Department of Distance Learning, the academy will now be able to cover most of the eastern half of Texas, including Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Waco.

The Texas Virtual Academy is a program of Southwest Schools, a public charter school located in Houston. The online public school, which operates under TEA’s Electronic Course Program guidelines, began operations in 2006. It is open to students in third through eighth grades.

The virtual academy is now authorized to accept up to 1,500 students.

The online school program allows students to receive a complete education outside the traditional classroom. However, since it is a public school, there is no cost to enroll.

Every student receives an individualized learning program using lesson plans developed by technology-based education company K12 Inc. (NYSE: LRN) in Herndon, Va.. All students are assigned to a state-certified teacher. Teachers assign lessons but provide instruction, guidance and support to students and parents via the phone, e-mail, e-classrooms and face-to-face meetings.

Web site: www.txva.org

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Evolution Is Optional

by Forrest Wilder
Texas Observer Blog
August 14th, 2008
http://www.texasobserver.org/blog/index.php/2008/08/14/evolution-is-optional/

[I am not including the text here so the TO website will get the hits.]

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You Can Ignore Evolutionary Theory In Texas

by Margaret Downing
Hairballs Blog, Houston Press
Thursday, Aug 14, 2008
http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2008/08/evolution_creationism_texas.php

[I am not including the text here so the HP website will get the hits.]


Texas Citizens for Science
Last Updated: 2008 August 15