On November 13, 2011, Ali Carr-Chellman (@aac3 on Twitter) shared an important and courageous message at TEDxPSU. Her 13.5 minute message was titled, “A Closer Look at Cyber Charter Schools.” Among other things, Ali challenges us to question the growing nexus between non-profit “cyber charter schools” and for-profit curriculum companies. As we continue hear different voices with different agendas champion both charter schools as well as online educational options, Ali’s message is vital.
Here in Oklahoma, where our newly elected state superintendent for public instruction established our state’s first charter school, we are living in the midst of tumultuous and dynamic times for public schools. Recent state laws, enacted so Oklahoma would be eligible to apply for Race To The Top grant funds, have enabled new cyber charter schools like Epic One on One Charter School to operate with public funds. Rather than require parents to pay for a specific online curriculum option, Epic provides parents with a variety of choices. As Ali points out in her TEDx presentation, however, all of these curriculum companies (as far as I know) are FOR-PROFIT corporations. The purchase of commercial curriculum resources by schools isn’t anything new, but the “gold rush” which Ali describes for cyber schools and online curriculum IS. The questions she raises about public funds, public schools, and the ways limited tax dollars are (in some cases) now supporting single-curriculum vendor cyber charter schools are challenging.
Check out Ali’s presentation and follow her on Twitter. I found the way she approached these topics in her speech quite disarming as well as effective. These are controversial and important issues. I need to learn more and Ali has challenged me to do more research.
Ali’s October 2010 TEDxTalk, “Gaming to re-engage boys in learning,” was posted to Ted.com in January 2011.
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