Published Online: October 4, 2005
Published in Print: October 5, 2005, as E-Learning in Katrina’s Wake

Letter

E-Learning in Katrina’s Wake

Distinctly Different Responses to New ‘Virtual School’ Consortium

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To the Editor:

Your article ("E-Learning Providers Offer Help in Wake of Katrina," Sept. 21, 2005) demonstrates once again how the education community can be counted on to rise to the occasion when disaster strikes. The response to www.vskool.org so far has been deeply gratifying, a testimonial to the great things that can happen when businesses, foundations, government, and for-profit and nonprofit organizations join forces.

We have secured commitments to provide Internet service from several cable operators, and have received offers of free tuition in virtual schools, educational software, training, access to digital libraries, and more, from every state and from as far away as Vicenza, Italy.

While the VSKOOL consortium is working with state and district leaders to provide additional ways for displaced students to access online-learning resources, more partners and providers are needed. Some deep pockets of need have become apparent, including the following:

• Equipment and furniture, including computers, carts, desks, and chairs;

• Technical-support services to assist school districts in deploying and implementing technology, including on-site assistance in those places serving displaced students;

• Professional-development services for teachers who may not be entirely familiar with facilitating online learning activities; and

• Additional digital-content resources, including enrollments in a wide variety of online-learning course topics.

As we move forward, I encourage readers to visit our Web site at www.vskool.org, sign up, and help us meet these critical needs. We are genuinely lucky to be part of such a generous community.

Helen Soulé
Executive Director
Cable in the Classroom
Washington, D.C.

To the Editor:

It worried me to read, in “E-Learning Providers Offer Help in Wake of Katrina,” that a failing online charter school company is recruiting the youngest and most vulnerable victims of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

It’s of no surprise that the for-profit company White Hat Ventures, based in Akron, Ohio, can provide computers to 2,000 students on short notice, but wants to make sure first how it will be paid. As described in your article, the company also seeks to waive state and federal laws governing education. That’s a mistake: Allowing operators of Ohio’s charter schools to skirt state laws has created a program in which seven in every 10 charters earned D’s and F’s in the most recent issue of the state education department’s report cards.

Ohio charter schools in the White Hat chain failed even more miserably, with nearly 80 percent of them receiving the state’s lowest grades. For its effort, White Hat received $109 million from Ohio taxpayers last year alone. And White Hat’s online Alternative Education Academy met just 22 percent of Ohio performance standards. That’s equivalent to an F in most grade books.

Children of the Gulf Coast, who desperately need help in this moment of vulnerability, should not be made prey for those who are already failing the children of Ohio.

Tom Mooney
President
Ohio Federation of Teachers
Columbus, Ohio

Vol. 25, Issue 06, Page 35

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