Public Education is Suffering while Private Education is Getting By

What Was New
in Previous Updates


These items are presented in reverse chronological order with the most recent shown first.



What’s New in Winter 2017


Bottom-Up School Reform:

The Stars Are Aligned For It

By David V. Anderson


Our theme in this edition, about considering local reform efforts, contends that:


* The federal government has been an obstacle to school reform.
* Unionized teachers have been a hindrance of major proportion.
* Obedient school management has little freedom to innovate.
*
Relaxed parents have not been vigilant and informed customers.
* Students aren’t working hard enough to master their subjects.
* Religious organizations often don’t see the harm K-12 schools do to them.
* Many pro-education volunteer and civic organizations are not helpful.
* Educational services firms fear the educational establishment


Of these factors, Asora believes the parents of school children can be the most important agents of change. For that reason, we have developed guidebooks to schools that parents can use to help manage their children’s education providers. Once parents understand the basic fact that K-12 education is not what they think, they will react by making better choices, both individually and politically.


This Asora update has two related documents you can download:


• Our theme essay,


Bottom-Up School Reform: The Stars Are Aligned For It


To obtain the downloadable file,
BottomUp.pdf, please click here to access ASORA’s Reports on Reform page.


• Our prototypical private and public school guidebook that we have recently completed for the two states of Rhode Island and Massachusetts,


Parents’ Guide To Schools & Services
In Rhode Island & Massachusetts:



A Guide to Private and Public Schools & Other Educational Resources


To obtain a copy of this 89-page book please
click here to access ASORA’s Regional Guidebook page where you can download RIMA-Guide-01.pdf.



On Bottom-Up School Reform
The general concept of “Bottom-Up” carries with it two aspects:


* That an activity starting at the individual or small group level can accomplish desired goals.


* That its opposite kind of activity, Top-Down, is often unable, is too inefficient, or simply refuses to work towards those goals.


We listed eight contentions above. Let’s now discuss each one of them in turn.


The federal government has been an obstacle to school reform.
While most of the efforts in the United States to involve the federal government in K-12 education have been arguably well intended they have ignored two important considerations in making these kinds of policies:


* They ignore the United States Constitution’s 10th Amendment that allows no role for a federal department in this area. Why do they ignore and disobey this fundamental law?


* They ignore the economics involved by outlawing or discouraging the very kinds of frameworks that would incentivize desired improvements in education.


Previous administrations have imposed onerous regulations required for the states receiving various federal grants associated with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As we saw, recently, the Ed department was even dictating restroom policies to schools across the country. Through its infamous Race to the Top program, it imposed coercive incentives on the states to impose the politically progressive Common Core State Standards on most public schools in the nation.


Bottom-Up obstacle removal.

We at ASORA believe that the best policy for education would result from closing the Department of Education. It would remove the federal harness from the 51 plus state and territorial jurisdictions that would free them to compete with the others. Economies of scale that advocates of the federal department might cite are not really relevant when that scale is accompanied by intrusive regulations. Economics favors education operating more locally.


President Trump could do this on his own. Legislation is not needed. He only needs to defend the Constitution that according to its 10th Amendment has no provision for such a department. He could simply give its employees notice and terminate all its grant making programs. Were he to do this, the courts would probably handle lawsuits seeking reinstatement. Just as some previous Presidents have done, President Trump could simply ignore the courts on the basis that his oath of office and the terms of the Constitution make him a co-equal interpreter of this founding document.


We doubt, however, that he will close the department. But there are indications that under its new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, it will be transformed into a minimally restrictive grant making organization. Where conditions are placed on its grants, we have reason to believe that they will be used to incentivize more parental choice in education.


Based on President Trump’s campaign speeches we believe that Common Core will die at the federal level. No longer will there be any coercion on the states to adopt it. There will likely be no active effort to kill it and some left-leaning states will probably keep it or aspects of it. Unwise as these states may be, they should have the freedom to develop their own policies.


Also based on his campaign’s promise to greatly facilitate the use of vouchers, charter schools and other policies supportive of school choice we expect legislation and regulations to accomplish those goals- including an order-of-magnitude increase in voucher financing. That means ten times the current level- as was promised during the campaign.


Unionized teachers have been a hindrance of major proportion.

At every level of government, teachers’ unions have been active- some would say hyperactive- in supporting the incomes and oftentimes the politics of their members. They not only support the usual collective bargaining activities typical of unions but they also interfere with the proper management of public schools. These unions often control local school boards, county school boards, state school boards and legislatures. When it’s the local school board they effectively control the management with whom they negotiate wages, working conditions, and other aspects of school operations. Even the Curricula have not been immune from their meddling. We like to say that such unions do not “negotiate” with management. Rather they “megotiate” because they are the management- at least indirectly- in control. These are arguably corrupt practices.


Any proposed reform that would change a teacher’s role would almost certainly fail. Innovations, such as online self-paced instruction, are often dead on arrival. Given this union resistance, few public systems have been successful in developing promising improvements.


There are many teachers, albeit a minority of them, who would embrace sensible reforms. There is no place where they could go to find supportive school officials when the latter are under the thumbs of the unions. A number of teachers have either left working in the public system or never chose to work there initially. Instead they have chosen to work in private schools where they have somewhat more freedom to act professionally.



Bottom-Up opportunities from union decline.

The good news is that as more and more states have become “right-to-work” states, the power of unions has been falling significantly. As more schools become charters the number of unionized teachers will further decrease. As vouchers become more commonly used, private schools will grow at the expense of public schools and the unions will lose even more members. Their decline in membership will reduce their political power and many school boards will regain their independence from union intimidation and control.


Once school boards and teachers regain some independence from union favored nostrums, they will be able to research, develop and implement new ideas for school reform.


At the state level, where unions also have had much clout there is the prospect of reducing the “one-size fits all” policies imposed on local communities. That will foster more freedom for further innovations.


Obedient school management has had little freedom to innovate.
A good question to ask public school officials is that of who is in charge? The unfortunate answer, as we alluded to in the previous section, is “the teachers’ union.” Where the union dominates school board elections, their candidates win. In turn, their captive school board members hire and fire school superintendents, principals and others.


When parents and other stakeholders want certain reforms, they can’t really ask the school managers to implement them because they don’t answer to such concerned parties. Yes, the parents can approach the school board but if that governing body is under the sway of the unions, there is little that can be accomplished.


You want to end social promotion? You want official testing to be independent of the schools? You want incompetent teachers removed? Good luck getting these leaders interested. They’d rather collect their hefty salaries, which in part pay them to “look the other way,” rather than work to end these- again- arguably corrupt practices.


For these administrators and the teachers, there is no economic incentive for them to please the parents. They are not directly paid by the parents and worse many parents have been deceived into thinking the schools are good. So there is little pressure on them from their customers.


Bottom-Up roles for school management.

The good news here is that school management will have greater freedom enabled by the reductions in federal regulations, the decline of union interference, and the introduction of more parental choices among schools and service providers.


This doesn’t mean that management in the public or private schools will have the freedom to impose their ideas. Rather they will have the freedom to respond to market forces as they develop the structure and policies for school operations that will best keep their revenues flowing.


In some sense these school administrators are at the nexus within the public system where competition is engaged. Their policies will depend significantly on what their competitors are doing if they are to maintain or grow their market share.


Relaxed parents have not been vigilant and informed customers.
Most parents and many stakeholders have positive views of the schools around them. They know, or more accurately think they know, that many public schools are good. They generally think that private schools are better. We at ASORA know they are wrong.


Some of the more supportive parents participate in PTO or PTA organizations where friendly faces of teachers and other parents lull them into a false sense of appreciation for the school’s qualities. Oh, “look at our long honor role,” they might say while not telling the parent that the school’s testing is easy enough that being on the honor roll is no great achievement.


Our studies of reported performance levels of various kinds of schools have shown that public school systems routinely exaggerate the skill and knowledge levels of their students. Nationally, the average public school system deems twice as many students performing at or above grade level as what the well-respected Nation’s Report Card measures. So the typical public system lies.


Then we have the private schools that hide behind their unearned reputations of being much better than public schools. Again, a close review of the Nation’s Report Cart shows a rough parity between public and private schools when the comparison is done fairly. That is, when these schools are compared for a demographic that is difficult to educate, there is a tie in performance. The specific demographic used is the one of economically disadvantaged students that is defined by eligibility for the Free and Reduced Price meals of the National School Lunch program of the US Department of Agriculture.


The rejoinder to this assertion will likely be that the private school students performed better on the SAT or the ACT. And that a higher percentage was accepted in prestigious colleges. Superficially, these claims are correct. Private schools benefit from the many children who come from families of some means. Those children often learn a great deal in their homes from their usually better than average educated parents.


Very few parents are aware of this poor performance of private schools. So we suspect that private schools keep their performance numbers secret whenever the numbers are modest. It’s a silent yet corrupt practice whereby many parents of means are separated from their money with little academic benefit going to their children. In the prototypical school guidebook (mentioned above) being made available for your review, we discovered an interesting correlation in studying the estimated student proficiency levels of private schools. For private high schools reporting SAT scores we noticed that their estimated performance levels on the Nation’s Report Care were significantly higher than other private high schools not reporting them. It reminds us of the old adage about dirty linen: Don’t show it in public. But if your linen is clean or your SAT scores are high then by all means display them publicly.


Bottom-Up roles for concerned parents.

Our guidebook project is intended to provide parents and others the information they need to make intelligent choices among schools. We often think of the information provided as the second element of a school voucher program. There should be two components to parental choice in education:


1. Provide the parent the financial means to make a choice of schools for their children.

2. Provide the parent with consumer information allowing them to make an intelligent choice. We call this informational choice. It does not yet exist except as our prototype.


Our studies suggest that almost all school voucher programs, whether funded publicly or privately, suffer from parents making uninformed choices. Research on the effectiveness of school vouchers has shown minor benefits and only black children benefited in a statistically significant way. Think of it this way: The parent takes the voucher to enroll the child in a private school that they think is better than the public school attended before. But, as we know, the private school is, on average, no better than the public school. So the child is moved to a school where there is little additional benefit.


If this 2nd component of parental choice is provided then the parent can seek out those private schools that actually perform better than the previous school. That should not only help the parent but it should introduce more energetic competition among the schools. That competition would likely lead to improvements in both the private and public schools. Now that would be a real “race to the top!”


Not every parent will have a voucher to use. But when parents know about school quality they can put political pressure on the public schools when they see poor performance.


Probably more important than choosing a different school is the option for a student to receive some external independent testing followed by supplemental instruction when that student needs help to achieve grade level performance.


Parents will probably make good choices once they are aware of the degradation in their schools. They will be more active in the educational management of their children. We think every parent of a school child should regard themselves as a homeschooling parent. But not necessarily in the sense of doing homeschooling in their home. Rather they can become the managers of each child’s education by taking an active role in monitoring their skill levels and then seeking remedial help when it is needed.


Students aren’t working hard enough to master their subjects.
Shouldn’t the students act responsibly as they work to acquire the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed after high school graduation? Gauging the culpability of students for the lackluster schools they attend is difficult because they are the most innocent of the participants in K-12 education.


But there are things students can be encouraged to do. Playing educational games, particularly ones that are competitive, can help them acquire skills. Some students like the idea of showing off their skills in various areas. Why not consider academic contests that would help them acquire mastery of skills? The more competitive students might realize that their school is not challenging them enough. They could complain.


Bottom-Up roles for students

In the end, students can’t really do much to improve the schools. But they can become aware of some of the problems and maybe “push” the system at the margins in the right directions. They can be partners with their parents keeping track of the events at school and giving valuable feedback to their parents who are the ones really in charge or should be in that role.

Such as the true story from the 1970’s in a California 2nd grade classroom where a boy came home and complained to the parents that the teacher told them 3 + 4 = 8 when he knew the answer was wrong. In that case the teacher was eventually fired.


Religious organizations often don’t see
the harm K-12 schools do to them.

Churches and other religious organizations in our communities generally support American traditions and culture. As such they frequently have positive attitudes towards the schools in their communities. They obviously play a role in the education of their members’ children.


Historically, some denominations developed their own schools to ensure their children received academic, religious and ethical instruction consistent with their beliefs. Catholics have done this more than the others though Episcopalians, Lutherans, Baptists and many independent churches have also run their own schools. Some, such as Methodists and Presbyterians, rarely if ever operate schools at the K-12 levels. Overall, the number of schools operated by religious organizations is small. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts we count approximately 100 high schools with a religious affiliation out of approximately 3000 religious congregations. That’s about 3%. Why so small?


Part of the explanation comes from the fact that public schools were essentially protestant Christian schools in their early history. Over their existence in the United States, now getting close to 200 years, public schools have evolved to become more secular. No longer are prayers recited in them. Some have even abandoned the Pledge of Allegiance. Given that the public schools traditionally taught ethical and moral principles consistent with many of the various churches’ teachings, churches felt comfortable with their members’ children attending them. But that was then.


Now the public schools have been pushed into the politically progressive and agnostic realm to such an extent that their teachings often contradict what the religious beliefs hold to be true. As many churches and other religious organizations are losing membership, part of the explanation may be related to their loss of children and young adults to other creeds and philosophies.


Bottom-Up roles for religious congregations.

What can a congregation or denomination do to correct these trends? One obvious answer: start your own school. But that might not be feasible. There are measures that can help however. Add a component to the religious education that counters contradictory messages being taught in the secular schools. Teach some history when the schools are calling Thomas Jefferson’s reputation into question, calling Columbus a murderer or even calling Lincoln a liar. And deal with political correctness- of whatever stripe- when it tries to impose one line of political thinking to the exclusion of the others.


Or if that’s is not possible, maybe just have a sermon or two alerting parents to the troubles? In that vein religious groups can also consult parents to help them understand the problems in their schools. Give them advice similar to what our planned guidebooks will suggest. If you are in Rhode Island or Massachusetts, buy one or more of our guidebooks for your church library! Depending on community details, the local schools may be your adversaries. Or they may be drifting in a politically unfriendly direction and may need a nudge or course correction. And when it comes to public schools, churches and other religious groups should consider becoming politically active in educational issues. Encourage someone to run for school board. Elect friendly faces to the town council or the legislature. Elect folks who will push public education in what you see as a healthy direction.


Many “pro-education” volunteer and civic groups are not helpful.
Kiwanis and Chambers of Commerce come to mind. These are among a number of civic organizations, with chapters at the community level, that are friendly to private and public schools in their areas. Yet many of them remain unaware of the problems within the schools.


In an effort to be friendly to all sides, some of these organizations involve public school officials in their leadership, as is often the case among Chambers of Commerce. These organizations help their local schools usually according to the requests of those schools. They typically refrain from any kinds of investigations or research into problems within the schools.


When ASORA approached Chambers of Commerce about sponsoring a county level guidebook to schools for their areas, not one expressed interest or even curiosity. It is hoped that some of these organizations will take interest in such projects in the future. They may be inspired and encouraged by the new administration in Washington?


Bottom-Up roles for civic groups

Study the status quo in your communities. Get good data on school performance and characteristics for your local schools. If you are in Rhode Island or Massachusetts you can work with ASORA to produce its guidebooks like the prototypical one available now on this website. If you’re elsewhere, hire us to help you produce a guidebook or perform related work.


Educational service firms fear the educational establishment.
ASORA has been offering its data and statistics to educational service firms that could use this information in contrast marketing. This data shows which schools are weaker and which are stronger. Surely that could be used by a tutoring service to advertise its offerings. Of the hundreds of firms contacted, not one expressed interest. Public relations experts told ASORA that most of these firms have contracts with public school systems and do not want to compete with those patrons. Nor do we know of any such firms using similar kinds of data to market themselves. This behavior has many descriptives among others: “Go along to get along,” “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” “Play nice,” and “Don’t rock the boat.”


For-profit schools are also education service firms. Like the others meekly going about their work, ASORA was met with silence when we proposed that an operator of for-profit schools use our data for purposes of contrast marketing.


Bottom-Up roles within the education industry.

Individual companies providing educational services to K-12 education should try competition. Now that the educrats are losing power there is less chance that they will retaliate if you use aggressive but honest contrast marketing. If you are the only such firm advertising in such an energetic fashion, it is you who will be gaining market share. Soon the others will catch on.


Investors of all stripes should reconsider their reluctance to enter this economic sector. There are all kinds of business plans seeking investors but few if any have been funded. ASORA, for example, has one for franchising novel schools. No one has expressed interest in its proposals nor has hardly anyone invested in other novel plans.


What Is ASORA Doing About This?
ASORA has always been engaged in much pro bono work. In recent years the contract services we had been offering found little interest. In fact, we suspended our business activities in 2014 awaiting better circumstances.


Those better circumstances may be here. The many factors mentioned above will allow considerably more freedom for commercial activity in this sector.


We have decided to focus our attention in our own region here in New England. Pro bono work will be restricted to Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Our commercial efforts will be focused here as well. That is not to say that we are discouraging more remote collaborations, contracts and speaking engagements; we still solicit those.


The players in the education industry do not really need a national scale to be competitive. Working more locally can still be profitable. The United States Constitution, by its silence, also considers education activities something regional rather than national. When we work at, let’s say, the state level we can compete against other states as well as against competitors in our own localities.


For example, ASORA’s guidebook projects are state based or regional. If we succeed with our first publications, then we’ll have the experience and resources to develop others. If we succeed, others will imitate and compete with us. If our guidebook projects prosper, the benefits will be profitable to us and profitable to K-12 education: A win-win situation.



What’s New at Asora
In November 2016?

For the first time in 16 years- some would say first time ever- political control in Washington will be in Republican hands that are eager to use school choice to improve the marketplace for K-12 education. The election of Donald Trump and the election of Republican majorities in the Congress makes this not only feasible but likely. Hence our November 2016 Theme.


November 2016 Theme:

K-12 Reform
In The Trump Era


Trump seeks to expand
school choice by 1000%


Scroll Down For The Theme Discussion

Or If You're A New Visitor
If this is your first time visiting here, welcome to Asora Education Enterprises, which has been engaged in:


1.) Publishing national and regional guides (hardcopy and online) to public schools and the supplementary resources locally available that are needed to bring children attending these schools up to grade level. These needs are pervasive- across both public and private education.


2.) An achievement test consulting service, in which we analyze state administered tests to remove the exaggerations found therein. Our guides and guidebooks are based on the calculations we developed for those studies.


3.) The Stellar Schools Franchising Project, which plans to organize K-12 franchising networks of brick & mortar schools that are based on a blended format of self-paced online instruction, online adaptive tutoring and e-books blended with real instructors, tutors and books.


4.) Helping to overcome the market failure in K-12 education. We can use our guides to enable aggressive contrast marketing, which can help education enterprises thrive. Other stakeholders can use this information to inform and energize the consumers of education.


5.) A speakers' bureau focused on these topical areas.


If you're a new visitor to our website we suggest that you might review the "headlines" below before venturing into the other areas.


What Was New In Preceding Updates:
If you have not seen our previous quarterly "What's New" updates, then you might want to peruse our
"What Was New" pages.





What’s New in 2016


By David V. Anderson

Education Reform Ala Trump

He "will be the nation's biggest
cheerleader for school choice."



Click here to access our Reports on Reform page where you can download this Theme Discussion in the report TrumpReform.pdf

According to campaign promises made by Donald Trump and according to reports on what is popular in Congress, it is likely that the new administration will be able to signficantly expand the availability of school vouchers and other types of school choice within the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Currently school vouchers are funded at about $2 billion when all programs are combined. Trump plans to redirect Education Department grants at the $20 billion level- that's a 1000% increase over current levels.

Flended = Flipped & Blended Schools
Is it tradition, bureaucratic freeze, ignorance or union resistance that keeps public education stuck in the 19th century? Asora believes, "All of the above."

Age based group instruction given for only nine months of the year worked in "farmville" in 1890 but is hardly a good fit for 2017.

New methods and new technologies are here but few schools are using them.

Most private schools imitate many aspects of this same dated and obsolete tradition.

Here and there schools are using online instruction and other forms of computer assisted learning. With these tools the traditional teacher is becoming obsolete and needs to be retrained as a tutor or in a few cases as the video instructor. There are better ways to go:

⚫️End union interference in school management.

⚫️Keep the books but put curricular content online or on the computers.

⚫️End the age based system by instructing in a self-paced learning format.

⚫️End social promotion by requiring mastery of each subject prior to advancement.

⚫️Accommodate flipped scheduling wherein lessons are received at home online while school assignments are done at school with tutorial assistance.

⚫️Consider blended scheduling in which some group instruction is taught by a live teacher to appropriate sets of cognitively "ready" students.

We dub schools that include flipped and blended scheduling as
flended™️ schools. Most K-12 schools should be flended friendly.

ASORA Stellar Schools will be Flended Friendly
Asora Education has been well ahead of the curve with its Stellar Schools proposal. Developed about ten years ago, our business plan for franchised networks of modern schools has gone unfunded by investors.

Maybe it's time for investors to wake up?

Maybe check out our business plans?

We are seeking partners and investors.

You can start at
http://asoraeducation.com/page41/page41.html

OK?

Common Core is shown the door.
Federally applied coercion to keep states pledged to implement the so-called Common Core State Standards will soon end. The Trump administration, in all likelihood, even without Congressional legislation, will be able to rewrite regulations that will "release" the states from any obligations to continue Common Core.

Though probably not necessary, the new administration could use new regulations to outlaw Common Core.

Overcoming Common Core With Honest Academic Standards
A detailed examination of Common Core issues is in a recent Asora Education report, Overcoming Common Core With Honest Academic Standards, that can be accessed on our website at our Reports on Reform page

http://asoraeducation.com/page35/page35.html

Ending Cronyism in the Education Industry
Asora Education, for a number of years, was an active member of the Education Industry Association (EIA).

Trusting hope over experience it took us years to accept the disturbing stench of cronyism among for-profit companies working in the industry. It brings to mind what Pope Adrian had to say regarding corruption in the Roman Catholic Church during the early years of the Protestant Reformation. He said that its sins "were so widespread that those afflicted by the vice did not even notice the stench anymore...."

One of Asora's services has been the provision of school performance information that could be very useful in the marketing programs of for-profit education firms. Of the hundreds of EIA member firms, not one expressed interest in using our numbers to do contrast marketing. No one wanted to criticise their local public schools with our damning numbers.

A public relations expert told us that most for-profit education companies earn the bulk of their revenue from contracts with the public education system. Our marketing proposals would have had them competing with their patrons and thus essentially "biting the hand that feeds them." They don't want to risk that.

We found that even for-profit private schools were loathe to aggressively market their brands for fears of retribution.

After suggesting to the EIA that it might consider addressing this problem we were met with silence. Soon we left the EIA in 2014.

One can imagine various kinds of industry organizations that might work against the menace of cronyism. Small firms could limit their operations to the so-called private pay marketplace. Wouldn't that allow them to compete against the public system? Maybe the climate under the Trump administration will foster such developments?

Next Gen School Vouchers
Some parents, particularly ones who can afford private school tuition, seek to enroll their children in private schools that they regard as much better than the public school alternatives.


To the extent that the private schools publish information about their students' performance levels, the statistics do show, on average, superior performance as compared to the public schools.


Nationally, the NAEP actually tests samples of children in reading and math. In 2013 for 8
th graders, in private and public schools, they showed 47% and 34%, respectively, were proficient. Information like this can lead one to the conclusion that private schools are significantly better (despite not being very good!). Consistent with this, it is a widely held opinion among parents, whether well educated or not, that the private schools are superior.


But this comparison is not fair. It is not fair because public schools have many more economically disadvantaged children to educate than private schools. What does a fair comparison say?


The NAEP also breaks out the testing results for children who are economically disadvantaged. For them the private and public schools are in a dead heat- statistical tie. Those 8
th grader proficiency percentages, measured in 2013, were 21% and 20%, respectively.


Thus on average, private and public schools are equally mediocre. The number of parents who are aware of this is so small as to constitute an almost vanishing percentage of the population.

That fact goes a long way to explain the disappointing results for school vouchers in which research shows no statistically valid benefit except for black children. It helps explain this research finding under the presumption that a parent, on average, will choose a private school hardly any better than the public school previously attended.

Something else is needed. We believe the necessary additional igredient is consumer information. Parents need to know school performance information if they are to make intelligent choices- if they are to actually find a better school. The discipline of informational economics tells us that a marketplace with bad consumer information will not be healthy.

To accomplish this, those who grant school vouchers need to provide parents with good information about school performance. Moreover such grantors need to restrict the issuance of such vouchers to those areas in which such consumer information is put in the hands of the parents seeking help.


Milton Friedman Knew This
In a more general sense, education reform is about economics. Milton Friedman knew that when he first proposed school vouchers in the 1950's. As in other industries, a properly free marketplace will lead to competition through which the better providers will be rewarded with business.

This is why Asora Education does not get too deep in the weeds about the specifics of K-12 education reform. We do know, however, that cost effective services will be chosen by such a marketplace. That helps explain our Stellar Schools proposals where various kinds of cost savings will produce better educational outcomes for lower costs.


Yes, Virginia, Public Education Is Communistic

The Trump era is one of clarity in language. It is the opposite of "political correctness."

Euphemisms are out. The hard and ugly facts are in.

Promoters of public education often label their efforts as "progressive." We don't. Their efforts are more communistic than anything else.

So said former Louisiana Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek. We recently wrote about this for the Daily Caller in an article titled, "Moving School Choice Outside The Government Box," which is available on our Reports on Reform page.

Click here to access our Reports on Reform page



Where Are The Think Tanks, Education Consultants and Universities on This?
We think these institutions are mostly lost.

Obviously lost are those analysts who approach education reform without cognizance of the primary role played by the economic marketplace in which it operates. Thus those on the political left tend to be lost.

Some give credence to market influences but still want to have an education system that is operated top-down. Such advocates seek for-profit firms acting as contractors to help reach their goals.

Others see the marketplace as one that should be relatively free. It should be a place where customers can reliably compare the quality of the providers goods and services. There are many think tanks that have this philosophy.

Still many of these ostensibly qualified institutions have their idiosyncrasies that interfere with their participation in these efforts. More on this as it affects Asora follows in the next section.




CEO David Anderson Has Left The Heartland Institute
Over the years since the founding of Asora Education Enterprises in 2008 we have had a formal affiliation with two free market oriented think tanks.

One was the
Ocean State Policy Research Institute (OSPRI) in Rhode Island. I was their Fellow for Education, Energy and Environmental issues. The institute became the victim of unethical threats from the Governor's office when the latter did not like the text of an Op-Ed this author had written. I resigned over that and had the Op-Ed published in the Providence Journal without OSPRI's participation. Not long after that unfortunate event, OSPRI closed its doors and became defunct.

Over the past year or so we have been involved with the
Heartland Institute of Arlington Heights, Illinois. I was a Senior Education Fellow with them. I came to learn that Heartland is a large organization apparently devoted to publishing as many opinion pieces as possible and to such an extent that its management sometimes loses track of its publishing plans. As such it's more a publishing juggernaut than a research institute. They gave me a project that involved hundreds of hours of research and writing. When it was finished I learned that they had inadvertently (some would say deliberately) tasked a different author with much the same project and that one turned out to be the one they published. So my time was wasted. So I resigned again.

Is it that I can't hold a job? Or is it that some of these organizations can't hold onto their valuable volunteers?


What’s New at Asora In 2015 (and beyond)?

To access information about replacing Common Core, you can find articles on our Reform Reports page. It was the subject of the previous Asora Update of July 2014- also discussed in What Was New. Or you can read our booklet, Replacing Common Core With Proven Standards of Excellence that was published by the Heartland Institute. You can access it at

 http://heartland.org/policy-documents/replacing-common-core-proven-standards-excellence.



2015 Theme:

Let’s Help Parents Wise Up

Well Informed Parents Are Essential To A Healthy K-12 Education Marketplace


Scroll Down For The Theme Discussion

Or If You're A New Visitor
If this is your first time visiting here, welcome to Asora Education Enterprises, which has been engaged in:


1.) Publishing national and regional guides (hardcopy and online) to public schools and the supplementary resources locally available that are needed to bring children attending these schools up to grade level. These needs are pervasive- across both public and private education.


2.) An achievement test consulting service, in which we analyze state administered tests to remove the exaggerations found therein. Our guides and guidebooks are based on the calculations we developed for those studies.


3.) The Stellar Schools Franchising Project, which plans to organize K-12 franchising networks of brick & mortar schools that are based on a blended format of self-paced online instruction, online adaptive tutoring and e-books blended with real instructors, tutors and books.


4.) Helping to overcome the market failure in K-12 education. We can use our guides to enable aggressive contrast marketing, which can help education enterprises thrive. Other stakeholders can use this information to inform and energize the consumers of education.


5.) A speakers' bureau focused on these topical areas.


If you're a new visitor to our website we suggest that you might review the "headlines" below before venturing into the other areas.


What Was New In Preceding Updates:
If you have not seen our previous quarterly "What's New" updates, then you might want to peruse our
"What Was New" pages.





What’s New in 2015


By David V. Anderson

Let’s Help Parents Wise Up

Well Informed Parents Are Essential To A Healthy K-12 Education Marketplace



Click here to access our Reports on Reform page where you can download this Theme Discussion in the report HelpParentsWiseUp.pdf

Our theme in this edition, about well-informed parents being essential to the schooling of their children, is based on a fundamental principle of economics:


  • Consumers need reliable information about the goods and services they seek to purchase.


Without that information these consumers will likely make unwise purchases. As one economist said about markets that don't have good information

When customers are unable to distinguish between high-quality and low-quality goods, business entrepreneurs have an incentive to cut costs by reducing quality. [cited in Theme Essay]

They will sell you "lemons."

So it is important to help parents
wise up and avoid those many "lemons" of public and private K-12 education.

But They Are Unwittingly Lost In A Fog Of Misinformation
Most parents and other stakeholders of K-12 education have mixed opinions about the quality of American schools, but on average regard their local schools as acceptable or better. Having little information to the contrary, they don’t worry much about corruption, incompetence or lax standards that might affect these schools. In their minds there is no crisis.


They Rely On Public School Systems' Propaganda
In their reliance on published information and word of mouth most parents and other stakeholders of K-12 education have been misled into believing their schools are much better than they really are.


In nearly every state, the state department of education administers and reports on student achievement through assessment testing mandated by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. Sounds good- right?


The actual legislation allows states to dumb down their proficiency criteria and most have yielded to this temptation. In a typical state this means that published proficiency percentages are about double what a more acceptable standard would require. At 8th grade, the highly regarded Nation's Report Card (more formally the National Assessment of Education Progress- NAEP) reports about 34% of American children being proficient in math and reading; that's not an encouraging number. But the states, on average, will report that 60% of these children are proficient or at grade level.


The course or class grades given out by the schools tend to be even more exaggerated than those of the NCLB testing. These considerations result in a situation not unlike this:


  1. The teacher gives passing grades to 95% of the students in any typical class.
  2. The state testing reports only 65% of these children are proficient.
  3. The NAEP assessments measure a far smaller 34% of them as proficient.


It would be a rare parent who would know about this last estimate and only a few would be aware of the state testing results. Most parents, even some of the ones whose children received a failing grade, would not regard the school as failing their child. They'd probably blame the child for not performing better. So they give the school an “A OK.”


They Rely On Supposed Private School Superiority
Some parents, particularly ones who can afford private school tuition, seek to enroll their children in private schools that they regard as much better than the public school alternatives.


To the extent that the private schools publish information about their students' performance levels, the statistics do show, on average, superior performance as compared to the public schools.


Nationally, the NAEP actually tests samples of children in reading and math. In 2013 for 8
th graders, in private and public schools, they showed 47% and 34%, respectively, were proficient. Information like this can lead one to the conclusion that private schools are significantly better (despite not being very good!). Consistent with this, it is a widely held opinion among parents, whether well educated or not, that the private schools are superior.


But this comparison is not fair. It is not fair because public schools have many more economically disadvantaged children to educate than private schools. What does a fair comparison say?


The NAEP also breaks out the testing results for children who are economically disadvantaged. For them the private and public schools are in a dead heat- statistical tie. Those 8
th grader proficiency percentages, measured in 2013, were 21% and 20%, respectively.


Thus on average, private and public schools are equally mediocre. The number of parents who are aware of this is so small as to constitute an almost vanishing percentage of the population.


Critical Achievement Percentage (CAP)
Based on the fact that fair comparisons between schools need to be based on the same demographic, we propose a new figure of merit: The Critical Achievement Percentage. It is simply the NAEP proficiency percentage of the economically disadvantaged children. Thus the Critical Achievement Percentage or CAP for private schools nationally was 21% in 2013 while the corresponding number for public schools was 20%.

The overall proficiency percentages for private and public schools that we cited above, of 47% and 34%, respectively, are not very useful for comparisons because they include other inputs and influences that are not related to school quality.

This academic parameter,
CAP, probably more than any other number, shows the mediocrity of American K-12 education for both private and public schools. In our relatively recent mapping work, we have already estimated CAP for tens of thousands of public schools at grade levels 4, 8 and 12.



They Rely On Word Of Mouth
In most communities it is almost impossible to find reliable information about schools. Anecdotal information is often all a parent has to rely on. Their supposedly informed choices are more like rolling dice.


Putting The Financial Cart Ahead Of The Information Horse
You have the money to spend but you don't know much about the items in the bazar. Worse than being ignorant, you are misinformed and prejudiced about the goods for sale. Are you going to make good choices?


The Failures Of School Vouchers
Most advocates of giving parents school vouchers believe that the children of these parents will benefit. By enabling the child to attend a better school one presumes that his or her academic performance will improve.


But the research has shown little improvement except for the demographic of black children.


In the previous section we reported the parity of public and private schools in the way they educate those children who are economically disadvantaged. We believe that, on average, a parent using a voucher will simply transfer their child from a public school to a private school that is no better. One should not then be surprised to find little or no improvement.


School Vouchers Can Help If Parents Have Good Information
If parents had reliable information about the private and public schools in their communities, it is likely that they would only use a voucher if there were a school that could provide their child a superior education.


If such information were available, the lackluster schools would lose market share while the better performing schools would gain.

How To Explain The Lack Of Good Information?
Part of the explanation for understanding the absence of good consumer information rests on the understandable desire among all school officials to make their schools look good- even if they aren't so good. Public schools, which enjoy a near monopoly in K-12 education with nearly 90% of all students enrolled in them, similarly want to maintain or increase their market share by portraying themselves positively.


It does not look good when a school has a high retention rate (in which students repeat a grade) or has a high dropout rate. Local politics puts pressure on school authorities to lower these rates and they do it through social promotion policies. To justify social promotion, school administrators often hide the practice by inflating the scores children receive in their courses of study. Teachers are pressured to pass the vast majority of children and to be consistent with that are pressured to "grade on the curve" in such a way as to insure very few children ever flunk. Consistent with this actual retention rates rarely exceed 3% in the average public school class.


It has hardly ever occurred to school authorities that there is a conflict of interest when they have the dual responsibilities of instruction and testing. Because this combination is traditional it is rarely viewed as corrupt- though corrupt it is.


Non-profit private schools enjoy a reputation, probably not deserved, that they are significantly better than the public schools. Sometimes they publish information about their graduates' test results to show their superiority. But as we described above, their customers don't usually understand the demographic issue. This ignorance leads them to overestimate the quality of the private schools. And it means that private schools need not strive to be better when they can "get by" on appearances and a false narrative. To maintain this deception they’ll surely avoid publishing accurate performance statistics.


For-profit schools are so small in number that they don't affect the education marketplace very much. But why have they not gained a foothold? We believe that they are intimidated by the education establishment that would try to put them out of business if they compete too aggressively. So the for-profit schools meekly go about their business knowing that their small market share might be tolerated if they remain quiet and inconspicuous.


How To Produce Reliable Information
Given the fact that most of the published information about school performance is exaggerated it is necessary to find means of obtaining honest numbers.


In States Using ACT Tests The Information Already Exists
In some states, particularly those which use ACT’s various tests for their NCLB compliance one can find the ACT figure of merit “percent on track” to be “college ready.” A preliminary survey shows Illinois, Michigan, North Dakota and Wyoming using ACT for high school testing while Kentucky and West Virginia appear to use ACT’s 8th grade tests. Other states, including Colorado, have announced plans to participate as well.


For Other States There Are Methods To Estimate The Info
But in most states the testing systems report grossly exaggerated performance numbers, which are useless unless they can be converted to reliable statistics.


This latter defect can be remedied by using a mapping procedure by which the exaggerated numbers are “deflated” down to reliable estimates of how those students would have performed on the well-respect NAEP. Even in states using the ACT tests, such mappings to the Nation’s Report Card can be done to insure that comparisons across state lines are consistent. We can also generate estimates of the ACT’s “percent on track” number nearly everywhere in the United States.


We have performed many of these mappings in recent years for well over 10,000 public schools at grades 4, 8 and 12. Thus we have at least one method for making realistic estimates of student performance that can be applied in most (if not all) states and the District of Columbia. Our methods are in the public domain and can be used by anyone who is interested in generating such statistics.


Still Left Out Are Private Schools And The Home Schooled
Performance information for any given private school or home school arrangement is generally not available in a form for which useful comparisons can be made.


At the high school level, some private schools do report ACT and/or SAT scores for their graduates and sometimes for 11
th grade students. In those situations, linear regression methods can be used to estimate the proficiency percentages to use in comparisons.


Despite the general lack of quantitative estimates, parents of these non-public school students should consider having their children tested by a tutoring center or other supplementary education service provider. We presume that their testing options include ones that produce statistics that can be compared to the proficiencies reported or estimated for the NAEP or ACT assessments?


How To Get This Information To Complacent Parents
Information about schools will not be sought by parents when they believe all is well. Nor will they seek information if they don’t know where to look. The Internet is not much help because most of the school information websites are simply regurgitaters of public school system propaganda. An example, containing some of this self-congratulatory nonsense, is the website GreatSchools.Org. I have offered them the use of my mapping methods so they could publish more reliable information, but they seem reluctant to go in that direction. If they did, they’d probably need to rename the website. Maybe it could be called LaggingSchools.Org?


Or we could consider starting such a website and accompanying service ourselves? Or someone reading this could undertake the project?


The Education Industry Does Not Want To Do It
Let’s consider the naiveté of this writer and his Asora Education Enterprises. One relevant effort we undertook was within the Education Industry Association (EIA)- where we were once members. We solicited the interest of supplementary education providers- such as tutoring services- to use our estimates of NAEP proficiencies in their communities as a marketing tool. Not one such enterprise expressed interest in learning more or in using our methods. Not one!


When we explored this disappointment with public relations advisors to the EIA their observation was essentially this:


These firms also do contract work for public schools and do not want to be seen competing with their own patrons.


So you can imagine these for-profit supplementary education providers would not want an advertisement saying in effect,


Gee, Look At The Low Performing Public Schools Here In Our Town. We Can Help Bring Your Kids To/Above Grade Level. Bring Them In For Testing And Tutoring.


As the saying goes, they’d be “biting the hand that feeds them.”


Our naiveté continued when we took the next logical step of concluding that those supplementary providers who only service private pay clients would not be afraid to engage in such aggressive marketing. Among such enterprises are for-profit private schools. One such company, when made aware of this marketing tool, ran in the other direction! Despite being significantly better than most private schools in their area they were annoyed that our NAEP estimates didn’t show them at an even higher performance level consistent with their own egos- and they said so.


It Puzzled Milton Friedman
These questions about the cowardice of for-profit education providers’ reminded me of a question that the late Milton Friedman once pondered. As he put it,


“…
I have long been puzzled by the situation in cities like New York and San Francisco: there are strictly private elementary and secondary schools which charge very high tuitions and have long waiting lists, and I keep asking why is it that other private enterprises haven’t taken advantage of that situation as a source of profit. Somehow there is a customer base there; there is a market opportunity.” [cited in Theme Essay]



This reluctance of a private enterprise to get involved suggests that it fears retribution from the education establishment. Are they simply afraid that the supporters and players in public education would use propaganda to diminish their market share or does it go farther? Are they worried that government officials will impose onerous regulations upon them? We don’t know. However we do know, in the context of for-profit colleges, that the federal government has found ways to bankrupt some of them.


I think part of the answer to Friedman’s question is that the two states in question, New York and California, are probably among the worst legal and political environments in which to launch for-profit schools. Left unanswered is the question about other states. Some of them might be better venues in which such enterprises could be established.


Also of possible relevance to Friedman’s question is the history of FedEx and of UPS. These enterprises successfully established themselves in the parcel delivery industry and profitably took market share away from the government run Post Office.


Who Could Put This Information Out And Attract Consumers Attention?
It is clear from the foregoing that consumers are not seeking this kind of information and very few organizations are making this information available. How can that be addressed?


It seems that we have come full circle on the question of reliable performance information. No one wants to use it. No one wants to compete. According to their organizational types we have:

  • The non-profits are comfortable in their niche where they rely on public misconceptions about their superiority; so they definitely don’t want to discuss actual performance numbers.
  • The public schools surely don’t want their low performance numbers known as it might actually spur some competition.
  • And the for-profit operators understand that by keeping a low silent profile they might survive without retribution. Are they gutless?


So who could provide reliable information to consumers after stimulating their interest in it?


The answer: Stakeholders in K-12 education that are organizationally capable of its production. Among stakeholders there are two possible motivations for doing this: Altruistic and financial. Some of these concerned organizations and their interests are:

  • Religious congregations that almost always voice support for having their children well educated.
  • Taxpayer organizations that seek cost-effective schooling for children in their midst.
  • Business organizations such as Chambers of Commerce, which benefit from well-educated employees in their member businesses.
  • Individual for-profit enterprises that provide products and services to K-12 education.
  • Trade organizations of firms in the education sector.
  • Research organizations that work in the education field- including think tanks, universities and related contractors.
  • Home schooling parents and organizations representing them.




Who Should Do What?
We can go down the preceding list in an effort to understand why each of these kinds of organizations has not taken up the challenges involved and what each might do in response. Taking them in turn we have:


1. Among religious congregations their attitudes on this depends somewhat on their denomination. For example, Christian protestant congregations in the 19th and early 20th centuries saw public schools as mostly protestant schools because of the overwhelming protestant demographics in most communities. Their affiliation with the evolving public schools became a tradition even as the schools became more secular. Like so many other parents and stakeholders in K-12 education these religious groups have not scrutinized or challenged the statistics published by the public education establishment. They also don’t want to challenge the opinions of their members who mostly remain supportive of the public schools. Some denominations run their own non-profit schools, such as those operated by Catholic churches. They probably want to avoid the publication of reliable performance statistics for fear of being seen less competent than their public image represents. Similar issues, we believe, are also relevant in schools run by Jewish congregations.


To avoid conflicts within any given congregation, we would propose that the regional authorities within any denomination consider obtaining and publishing school performance information such as the CAP statistic. Within any state, this might be at the state level itself or could be within some other administrative region.


2. Taxpayer organizations would probably show interest in sponsoring some of this performance information if they could be made aware of the problem and how it affects their members and other taxpayers.


Such organizations could publish the relevant information for two purposes: It would be a public service. And it could be used to solicit an expanded membership within their taxpayer groups.


3. Business organizations such as Chambers of Commerce should be interested but generally avoid this topic- even when brought to their attention. Most local Chambers of Commerce give prominent roles, within their organizations, to the leadership of their local public education systems. As such they seem reluctant to engage in activities that might embarrass their “friends.” This is a conflict of interest.


We have yet to find a Chamber of Commerce willing to take this on, although we presume some would take interest. We’d suggest that businesses form alternative community and regional business alliances that would exclude government and non-profit organizations from their voting membership. They might solicit participation from such outside groups through non-voting affiliate memberships.


4. Individual for-profit enterprises resist any involvement in the publication of performance information that might prejudice their business relationships with public schools. And, in any case, some of these enterprises are often too small to afford the costs of data processing and its dissemination.


Even then, a small firm could use some of the information Asora has developed in the past (that’s in the public domain) to raise questions in its advertising in an effort to solicit clients to their business. Or for a few hundred dollars we at Asora might be able to produce CAP estimates for their locality- depending on the details.


5. Trade organizations of firms in the education sector might be interested if there were more of them. We are aware of only one such organization: The Education Industry Association.

We wonder if trade organizations were established at the state level what efforts they might undertake to help their members. We imagine that in some states they might decide to use realistic performance information to help their member firms market themselves. Even if this was done in only a few states at first, we can imagine others doing it later once it had been successful among the pioneering states. So our advice to the EIA is: Consider remaking your organization into a federation of state based trade associations.


6. Research organizations that work in the education field have an opportunity here. Their motivation to get involved would be both scientific and humanitarian. The former because they’d want to discover and understand policies that succeed and the latter because they want to help the schools improve.


Depending on their finances, such institutions might sell the performance data they have obtained or they might be funded sufficiently to publish it gratis?


7. Advocates of home schooling probably would like information that supports their claims about the presumed superiority of home schooling over other K-12 educational formats. If they tested the children within their home schooling organizations with tests that are statistically comparable to the ones used by the states, they could demonstrate how their performance compares to that of the others.


They could then publish their performance data. If it was as positive as some claim, it could be used to attract more parents into the homeschooling arena. And it would be a wakeup call to brick and mortar schools.


What Are People At Asora Doing About This?
Unless paid to do so, Asora Education will no longer be a significant player. We remain available to perform contract research and data processing as described elsewhere on this website.


Asora has suspended its activities and its
CEO, David Anderson, is now working with the Heartland Institute of Chicago as an Education Research Fellow.


The onus is on you and others working in the various segments of the education industry. You can make up for your earlier “inefficiencies” by doing something constructive. We’ve laid out some ideas and proposals for you to consider.


If you do nothing else, look at what you can do to give parents reliable information about schools and other education services. Once they have a better idea of what is going on, their participation in the education marketplace will incentivize the necessary reforms. So, for example, if you are a tutoring service it is both in your financial interest as well as for your self respect that you market yourself with honest and accurate information. Don’t be afraid of the education establishment; don't be timid and yield to their pressure.


Participation In The Education Industry Association Has Lapsed

We appreciate the involvement we have had with the Education Industry Association. Many of the colleagues with whom we share our quarterly updates and many others we have met at EIA meetings have been very helpful to us. It has been a good learning experience. And we made friends.


But we also understand the “facts of life” of the
Education Industry in the sense that it is considerably different from other economic sectors. Very little of the activity of firms within this sector is between the enterprises and the private pay customers. A very large fraction of it is contract work driven by the needs of the public education sector. That’s not what we want to do.


We believe that the EIA should consider an organizational “revolution.” In this major revision the EIA would rebuild itself as a federated organization comprised of state chapters. Each state chapter would organize itself around the laws and needs of its state. Each such chapter would be in a position to be an information source that would enable it to help its members market their services. Each of them could be a resource to parents and others seeking accurate and reliable information about schools and student performance. In doing this, the EIA would also temper its crony capitalism aspects. A healthy vibrant education marketplace would grow and children would benefit.


Our focus is summed up well by the quote from Joseph Bast and Herbert Walberg,


Temperance, orderliness, frugality, industry, honesty, moderation, and humility are all capitalistic values. We should not fear having our children attend schools operated by businesspeople who share those values.


Though we will be suspending most of our education activities, we will remain available to consider future contracts and collaborations. Call us if you’re interested!


CEO David Anderson Now At Heartland Institute


Almost all of the operations of Asora Education Enterprises have been suspended- mainly for the lack of business. Its CEO, David Anderson, is no longer actively seeking business (but would respond positively to inquiries from prospective customers, partners or parties interested in purchase of the firm.)


Anderson is now an Education Research Fellow with the Heartland Institute of Chicago but he works out of his home office in Massachusetts.


An important lesson has been learned from this seven year long experiment in capitalism. We learned that the marketplace for the business plan and other services offered by Asora is broken. For example, our efforts to franchise novel schools failed. More importantly, no one else has succeeded in this area either. In other economic sectors franchising networks would be very profitable and successful, but not in education.


And, why not? Have the enemies of for-profit education erected insurmountable obstacles? Or have the entrepreneurs of education been too timid to aggressively build their enterprises? Or are the potential customers uninterested based on their biases? Or is it a combination? We think it is the “combination” and this Update covers our thinking on this in much more detail and presents some possible solutions.


What’s New In October 2014?

October Theme: Fellow Travelers Of Totalitarian Education

Scroll Down For The Theme Discussion

Or If You're A New Visitor
If this is your first time visiting here, welcome to Asora Education Enterprises, which has been engaged in:


1.) Publishing national and regional guides (hardcopy and online) to public schools and the supplementary resources locally available that are needed to bring children attending these schools up to grade level. These needs are pervasive- across both public and private education.


2.) An achievement test consulting service, in which we analyze state administered tests to remove the exaggerations found therein. Our guides and guidebooks are based on the calculations we developed for those studies.


3.) The Stellar Schools Franchising Project, which plans to organize K-12 franchising networks of brick & mortar schools that are based on a blended format of self-paced online instruction, online adaptive tutoring and e-books blended with real instructors, tutors and books.


4.) Helping to overcome the market failure in K-12 education. We can use our guides to enable aggressive contrast marketing, which can help education enterprises thrive. Other stakeholders can use this information to inform and energize the consumers of education.


5.) A speakers' bureau focused on these topical areas.


If you're a new visitor to our website we suggest that you might review the "headlines" below before venturing into the other areas.


What Was New In Preceding Updates:
If you have not seen our previous quarterly "What's New" updates, then you might want to peruse our
"What Was New" pages.





What’s New in October 2014


By David V. Anderson

Fellow Travelers Of Totalitarian Education


Our theme this quarter, about
Fellow Travelers Of The Totalitarian Education, is based on disturbing recent trends towards totalitarian policies within K-12 education. Of most concern to us is the recent and ongoing coercion placing undue pressure on the states to adopt the so-called Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Farther along in this Update we remind readers about what’s right with K-12 education trends, but here we focus on what’s wrong. You can also find this discussion in pdf article form on our Reports on Reform pages here.


They Are Confused
By confused we refer to the fact that most players in the education field are not fully aware of the condition of primary and secondary education within the United States nor are they keeping abreast of technological and methodological trends affecting its future. Moreover, many participants have been taken in by various political and social agendas that are overly centralized and are arguably harmful to this important sector of American life.


Confusion is often the result of being misinformed or of being ignorant of the relevant issues. Those who teach in and administer public and private schools are often less competent than what parents and other stakeholders expect. Such shortcomings are often not obvious to the general public or to others relying on the systems. Consider the following areas of weakness among these educators:


◾️ The list begins by considering the cognitive ability levels of entering college freshman according to their intended majors. Of 27 academic disciplines Education ranked 26th in terms of students’ aggregate SAT scores. Only Agriculture was lower, at 27th.


◾️ Then consider the skill levels of newly trained educators- those who have completed degrees from education departments of colleges and universities. In California, for example, new teachers are required to pass the CBEST examination, which is a 10th grade competency test in reading, writing and mathematics. A significant fraction of entering teachers fail the CBEST. (This author took and passed this test in 2004.) But aren’t teachers supposed to be college graduates with at least 16th grade skills?



◾️ In many jurisdictions, holders of teaching credentials are eligible to teach but those with only academic degrees (including advanced degrees) in the subjects to be taught are excluded from consideration. (For that reason, this author was once blocked from public school employment, but was able to teach physics and mathematics in a private high school.)


◾️ Politically “progressive” influences in many school systems have led to a de-emphasis of the instruction of American history and civics. This not only leaves the students relatively ignorant of American laws and traditions, but it also preserves the biases and lack of knowledge of the teachers in these areas as well. It often puts teachers in the position of being susceptible to education policies that are not only ineffective but that are sometimes illegal and/or unconstitutional.


◾️ Almost totally lacking in the preparation of school staff and officials is any emphasis on the economic aspects of education. As a result there is little concern about the benefits of cost efficient operation of schools and other educational services.


These and other weaknesses of public educators (and some private ones as well) leave them more as a part of the problem rather than being reformers in search of solutions.


The Appeal Of Totalitarianism
We use the relatively old phraseology Fellow Travelers because it conveys a nuanced meaning much like its use during the 1950’s when it was applied to the Communist menace that worried many Americans. Here we use the term with respect to statist or totalitarian philosophies of education- particularly those that match the One-Size-Fits-All label.


To better understand these folks it is helpful to understand those philosophies first. We see three characteristics that motivate policy makers towards these statist systems:


◾️ Through a misunderstanding of economics, many educators seek economies of scale that require the imposition of uniformity across the community, region, state or nation. We are now witnessing a “power grab” to bring uniformity of curricula from the state levels to the federal. The vehicle is, of course, the Common Core State Standards. We would not generally refer to a common curriculum within a school district as totalitarian, but as a common curriculum is imposed on larger and larger demographics and geographies the totalitarian labeling becomes more and more appropriate. Thus Common Core is totalitarian because it is now being required nationally.


◾️ To impose an education system that teaches their politically correct totalitarian political, social, cultural and economic philosophies in preference to others not so favored.


◾️ To undermine the legal framework of K-12 education through subversion of the Constitutional and statutory provisions therein.


Who Are They?
Why would we use the label fellow traveler anyway? We believe that there are many observers of K-12 education who get swept along by the propaganda put forth from the education establishment who have not carefully considered the issues. They’re the fellow travelers who have been “taken in.”


Our first encounter with the concept of
fellow travelers dates to the 1950’s when many Americans were worried about subversives within the U.S. government.


In terms of the advocacy of Communist revolution to overthrow the United States government, former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover defined “fellow traveler” as this:


“…someone not a potential Communist or influential advocate for Communist views but who agrees with some of those views.”



Some Of Their Species
In terms of K-12 education we can identify some types of these fellow travelers of totalitarian education policies:


◾️ Those who want academic standards to be mandated by the federal government to be uniform across the United States- such as advocates of the Common Core State Standards, which prohibit curricular variations more than 15% from the published requirements.


◾️ Those who want class sizes dictated at the state or federal levels.


◾️ Those who would impose credentialed teachers on students over those with academic degrees.


◾️ Those who oppose school vouchers.


◾️ Those who oppose charter schools.


◾️ Those who oppose for-profit schools.


◾️ Those who oppose patriotic exercises at school.


◾️ Those who want more dietary regulations enforced at schools.


◾️ Those who claim the U.S. Constitution is a mutable living document.


◾️ Those who oppose teaching civics.


◾️ Those who oppose teaching about the founders.


◾️ Those who promote identity politics.


◾️ Etc.


Most of these naïve folks are seemingly well-intentioned educators or are other stakeholders who have not had the opportunity to become very well informed about education policies. If they had a broader perspective, many would oppose the totalitarian approaches and possibly work against them. Or at least take a more cautious view of them.


The Education Establishment Resists Progress
K-12 education in the United States is largely a government function and sometimes that of non-profit private organizations. It is rarely provided by for-profit enterprises. In most other economic sectors, for-profit firms dominate with some services and products coming from the non-profit or governmental sectors. In fact, in most economic sectors the government does not participate.


To us “progress” would move the education sector into the free marketplace of capitalism while reserving a role to the government to do what it can do best: Provide funding. A system of vouchers would be the means by which all parents could have the responsibility of choosing their children’s schools and other educational services.


The education establishment consists of many interest groups that are politically active. Teachers’ Unions, Associations of School Boards and Parent Teacher Organizations are the most important. Their interests are both pecuniary and ideological. They have been forceful opponents of vouchers and other forms of school choice. They often display their hatred of capitalism and even resist teaching much about it in their schools.


Common Core Degrades American K-12 Education
A number of scholars have reviewed the published standards from Common Core and found them wanting. This author has also published a review that goes farther and recommends the consideration of the ACT organization’s tests and standards as a national “curriculum” that states and other educators could use on a voluntary basis without federal interference. (accessible at http://heartland.org/policy-documents/replacing-common-core-proven-standards-excellence)


The Common Core Advances Their Totalitarian Agenda
Until the recent imposition of the Common Core State Standards in nearly all states, public education was more or less centralized at the state level. Depending on the state, statewide control of school operations had some totalitarian aspects- such as uniform textbook selection, uniform curricula and certain administrative functions. Federal involvement had been limited mainly to supplementary funding and relatively loose testing requirements- such as is included in the No Child Left Behind legislation.


To the extent that
Common Core remains in control of various state’s curricula and instruction, those jurisdictions have put themselves under federal control that is uniform across the states. In other words, they have put themselves under totalitarian control.


Who Are The People Pushing This?
To get a better understanding of these activities it is helpful to know something about the various individuals and organizations involved in this push towards totalitarian K-12 education.


First we consider some of the people who have played significant roles in the development, adoption, and enforcement of the
Common Core State Standards.


◾️ Bill Ayers: This education professor from the University of Illinois (former domestic terrorist and self-described communist with a small “c”) has been involved with some of the proponents of Common Core. During the 1990’s and early 2000’s he worked with Barrack Obama, first in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and later in the Chicago Public Education Fund.


◾️ David Coleman: Co-founded the Grow Network with Jason Zimba and then obtained a $2.2 million contract from the Chicago Public Schools (run by Arne Duncan) in 2001. Co-founded Student Achievement Partners with Jason Zimba and Susan Pimentel in 2007 that in 2008 solicited Bill Gates to “bankroll” their Common Core proposals. He has been the lead author of the English standards under Common Core and now is CEO of the College Board that is busy “modifying” the academic standards used in the SAT and other tests affecting K-12 education.


◾️ Arne Duncan: This former professional basketball player worked in the Chicago Public Schools administration in the 1990’s and became its CEO in 2001. During that time he befriended neighbor and basketball enthusiast Barrack Obama. As CEO of the CPS he gave contracts to Coleman and Zimba’s Grow Network. More recently, as Secretary of Education, in 2010 he led the Race to the Top effort to coerce states to adopt the Common Core State Standards.


◾️ Bill Gates: Through his foundation, dozens of grants were given to other non-profit players with the understanding that they would push Common Core and make it a national standard. This was partly the result of being solicited by David Coleman in 2008 to help the Common Core proposals become national standards.


◾️ Barrack Obama: Worked with Bill Ayers in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge project in the 1990’s and later in the Chicago Public Education Fund. Befriended Arne Duncan in the late 1990’s as Duncan was working his way up in the Chicago Public Schools administration. In his role as president he has supervised the adoption of Common Core through the Race to the Top competitions.


◾️ Jason Zimba: Co-founded the Grow Network with David Coleman and then obtained a $2.2 million contract from the Chicago Public Schools (run by Duncan) in 2001. Co-founded Student Achievement Partners with David Coleman and Susan Pimentel. He has been the lead author of the mathematics standards under Common Core.


We don’t have enough information to give details about the planning that these individuals cooperated in. But we find it very curious that most of these individuals that had Chicago connections over a decade ago are now heavily involved with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.


We also find it troubling that all of the above individuals are left leaning political progressives. Why is there no representation from the political middle or right? How can these standards be in “Common” if their authors have no input from other parts of the political spectrum? Hell, there aren’t even any average Democrats weighing in!


Supporting Organizations Funded By The Gates Foundation
We found an interesting article in Mother Jones detailing the destinations of some $200 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation- all in the support of Common Core. Bill Gates is surely well intentioned but he seems poorly informed about the efficacy and legality of imposing Common Core on the states. Wouldn’t you count him among the fellow travelers?


Among the organizations cited in the Mother Jones article there were a number of “Think tanks/advocacy groups.” Of those, here are the ones that received approximately $1 million or more:


◾️ American Enterprise Institute


◾️ Council for a Strong America


◾️ Foundation for Excellence in Education, Inc.


◾️ Fund for Public Schools, Inc.


◾️ James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute


◾️ National Association of State Boards of Education


◾️ Research for Action, Inc.


◾️ The Aspen Institute, Inc.


◾️ The Education Trust


◾️ Thomas B. Fordham Institute


◾️ U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation


In total the Mother Jones list of recipient Think Tanks and Advocacy Groups sums to over $41 million received from the Gates Foundation for their support of Common Core. Nearly all of this money was spent after the heavy-handed tactics were successfully applied to coerce adoption of the CCSS. It suggests that proponents in the Gates Foundation were worried that the standards would unravel without a heavily subsidized campaign of support.


Some of the notables caught up in the
Common Core controversy who still support it include:


◾️ Chester Finn and Robert Pondisco of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute


◾️ Gov. Jeb Bush of the Foundation for Excellence in Education


◾️ William Bennett, who penned a recent op-ed favoring it


◾️ Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey


We don’t understand how these serious people could support CCSS except to think that they have not carefully studied the details of it. Why would anyone support something like this that is academically wanting and that was established by legally suspect means? Surely they’re not fans of this kind of totalitarianism? They must be misinformed.


If That’s Failure, What Does Success Look Like?
Implied or written between the lines of the foregoing is the suggestion that there are better alternatives that sensible leaders of education could be developing and offering. First, let’s consider that success is not a single system. There are many ways to instruct, many ways to develop curricula and many ways to organize schooling. Let’s look at just two of the aspects: instructional methods and curricula.


Traditional Tutoring Is The Best Instructional Method But Expensive
Until the advent of group instruction, tutoring had always been the primary instructional format for primary and secondary education. Following the development of group instruction, which resulted from the Protestant Reformation, tutoring was still the preferred method for learning but was considerably more expensive than group instruction. As a result, age based group instruction became the cost effective format for educating the masses. And as a result, group instruction has been by far the most common mode of K-12 schooling.


Homeschooling, which is a version of tutoring, has been gaining adherents in recent years and generally produces better-educated students than public or private schools that rely on group instruction.


Computers And Online Instruction Enable Cost-Effective Tutoring
As in other fields, automation has ushered in alternatives to traditional methods of instruction. Distance learning and now online instruction allow expert instructors and other instructional materials to reach very large numbers of students. They can be used in conjunction with group instruction, but are flexible enough to be used individually- more or less on demand. In this latter case, students can self pace their learning and by doing so avoid the frustrations of falling behind or being bored by too slow a pace.


Local, State Based and National Standards To Consider
According to the laws and customs of the United States, K-12 public education is something organized within states and their subdivisions. The federal government is specifically prohibited by statute from controlling curricula of public schools. The closest the US Government had come to violating these laws was with respect to its administration of the Nation’s Report Card- more officially known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Its content standards could be used to create a curriculum, but federal officials had never done so nor had they put any undue pressure on states to adopt NAEP standards as curricular components.


The advent of the
Common Core State Standards have now put the federal Education Department in violation of these laws because the CCSS are now required (if the various states want to keep their federal funding flowing).


This movement toward national standards by itself is not troubling when they are voluntary. In fact, there already exist a number of national curricula that are well respected. They include the tests and standards of:


◾️ The ACT organization, which are specified and administered for grades 3 through 12.


◾️ The International Baccalaureate program for primary, middle and secondary school levels.


◾️ Hillsdale Academy through its Reference Guides that cover the years K – 12. There is no formal testing program of which we are aware. The Guides have been used in hundreds of schools in all 50 states as well as in schools abroad.


◾️ K12, Inc., which offers online instruction across the country.


◾️ A Beka Academy, which provides its Christian oriented services and materials nationally.


◾️ The Well Trained Mind, which is a nationally available book describing academic content for home educators providing a classical education in the Trivium format.


Thus we don’t need the illegally imposed Common Core State Standards. In a recent Heartland Institute Report (accessible at http://heartland.org/policy-documents/replacing-common-core-proven-standards-excellence) we wrote about their defects as to being incomplete, inferior and illegal. Why embrace such rubbish when a variety of voluntary national standards are available for consideration? And why risk that fellow traveler designation by supporting totalitarian education?




Asora Will Limit Unpaid Work
Regrettably, the services we have offered have not found many clients. Some of our plans for developing our business found very little interest- particularly from those who might invest in them. Our business plan that proposes the franchising of blended instruction schools went nowhere. And it’s not that a competitor succeeded in this area. No one else has succeeded with anything remotely similar. Statist interests have hobbled our business and many others.


Instead much of our work has been a combination of unpaid research and pro bono work in various communities around the country. While we will remain available to work under contract most of our other activities will be suspended.


For example, these quarterly Asora Updates will be issued less frequently and only as we see the need to do so. This might be the last one!


Participation In The Education Industry Association Has Lapsed
We appreciate the involvement we have had with the Education Industry Association. Many of the colleagues with whom we share our quarterly updates and many others we have met at EIA meetings have been very helpful to us. It has been a good learning experience. And we made friends.


We understand the “facts of life” of the
Education Industry in the sense that it is considerably different from other economic sectors. Very little of the activity of firms within this sector is between the enterprises and the private pay customers. A very large fraction of it is contract work driven by the needs of the public education sector. That’s not what we want to do.


Our focus is summed up well by the quote from Joseph Bast and Herbert Walberg,


“Temperance, orderliness, frugality, industry, honesty, moderation, and humility are all capitalistic values. We should not fear having our children attend schools operated by businesspeople who share those values.”


Though we will be suspending most of our education activities, we will remain available to consider future contracts and collaborations. Call us if you’re interested!


What’s New In July 2014?


July Theme: Replace Common Core With ACT

Scroll Down For The Theme Discussion

Or If You're A New Visitor
If this is your first time visiting here, welcome to Asora Education Enterprises, which has been engaged in:


1.) Publishing national and regional guides (hardcopy and online) to public schools and the supplementary resources locally available that are needed to bring children attending these schools up to grade level. These needs are pervasive- across both public and private education.


2.) An achievement test consulting service, in which we analyze state administered tests to remove the exaggerations found therein. Our guides and guidebooks are based on the calculations we developed for those studies.


3.) The Stellar Schools Franchising Project, which plans to organize K-12 franchising networks of brick & mortar schools that are based on a blended format of self-paced online instruction, online adaptive tutoring and e-books blended with real instructors, tutors and books.


4.) Helping to overcome the market failure in K-12 education. We can use our guides to enable aggressive contrast marketing, which can help education enterprises thrive. Other stakeholders can use this information to inform and energize the consumers of education.


5.) A speakers' bureau focused on these topical areas.


If you're a new visitor to our website we suggest that you might review the "headlines" below before venturing into the other areas.




What’s New in July 2014


By David V. Anderson

Replace Common Core With ACT

Our theme this quarter,
Replace Common Core With ACT, is based on a number of recent developments in and around the Common Core controversy wherein the federal government has applied undue pressure on states to adopt unsatisfactory academic standards for American K-12 education. By “unsatisfactory” we mean:


~ Common Core academic standards are incomplete.

~ Common Core academic standards are incompetent.

~ Common Core academic standards are illegal.


A number of states have abandoned or are now considering the abandonment of the Common Core. We at Asora Education had been passive observers to these “standards” until this past quarter. Then as we became more convinced about the federal government’s improper role in their establishment, we decided to say something, including this:


The US Department of Education used coercive tactics to herd states into joining the Common Core State Standards.


From the perspective of Asora we have long been advocates of strong academic standards as is implicit in our studies of the
Nation’s Report Card- more formally known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP). We agreed and still believe that the content tested by the NAEP is a “gold standard” of American K-12 education.


But we have not been advocates of a federal government imposed national curriculum because we think such a system would be unwise and illegal. Rather we would seek an informal or defacto national curriculum that would represent a minimum set of voluntary standards that students should consider learning.


At Asora, the major activity until now has been that of making local estimates of NAEP proficiencies, which we have done at the school and district levels. In doing this we have encountered a number of states that use the ACT organization’s various tests in their efforts to be NCLB compliant. During the past quarter we have been studying the relationship of NAEP proficiencies to performance measures of the ACT tests, which tells us that the ACT testing regime is comparable to the NAEP in terms of quality and has the added benefit of not being controlled by the federal government or by any state governments. We think it provides the “defacto” national standard we have been seeking. A more detailed report, Mapping NAEP Proficiencies to ACT’s POT, is available on our
Reports on Reform page.


Before voicing our opinions, we wanted to learn more about the Common Core State Standards and the testing for them. So we consulted the literature and found much doubt and criticism of them. They are weak compared to the traditional curricula offered in most schools in most states: So we say they are
incomplete. We elaborate in a subsequent section.


These standards have some very strange instructional concepts embodied within. The pedagogy followed is not supported by much research. In a word, they are
incompetent. More on this below.


The incompetence aspect led us to inquire about the Common Core’s authors and their qualifications. Those responsible were not hired by the states to produce the mislabeled State Standards. Rather their work product was imposed on the states. Thus the words State Standards were misleading because the states did not formulate them and do not have any control over them. The incentives erected by the US Department of Education to encourage states to adopt the Common Core have been coercive to such a degree that many legal scholars believe them to be unconstitutional and
illegal. We discuss this in greater detail farther along.


But there is more than a glimmer of hope. States can reject
Common Core as some have now done. And they have an alternative with a very good reputation: They can adopt and use the ACT organization’s many tests, which are now available from grades 3 through 12.


The Common Core Is Incomplete
In the subjects of mathematics and reading, the Common Core has reduced the content students are required to master. This suggests on the one hand that students will have more time to study the remaining topics or perhaps on the other hand will be taught additional content that has not been determined or released.


In mathematics the mastery of several calculational skills are delayed by one or two grade levels. Common Core only specifies three years of high school mathematics compared to the traditional four years of instruction that is recommended by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. There is no way that 11 easy years of math learning can equal 12 years of more intensive work. So the math standards are incomplete.


In reading, which also includes content from English Language Arts (ELA), the reading lists of classical literature are markedly reduced from traditional curricula. In the place of these fictional texts is the proposal that more non-fiction be read, but those reading lists are also amazingly short. Does this portend the English classroom becoming more like a “study hall” or does it suggest something else? Whatever it suggests, it is an incomplete specification.


The Common Core Is Incompetent
When any program is based on untested or failed proposals, it displays incompetence. Students should not be put at risk by forcing them to participate in unproven schemes. Here is a list of some of the more bewildering aspects of Common Core:


~ There is no standard for cursive writing. Printing and typing are still taught- at least for the next few years.

~ Historical documents, such as famous speeches, are to be read “cold” by purposely withholding relevant background information. You’re not allowed to mention the Civil War when teaching about the Gettysburg Address!

~ Common Core promotes marginal teaching methods such as experiential education, which at best should be an adjunct to instruction. They don’t mention direct instruction, which has been validated in many studies.

~ Common Core claims that it includes the teaching of “critical thinking,” “higher order thinking skills” and “21st Century skills” but never bothers to define what they are. That it doesn’t do this is probably the result of its authors not knowing what they are. (In reality they are empty concepts unless one is considering them as aspects of mathematics and logic.)


When a set of academic standards, such as these, propose incompetent methods of instruction and learning, it makes plausible the relative incompleteness of them. So the first two unsatisfactory aspects, incompleteness and incompetence, exacerbate each other.


The Common Core Is Illegal
We are not legal experts, so here we need to rely on the analysis of others. There are two areas of legal concern:


~ The Constitutional violation of its 10th Amendment that reserves certain powers to the “States… or to the people.”


~ Three federal statutes prohibit federal control over school curricula.


The Constitutional requirement devolves education to the state level or lower. Federal activities in education have persisted for many decades but have mainly been in the areas of grants to public school systems and in the area of research. The, NAEP, for example, represents an activity that might be justified by the Weights and Measures clause or maybe the Commerce clause, but many would argue otherwise. The establishment of the Department of Education is more difficult to justify by the language of the Constitution, but so far the Supreme Court has allowed it to persist.

The three federal statutes that prohibit direction of curricula restate what the Constitution already implies. These statutes have the characteristic, “this time we really mean it.”


It appears that the Department of Education wanted to have indirect control over the curricula of the several states, which gives it some ability to deny its role. The Department used its Race to the Top grants and the issuance of waivers from the requirements of NCLB to pressure states into adopting the Common Core State Standards. Some will argue that these pressures were perfectly legal incentives while others are expected to label them coercive.


We believe the latter.


Scott Walker's 10th Amendment Concern
About two years ago, we attended an education conference at Harvard where Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker shared some of his policies and concerns about K-12 education. What primarily caught our attention was his concern that the "wrong" kind of national testing and standards would violate the 10th Amendement of the US Constitution. In a brief conversation afterwards, I suggested to Governor Walker that using the ACT tests and their standards might be the "right" kind of national testing because the federal government would play no role.

Wisconsin's current policy seems to straddle the fence. Going forward, ACT testing will be used at all available grade levels but the state is still participating in Common Core and will use some of its testing in elementary grade levels.



More On Why We Would Abandon Common Core
The short answer to this question is: There is a better alternative that already exists and that is the ACT organization’s many tests for K-12 education.


Why waste time, money and resources on a controversial curriculum such as Common Core when there is a more credible and less expensive option?


The only answer we can think of is that “it’s not politically correct.”


A more thorough analysis can be found in our essay,
Abandon Common Core?, which you can download from our Reports on Reform pages here.


Formulas For Generating ACT Estimates From NAEP
Here at Asora Education we have recently completed analyses comparing NAEP performance results with those of the ACT for those states in which both sets of data are available. At the 8th, 10th and 12th grade levels we find that one of the NAEP’s figures of merit, its proficiency percentage (or an interpolated estimate thereof), is numerically close to the ACT’s figure of merit, the percent on track to be college and career ready.


The details of that can be found in our report,
Mapping NAEP Proficiencies to ACT’s POT, which is downloadable from our Reports on Reform pages here.


Replacing NAEP Estimates With Those Of ACT
Over the past seven years Asora has been evaluating tens of thousands of public schools by providing estimates of NAEP proficiencies their students would have achieved had they taken one of the NAEP tests that are given to 4th, 8th and (sometimes) 12th graders. We have also made estimates for a much smaller number of private schools for which useful performance data was available.


We have now developed mappings, mentioned in the preceding section, that allow us to convert NAEP estimated proficiency percentages (of any school or district level tested group) to the ACT percent on track (to be college ready). We see two advantages to this new practice:


~ ACT’s tests are already being used in dozens of states and beginning this year are covering grades 3 through 12. We would not need to produce estimates of that ACT data, which would already be reported at the school and district levels.


~ ACT’s content standards are independent of any federal government dictate and are based on scientific research studies that link a student’s knowledge with their statistically likely performance in college. We believe that the ACT’s success in this area warrants the label, “platinum standard” of K-12 education.


So if you live in an ACT state, you already have the advantage of this knowledge. And if you don’t, Asora can work with you to make estimates. More on this in the mapping report we mentioned above.



Asora Will Limit Unpaid Work
Regrettably, the services we have offered have not found many clients. Some of our plans for developing our business found very little interest- particularly from those who might invest in them. Our business plan that proposes the franchising of blended instruction schools went nowhere. And it’s not that a competitor succeeded in this area. No one else has succeeded with anything remotely similar.


Instead much of our work has been a combination of unpaid research and pro bono work in various communities around the country. While we will remain available to work under contract most of our other activities will be suspended.


For example, these quarterly Asora Updates will be issued less frequently and only as we see the need to do so. This might be the last one!


Participation In The Education Industry Association Will Lapse
We appreciate the involvement we have had with the Education Industry Association. Many of the colleagues with whom we share our quarterly updates and many others we have met at EIA meetings have been very helpful to us. It has been a good learning experience. And we made friends.


We understand the “facts of life” of the Education Industry in the sense that it is considerably different from other economic sectors. Very little of the activity of firms within this sector is between the enterprises and the private pay customers. A very large fraction of it is contract work driven by the needs of the public education sector. That’s not what we want to do.


Our focus is summed up well by the quote from Joseph Bast and Herbert Walberg,


“Temperance, orderliness, frugality, industry, honesty, moderation, and humility are all capitalistic values. We should not fear having our children attend schools operated by businesspeople who share those values.”


Though we will be suspending most of our education activities, we will remain available to consider future contracts and collaborations. Call us if you’re interested!


What’s New in April 2014


By David V. Anderson

Your Education Responsibilities Check List
Our theme this quarter, Your Education Responsibilities Check List, is based on the concept that every player in K-12 education has (or should have) a concept of what their (your) obligations are (or should be) if that player is to play a financial rewarding and maximally constructive role in providing needed education services to America’s children. Unfortunately, most players in the field are not very effective in carrying out these roles. Asora believes that nearly every player in our K-12 education field, whether an individual or an organization, operates under disincentives that discourage needed reforms. We hope to counter that.


This is not “rocket science.” Asora’s CEO should know- having once been involved in the theoretical underpinnings of rocket science (that applied concepts of controlled thermonuclear fusion phenomena to the designs of interplanetary rocket motors).


And this is not essentially a problem of pedagogy though changes in that area are sought. Rather
incentives are needed to focus educators on solving the various problems. We think they need a “bottom line” that will help focus their attention on practical improvements.


Thus we think this is primarily an economics problem. Many of the players in this field (oddly?) seem disinterested- or at best modestly interested- in the creation of wealth. The organizations and individual participants in the education industry seem to disdain financial profit to themselves and the corresponding academic profit that would accrue to their students.


In the following we attempt to identify the various players in the field and how they might discharge their responsibilities better. We do this by formulating checklists for participants in the education field.


After presenting the checklists, towards the bottom of this Update, we discuss our philosophy that led us to their formulation.



Led Astray By Traditions? Are We Unwittingly Complicit?
Many observers, stakeholders, and leaders of the K-12 education sector of the American economy have many concerns about the quality of the products and services provided within this sector. Few of them, however, are aware of the severity of these problems.

In some cases, the issues are acknowledged but the remedies proposed either don’t work or don’t go far enough to solve the problems. In other cases the educators make the problems worse. We are led to wonder:


Who among K-12 education observers, reformers and providers are “unwittingly complicit” in exacerbating these problems?


Traditions often hide bad practices. Schools routinely play conflicting roles. Consider that:


(1) They both teach and test without acknowledging the implied conflict of interest.
(2) They nearly always employ social promotion as a substitute for remediation.
(3) They use “look good” testing regimes and “turn a blind eye” to the implied deception.
(4) They hire unionized teachers who generally don’t put the interests of children first.
(5) They often discriminate against for-profit education service providers.


All of these practices are seen as “normal,” but are arguably wrong and unethical. Some of them are corrupt. Adhering to the checklists below can help the various players and stakeholders of K-12 education overcome these problems.



The School Operator’s Checklist
We believe that in a more perfect world nearly all schools would be for-profit- if not at the administrative level, then perhaps at the operational level. Even if not for-profit at the operational level, we would seek for-profit sub-contractors wherever such services and products are better and more cost effective than the alternatives that are done “in house.”


If our existing for-profit schools had been healthy capitalistic institutions they would have grown in market share to dominate the industry. The fact that they have not indicates a broken marketplace with perverse incentives blocking the entry of new enterprises and hindering the growth of those currently in operation.


Most for-profit schools perform much better than their counterparts run by the government or by non-profit organizations. Unfortunately, few parents and other stakeholders know this. It is the responsibility of for-profit schools to provide this consumer information. We believe that non-profit private schools and public schools will perform best when they emulate the practices of the for-profit schools. For that reason, we don’t have separate checklists for the different kinds of schools. We have just one as follows:


1.) Do your schools require official testing (that is used for promotion, diplomas, and transcripts) to be performed by external independent agencies?


2.) Are your marketing and/or publicity efforts including consumer information about your schools’ performance levels as compared to those of your competitors?


3.) Can your reported assessment performance levels be related to NAEP achievement levels in reading and mathematics?


4.) Do you have a program of remediation for children who have fallen behind grade levels as defined by NAEP standards?


5.) Do you have full management control of your instructional staff, free of impediments such as collective bargaining or other external interference?


6.) Are you really entrepreneurial? Or are you simply comfortable as an operation that will not grow and/or become more cost effective?



The After School Operator’s Checklist
Beyond the “brick and mortar” schools involved in traditional K-12 education there are organizations providing various educational services such as:


⚫️ Assessment
⚫️ Instruction by Tutors
⚫️ Online Instruction
⚫️ Services to Homeschoolers

An essential service that such providers perform is that of remedial instruction. Most providers of these types of services are for-profit enterprises- though a few are either non-profit or government run.


Then for supplementary and alternative education providers we propose the following checklist:


1.) Do you offer assessment services that are provided through external independent agencies?


2.) Do these assessment services report results comparable to other relevant testing regimes such as the NAEP or those of the ACT organization?


3.) Do your marketing efforts include performance information about nearby brick & mortar schools?


4.) Do you publish statistical averages about the performance improvements of your student clients?


5.) In bringing client students to grade level academic achievement do you measure against NAEP standards or ones that are comparable to the NAEP?


6.) If you also operate as a subcontractor to a major public or private school system, do you have a means on the private-pay side to attract and service customers there without introducing conflicts between that and your work for the major patron?


7.) Are you really entrepreneurial? Or are you simply comfortable as an operation that will not grow and/or become more cost effective?


The Education Publisher’s Checklist
Publishers of instructional materials provide textbooks, digital content, and various kinds of Internet accessible platforms on which learning can be facilitated. They are almost always for-profit enterprises and yet what they publish is often dictated by the large school systems that procure their various products and services. Other publishers cater to smaller marketplaces where, for example, private schools and homeschoolers can find suitable texts and content.


The checklist for publishers of educational content is:


1.) Do your textbooks and other instructional materials disclose the grade levels associated with the content within?


2.) Are these disclosures within the texts themselves and/or available from your Website?


3.) Do you use the NAEP content standard and its definition of proficiency or an equally rigorous standard to determine what is meant by grade level performance?


4.) If you offer assessment services are you able to relate test results to those of the NAEP or to those of the ACT organization?


5.) Would you be interested in publishing a guide (hardcopy and/or online) about the performance levels of public and private schools?


The Media Checklist
These kinds of organizations are generally for-profit though some significant ones, including National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System, are non-profit quasi-governmental enterprises. Education media often act like publicity machines for school systems and less often as independent news reporting services.


The news media checklist:


1.) Do your reporters solicit and report on contrary information when reporting on any particular school or school system’s activities?


2.) In your opinion pages do you balance the viewpoints of the commentary concerning K-12 education?


3.) Do you provide disclosures when reporting on student proficiency levels to alert the public to the exaggerations (almost always found) within?


4.) Do you write and report about legal and ethical problems within the education field?


5.) Would your publication or program be interested in producing a guide (hardcopy and/or online) about the performance levels of your local public and private schools?


The Community Civic Organization Checklist
Most communities have (or are near) community organizations such as Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, Lions and other similar associations of civic-minded citizens. Like the media organizations, many of these confine their education related activities in support of the existing local institutions rather than taking a broader view.


In the case of Chambers of Commerce the local public school officials are often officers within the Chamber organization. As such the Chambers take less interest in education reform proposals and activities that would challenge the public school officialdom.


In our local area, here in Massachusetts, Asora tried to interest a Chamber of Commerce in helping us develop a guide to local public and private schools that could be used by parents and other stakeholders. I was told by this Chamber’s Executive Director that her Chamber’s officials were already involved with local public school systems and would therefore not want to participate in our independent effort.


The checklist for community organizations follows:


1.) In the area of education reform do you operate more or less independently of the local public school systems and their officials?


2.) Are public or private school officials playing roles as officers in your civic association?


3.) Would your organization be interested in sponsoring guide books (hardcopy and online) to your local K-12 schools?


The Religious Congregation Checklist
Most Christian and Jewish religious organizations, as well as those of other faiths, are interested in the education being received by the children within their congregations.


Most denominations that don’t run their own schools usually accept or at least tolerate the public and private schools around them. In the case of many Protestant churches, the public school systems are seen by them as cultural partners that are suitable institutions for educating their members’ children. This may be an artifact of the fact that public schools were arguably “Protestant” schools when they were established- over 150 year ago.


Other denominations sometimes run their own schools. It goes without saying that they think highly of the services of their own schools.


Some religious leaders have been scrutinizing the quality of the schools around them. Whether public or private they are learning that many if not most of these schools are substandard. For those congregations operating their own schools there seems to be little interest in measuring and reporting on the proficiency levels therein.


These considerations inspire their checklist:


1.) Are you aware of the performance levels of the schools your congregation’s children attend?


2.) Do you recognize the Nation’s Report Card (NAEP) content standards as the ones that define grade level performance?


3.) What kind of values curriculum is taught in these schools and do they conform to your religious tenets?


The Education Industry Investor Checklist
A number of for-profit educational support firms exist and some of them have been helped by investment firms that not only provide them investment capital but also participate in their management. We are unaware of any investors helping the owners of for-profit schools expand their operations and we wonder why. Others, including the late Milton Friedman, have been puzzled by this as well. There is some kind of pathology preventing healthy developments in this area and we are largely at a loss to explain it. We think populist rhetoric that labels for-profit schools as “evil” is a factor, but there may be other issues too. It is bewildering.


Despite these discouraging factors, we have a checklist for investors:


1.) Have you ever invested in a for-profit school or system of schools?


2.) If you understood the “pathologies” would you consider investing?


3.) If you invested would you favor franchising over wholly owned networks of schools as a means of growing the target company?


4.) Have you considered soliciting philanthropically oriented investors to take the kinds of risks that would be involved?


The Parents' And Other Stakeholders' Checklist
The end customer of K-12 education is the parent even though it is the child who is its beneficiary. For parents to act responsibly in directing their children’s education, they need to be provided with honest information about the alternatives they have for that purpose.


There are other kinds of stakeholders in K-12 education, either because they fulfill other roles in this industry or because they want to be good citizens with respect to public policy on education.


The checklist we propose for parents and other stakeholders is this:


1.) Have you scrutinized your sources of information about education to determine if they provide accurate reporting on schools?


2.) Are you aware that most state departments of education provide misleading (and exaggerated) information about student performance levels?


3.) Does your child’s school or other school of interest have a remedial education program for children who have fallen behind?


4.) If guides to K-12 schools were available that had honest performance information would you consult them?


5.) Are you an active member of a school parent (PTA, PTO or other) community organization that has K-12 education as its focus?



We Want To See Your Checklists!
If you are so inclined, we’d love to see your checklists.


Just copy, edit, paste and/or attach them to a return email!


Or give us your commentary on them.


In our July Asora Update we’ll report on the feedback we receive. We expect that such advice will inform Asora’s future plans.


Stay tuned.



Checklist Philosophy
We believe that the economic issues related to dysfunction in the K-12 sector don’t really change much with the ownership format. Thus for-profit, non-profit and governmental organizations within the education sector have similar problems and concerns.


From a philosophical vantage we simultaneously want to achieve the goals of
capitalism and altruism. One of them is about the creation of value while the other is concerned with the charitable sharing of resources.


We don’t see these as conflicting concepts, but believe that the sincere pursuit of one of these requires the advancement of the other.


The founder of modern economics, Adam Smith, discussed how the “hidden hand” of capitalism provided many of the desired social benefits of altruism. Thus if education
capitalists are honest operators selling their good products and services for monetary rewards, those products and services will benefit their student customers. And that benefits altruistic goals.


On the other hand, the altruistically inclined should realize that doing “good” requires financial resources. And what better way to generate these dollars than for non-profit and governmental organizations to acquire a capitalistic mindset that seeks
efficiencies, growth and scale to benefit their efforts. Part of doing that might involve subcontracts with for-profit vendors. Another part of that would involve recasting their non-profit activities to resemble those of successful commercial firms. Those achievements would look very much capitalistic. And, of course, some altruistically motivated providers would actually be capitalistic for-profit enterprises.


The other component of altruism, voluntary for capitalists, is that of charity. Most everyone, of all political stripes, agree that private charities and government financial assistance are important sources of financial support to enable all children to have the means for obtaining a K-12 education. Some think government run public schools, including charter schools, represent the best means for providing this charitable support. Others contend that government provided scholarships (vouchers) combined with privately funded scholarships (private vouchers) is a better plan. Others would do both. We are already doing both to some extent. Asora believes in a combined approach but with emphasis on vouchers.


We also believe that capitalism can be practiced honorably within the education sector. Consider what editors Joseph Bast and Herbert Walberg said in their book, Education and Capitalism: How Overcoming Our Fear of Markets and Economics Can Improve America's Schools,


Temperance, orderliness, frugality, industry, honesty, moderation, and humility are all capitalistic values. We should not fear having our children attend schools operated by businesspeople who share those values.


But within the education field, how would these concepts apply? What is the relevant checklist to help each player succeed? And that’s what led to the preceding checklists.



What’s New in January 2014


By David V. Anderson

Fixing Local Education MarketplacesOur theme this quarter, Fixing Local Education Marketplaces, elaborates on the concepts discussed in earlier updates- particularly the one from last October: Fixing Private Schools First. Rather than dictate to private schools what they must do to reform, we have been proposing the introduction of vigorous competition between and among schools and other providers of educational services.

We face an industry where many of the participants do not want competition or if they do they want a weak form of it in which their customers remain largely ignorant of the quality of the services and products being offered.


To learn more about this quarter's theme, you will find this Update's Theme Essay at the bottom of this segment. It is entitled:
Fixing Local Education Marketplaces.

Also of interest is a PowerPoint presentation,
What's Wrong With Our Schools: What ASORA Can Do To Help, in the downloadable file AsoraFixingPrivateSchools.pptx, which you can access from our Reform Reports page.


What You Need To Know To Help This Effort
The headlines that follow and their short articles are meant to do two things: Inform you and challenge you. We ask you to consider what you can do to help. Your role might be simply that of passing this information along to others who might want to help? Or you might want to get involved yourself. We at Asora are ready to discuss any of this with you. Let us know at Contact Asora.


What Asora Can Do For A Local Education Market
Education services, even if generated on a larger scale, are local when delivered to a student. The choices of schools, curricula to follow, and the accessing of supplementary educational services are also local in nature. This suggests that reformers, entrepreneurs, civic associations, and other players can also focus their efforts locally. While regular public schools are usually organized over large geographic regions and therefore not amenable to local reform efforts, we see both charter public schools and private schools as ones that can participate in local reforms.


Local efforts can be more cost effective. Multiple approaches can be tried without the kinds of costs that would be involved in a regional or national effort.


Although we have a number of micromanaging ideas for schools and education reform, our emphasis here is that of improving the economic marketplace in which all schools and other education providers operate. Here’s what Asora can do:


Our most relevant capability for this is our methodology for making estimates of student proficiencies that pupils would have achieved on the Nation’s Report Card (the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)). More on this below.


Our other capability is that of consultant. We can visit communities that are seeking education reform ideas and help them devise strategies for implementing improvements. This is not “rocket science.” (I should know, I once was one!)


More on how a community can involve Asora in their educational improvements is discussed below under “Asora Will Send A Speaker….”


Asora Now Provides NAEP Estimates And Guesstimates For Private Schools
As is fairly well known, very little reliable proficiency testing information is available to parents and other members of the public about schools in their communities. Of the information that is available, the national and state level proficiency testing of the NAEP is most reputable and revealing. But they don’t provide this information more locally.


For the past seven years, we at Asora have developed a number of mapping techniques that calculate a local NAEP proficiency estimate for individual public schools and districts. We have analyzed several tens of thousands of public schools and made NAEP estimates for them- mostly in East Coast states.


A major flaw in that capability has been a lack of methods for estimating private school proficiencies. We have now begun to overcome this difficulty. Where private high schools do report testing results- generally average SAT or ACT scores- we now use linear regression techniques to make NAEP estimates. For all other private schools that do not report testing results, we have developed an interim estimate through a method we call the “gap imposition” (GIM) method. In each zip code containing one or more private schools, we assume that they relate to the nearby public schools in the same way the two kinds of schools relate on the national scene (where the proficiencies of each are known). Whatever performance gaps are measured nationally are simply imposed locally.


Each of these methods have errors in them and the GIM method is sufficiently imprecise that we use the word “guesstimate” in its description. Are any of these methods’ errors too large to be useful? We think not. Our estimates are not used for precise analysis or for policy making decisions. Rather the “ball park” estimates we provide parents and other stakeholders are meant to call their attention to likely problems and deficiencies in student skill levels. We use them to encourage further individual testing of children outside of the schools by independent testing organizations. That enables parents to address each child’s failings and needs.


The ACT Option For Private Schools
We imagine that private schools will sometimes not like seeing their performance levels estimated by the GIM method. Particularly, they might take exception when they see the estimates significantly lower than what their own internal testing shows.


For that reason and for the desirability of reliable consumer information, private schools might consider having their students tested by one or more of the ACT organization’s tests to their students and then publicly reporting the results. ACT, beginning this year, is offering grade level testing from 3
rd grade and up. It is a straightforward process to estimate NAEP proficiencies once average ACT scores are reported.


Schools could even report an ACT inspired proficiency measurement: We call it the ACT24 proficiency and it is simply the percentage of students achieving a score of 24 or higher on the test. We know that NAEP proficiency tends to correspond to ACT scores of 23 to 24. Since all of the ACT tests have a maximum perfect score of 36, achieving a 24 is not all that remarkable- it’s the same as getting a 67 on a 100 point test, which was barely passing in most schools.


The Bristol County, Massachusetts Consumer Information Project
Asora Education is located in Bristol County, Massachusetts and as such can most easily work with collaborators here to provide parents and other stakeholders the consumer information they might want to use in finding the right combination of schools and other supplemental educational resources for their children.


We have a policy of operating pro bono in Bristol County- at least until we need to update our 2013 NAEP estimates to those of 2015. We already have those for 2013.


In each county where we will participate, Asora will provide proficiency estimates and consulting. We will not be the managers of any local consumer information project. Instead, we are seeking partners in Bristol County who will organize these kinds of efforts. We are already engaged in discussions with interested parties in the County.


To help this process get started, we recently produced a prototypical guide booklet entitled:


Gadzooks! Are Bristol County’s Private & Public Schools Really Like This?


Doing Fine Or Left Behind


We use the emphatic term,
Gadzooks!, to represent the surprise of most parents when they see the sobering numbers in the guide. The booklet can be downloaded from our Reform Reports page. Click here to access it.

The Memphis And Shelby County, Tennessee Consumer Information Project
Our second undertaking is in the Memphis, Tennessee area including the other communities within Shelby County.


Unlike our work in Bristol County, we are seeking contracts with interested parties. We are first seeking speaking and/or consulting engagements with possible collaborators.


As in Bristol County we have created a prototypical guide booklet based on some NAEP performance estimates we generated for 2007. An actual guide booklet would require new estimates to be made for 2013- the most recent NAEP testing year. This one’s title begins like this:


Gadzooks! Are Shelby County’s Private & Public Schools Really Like This?



As this guide and the other ones say in their conclusion, “To the extent that parents take up these responsibilities, we can have
Fewer Children Left Behind- even if we can’t achieve the loftier goal of No Child Left Behind.


As with the previous guide booklet this one can be downloaded from our Reform Reports page.
Click here to access it. We also plan a more extensive web version of each guide.


The Orange County, California Consumer Information Project
Our third undertaking is in Orange County, California area, which is one of the most populous counties in the United States- with about 4 million residents.


Like our work in Shelby County, Tennessee, we are seeking contracts with interested parties. And as there, we are first seeking speaking and/or consulting engagements with possible collaborators.


As in Shelby County we have created a prototypical guide booklet based on some NAEP performance estimates we generated for 2011. An actual guide booklet would require new estimates to be made for 2013- the most recent NAEP testing year. This one’s title begins like this:


Gadzooks! Are Orange County’s Private & Public Schools Really Like This?



As with the other guide booklets this one can be downloaded from our Reform Reports page.
Click here to access it.


Evidence That Course Testing Done Independently Is A Winner
In preparing the Bristol County guide booklet we noticed that a nearby charter school, The Advanced Math & Science Academy, of Marlborough, Massachusetts had the highest estimated NAEP proficiency of any Massachusetts’ high school. In fact, we estimated that 95% of their 12th grade students were proficient in both mathematics and English. This school does nearly all of its high school level instruction through Advanced Placement (AP) courses and as such is required to use an outside agency to do the testing for course grades. That outside agency is the College Board. We believe the combination of high quality course content with the independent testing has contributed to these students’ high performance levels. (Can’t do that “look good” testing anymore?)


Evidence That For-Profit Schools Are Among The Best
As we generated the private school estimates for Orange County’s private high schools, we noticed that the
Fairmont Preparatory Academy has one of the highest estimated NAEP proficiencies for its 12th grade students. This school, unlike most other private schools, is for-profit.


It’s just one data point and perhaps doesn’t prove much, but it is consistent with other studies that have shown for-profit K-12 schools perform better than either non-profit private schools or public schools.


Who Can Do This Locally?
There are many local organizations that are capable of obtaining performance information and making it public. Many of these community level groups would also likely benefit from doing this. Others fear getting involved. Among those who might want to consider playing these roles are:


* Local news media
* Book and magazine vendors
* Business associations
* Religious congregations
* Local governments
* Research organizations
* Civic associations
* Consumer organizations
* School operators and owners
* Organized labor unions
* Other charitable and philanthropic groups



For those of you interested in helping school reform efforts, and particularly private school improvements, you could probably work through one or more of the groups show above. If you have any questions about how you might participate, give us a call or use the
Contact Asora Education link to reach us.


As we explore what can be done in the three counties of interest, most of these kinds of organizations will be contacted to solicit their participation.


Asora Will Send A Speaker To Promote Local Reforms In Your Area:
We are now soliciting speaking engagements and other kinds of consultation to those in communities that would like to learn more about our proposals for reform and how they can be implemented locally.


Except in our local areas of Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts, we will charge fees and expenses for these visits. Two hours of speeches, discussions and advice (you determine the apportionment) for a fee of $250 would be a good investment.


In areas close to us, we work pro bono as our contribution to our local communities’ efforts to improve schools.


There Is Much More On Our Website 
For further information, consider reviewing our home page where there are links to more detailed descriptions of the services and activities of Asora Education. Alternatively you might consider visiting "What Was New" to learn more about our recent and not so recent history.

_____________


January 2014 Essay

Fixing Local
Education Marketplaces


David V. Anderson


Our theme this quarter, Fixing Local Education Marketplaces, plays off two main factors:


1.) Helping parents find schools and other educational services locally


2.) Third parties can do this work when the providers of educational services do not


The most important stakeholders in K-12 education are the students and parents. It is from their perspective that we approach the questions as how to best improve each student’s educational experience. If school reform is too slow, we can help the students individually.


Introduction
Since education is generally a local responsibility, providing parents & others with information about their local schools and other education resources can help them do their part.


In an ideal world we would reform the schools to ensure the success of their students. We don’t live in such a world, and many efforts at school reform have not resulted in the kinds of schools parents and students want. If we can’t reform the school, then we can work to improve the educational experience- one student at a time.

These customers can’t wait for schools to improve. But there are a number of things parents can do now to help their children gain proficiency in their subjects. Two of these are:


1.) The parent can seek information about school performance that can be used to choose a better school and/or better understand what kinds of supplemental instruction would be needed for their children.


2.) The parent can seek information about supplemental educational service providers that would allow them to manage the resources to be accessed by their children.


The latter is easily accomplished by searching the Internet- essentially by consulting the contemporary equivalent of the old yellow pages directories.


It is the first of these tasks that is most daunting. Very little reliable information is publicly available concerning K-12 schools.


Public schools, through each state’s department of education, do report on students’ average performance- often in terms of a proficiency percentage. In nearly every state and for nearly every subject tested,
grossly exaggerated proficiency results are reported. On average, states report twice as many children having proficient status or better as compared to the Nation’s Report Card- also called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP proficiency standards are well regarded by educators and to be NAEP proficient is what many serious educators equate with grade level performance.


For private schools very little is reported about student performance levels. With some fairly rare exceptions, private schools do not participate in the state run assessment systems used by the public schools. At the high school level, a fairly small percentage of private schools report either SAT scores or those of the ACT for their 11th and 12th grade students.


The National Picture: Private Schools Are No Better Than Public Schools
While stakeholders of K-12 education are frustrated when they seek information about their local public and private schools, there is a source of information on the national level. It is the NAEP. Nationally, the NAEP tests and reports on samples of both public and private school students and does so for a variety of demographic groups. The NAEP also tests public school students at the state level, but does not test private school students within states.


The national situation is disappointing. While the performance of all private school children exceeds that of those in public schools (about one-third of private 12
th grade students proficient and one-fourth for those in public schools), the story is different when comparisons are made for demographic groups. The chart below shows proficiencies of the economically disadvantaged versus those who are not. Private and public schools are surprisingly equal!

Pasted Graphic 1


Thus what seems to be a modest advantage of the private schools over the public schools almost vanishes when comparisons are made within similar economic groups. Those children who are economically disadvantaged (defined by eligibility for the free and reduced price lunch program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) see no statistical advantage from attending private schools as you can see this in the chart above.


For those students who are not economically disadvantaged, there is a rough parity of public school and private school performance- with the latter up about 6% above the former. Even that 6% “edge” among those not economically disadvantaged may be more due to the higher affluence levels of these private school families than those of public school families. What can explain this drab “sameness” of public and private schools?


When parents of private school pupils see these numbers, it is often a “
Gadzooks” moment for them. They had the popular prejudice (as most of us did) that the private schools were significantly better than the public schools. Not now! Not anymore! Not so- say the numbers.


State & Local Pictures: We Have Estimates Of Public & Private Schools’ Performance
NAEP measures and reports public school student proficiencies for nearly every state, but does not do so for private schools. And at the local level (county, district, or school) the NAEP provides nothing.


We at Asora Education have a number of methods by which local estimates of public and private school performance can be made. The three in use are:


1.) We developed, in-house, a mapping procedure by which we convert state reported public school student proficiencies to those of the NAEP. This is done at the school & district levels. We call this method ELQ.


2.) We have applied a standard linear regression procedure to generate NAEP estimates for private high schools that have reported average SAT scores or average ACT scores for their 11th and/or 12th grade students.


3.) For the large majority of private schools that do not publicly report student performance or do not report it in a useful format we make a rough estimate based on the assumption that the proficiency relationship between local public and private schools (usually within the same zip code) preserves the same performance gaps seen in NAEP’s national testing. We call this the “gap imposition" (GIM) method.


Each of these methods is imprecise, particularly the GIM method. So one might question how useful such estimates will be? Since the large majority of public schools have fewer than half of their students NAEP proficient, we don’t need much accuracy to convince parents that many of their children will be performing below grade level. Likewise, the national data on private schools also suggests many of them are sub-par. Even when the estimates using the GIM method have errors up to 30% or more on the NAEP scale, they still have value. Our estimates are used to call attention to likely problems- not to prove the precise level of dysfunction.


Thus our estimates are intended to raise questions about student performance. It is then the responsibility of parents and other stakeholders in K-12 education to have each child tested independently of the schools to ascertain his or her skill levels. Once each student’s status is known, then parents can seek help.


Guidebooks To Local Private & Public Schools And Supplementary Services
In most communities there is a lack of reliable information about K-12 schools. As we discussed in the Introduction, performance information for public schools is grossly exaggerated while that for private schools is usually kept secret.


Given Asora’s expertise in making estimates of NAEP proficiency levels for individual private and public schools, we have been proposing the development and publication of consumer guides at the local level.


Our guides provide the two kinds of information mentioned in the Introduction. We have developed prototypical guides for three different localities within the United States and hope to find local patrons to undertake their further development. The three projects are:


1.) A Guide for Bristol County, Massachusetts where Asora is based. This project is being undertaken, pro bono, and we will be working with community organizations that might want to provide further support to the effort.


2.) A Guide for Shelby County, Tennessee, which includes Memphis. In that locale we will be soliciting collaborators with whom we can contract to do some of the work involved in generating guides. The prototypical guide for Shelby County is for demonstration only as it uses out-of-date performance data from 2007.


3.) A Guide for Orange County, California, which is a large and rather affluent “mega-politan” area to the south of Los Angeles.


All three of these prototypical guides are available for download from this website.
Click here to access the download page.


Reforming The Student Will Lead To Reforming The Schools
As we conclude this discussion, one might ask, “How will the provision of consumer information to parents reform the schools?”


The answer is:
Competition. (and we mean friendly competition)


When the customers of education, the parents mainly, have good information about schools, about their children’s performance levels, and about the resources available to supplement their children’s learning in the school, then they can take the responsibility to manage the delivery of these educational services in such a way as to improve and maintain the students’ performance levels within and beyond minimally acceptable levels.


As parents and other choose the best suppliers of these education services, the competition among the providers should help the better ones thrive while reducing the market share of the ones not doing so well. As schools and other providers compete, we expect that they will improve their “products” to maintain and expand their market shares.


Here in Massachusetts we already see a “glimmer of light” as to how one particular reform might gain adherents. One of our charter high schools, the
Advanced Math and Science Academy has an estimated NAEP proficiency of at least 95%. It’s reform? Some would say that it’s their requirement that nearly all high school courses be Advanced Placement courses and as such the students learn more. Others point out that AP Courses are not graded by the school, but by the external organization running the AP curricula: The College Board. We see this as a two-fold structural reform: First, provide good content. Second, test that content independently of the school.


Whatever the practices of the schools, they will be influenced by the publication of honest consumer information. Our goal here at Asora is that of helping local leaders of education reform to enliven their local marketplaces of education by providing its participants one of the ingredients of a successful free market:
credible information.


If you are one of those local leaders,
consider hiring us to help!


Exits To Previous Page And Home Page 
Click here "What’s New" to return to the previous page and click here home page to return to Asora Education’s home page.





What Was New in October 2013


By David V. Anderson

Fixing Private Schools First
Our theme this quarter, Fixing Private Schools First, is based on accumulating evidence that the reform of K-12 education in all its different forms is easier and less expensive to accomplish if the various reform experiments and pilot programs are instituted in private schools first.


Implicit in this is the fact that private schools suffer many of the same defects seen in public schools and taken as a whole nationally aren’t that much better than public schools. In fact, as discussed in these pages in earlier quarters, the national NAEP testing shows a statistical tie between private and public school student performance if the comparison is made among economically disadvantaged children those eligible for the free and reduced lunch program.


This quarter marks the beginning of a new feature of Asora Education’s quarterly update:
The Theme Essay. It includes more details and the rationale for each quarter’s theme. Click here to read the Theme Essay: Fixing Private Schools First.

Also of interest is a PowerPoint presentation,
What's Wrong With Our Schools: What ASORA Can Do To Help, in the downloadable file AsoraFixingPrivateSchools.pptx, which you can access from our Reform Reports page.


What You Need To Know To Help This Effort
The headlines that follow and their short articles are meant to do two things: Inform you and challenge you. We ask you to consider what you can do to help. Your role might be simply that of passing this information along to others who might want to help? Or you might want to get involved yourself. We at Asora are ready to discuss any of this with you. Let us know at Contact Asora.


Encourage Transparency In Private Schools
Most private schools endure and survive based on popular misconceptions about their students’ superior performance. The typical private school seldom publishes testing results for their students or when they do the information is not easily digested or useful to parents and other stakeholders. The information is generally not even adequate for assessment experts to ‘translate’ into understandable or useful advice to those interested. In our case, Asora’s mapping methodology is most often useless if NAEP estimated proficiencies are sought for the private school. Without such credible estimates, how are parents to make an informed confident decision as to the best schools for their children?


As the name “private” might suggest, private schools tend to resist government-imposed regulations such as those that might mandate certain kinds of testing. And we agree that it’s a step too far to simply require private schools to take the same tests used by their public school counterparts. But we do encourage them to participate in these tests. So how do we nudge private schools in the direction of more transparency about their performance? What less onerous incentives could be considered?


Incentives From Private Vouchers And Scholarships
Most private schools that enroll students funded by private scholarships do not have testing programs sufficient to provide parents and others useful information that they could use to make comparisons with other schools. To remedy that, a simple and yet powerful incentive could be provided by the granting organizations: They could limit the private institutions participating in the scholarship program to those who provide acceptable performance data.


A minimal requirement for such a testing program would be the reporting of performance levels of economically disadvantaged children- probably using the eligibility criterion for “free and reduced school lunch” program that is typically used to define this demographic.


Doing that would have two beneficial effects for private schools and their students:


* The better performing private schools would enroll larger numbers of scholarship students compared to those not doing so well.


* Schools would be motivated to improve their performance. Those not reporting their statistics would be frozen out of this market until they began participating. Among those participating, they would feel competitive pressure to improve so that they could increase their market share of the scholarship students.


Were this kind of policy widely adopted among private schools, we think their assessment scores would rise- including what is measured by the national NAEP. In particular the proficiency levels of economically disadvantaged children would increase.


Incentives From Public Education Voucher Systems
Just as private scholarship awarding foundations could provide incentives for private school reform, so can government run voucher programs.


Here the simple requirement would be for the voucher receiving private school to participate in the state’s assessment program on the same basis as the public schools participate. This would automatically provide performance statistics for the economically disadvantaged demographic.


Some states have made steps in the right direction, but none to our knowledge requires the full participation of those private schools receiving voucher students. Wisconsin comes close in that it requires voucher-receiving schools to test voucher students with the state’s testing system. But they do not require all of the private school’s students to be tested.


Which States Allow Private Schools To Take State Tests
We count at least 28 states where private schools have the option to participate in the state’s K-12 student assessment system. This is the result of a recent survey we conducted among state education departments. Those states include:

AZ, FL, IA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC,
ND, NH, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, VT, WA, WI, WV


We are assuming that these states test those private school students in the same manner as the public school students and in particular use the same criteria for demographic designations such as eligible for “free and reduced price lunches.”


With these assumptions, private schools in these states can begin to test children using the state tests and can report performance information that is useful to the parents, stakeholders and other customers of education.


Why wouldn’t a private school welcome the opportunity to compare the education they provide to that of a public school? The answer is: Many of
these private schools are afraid of being exposed for what they are.


Where State Testing Is Prohibited In Private Schools
By our count there are at least 17 states that report the prohibition of private school participation in their state testing systems. These states are:


AK, AL, AR, CA, CT, DE, HI, IL, MA, MD, MS, NE, NJ, NM, SC, UT, VA



By refusing to allow the participation of private schools, these states are making it more difficult for private schools to report their performance levels- at least in the context of allowing comparisons between public and private schools.


Though “difficult” they are not making it impossible.


The ACT Workaround
For private schools wanting to report their performance levels to prospective customers and others, there is a straightforward path around the obstacles. They can use the ACT high school level assessments and ACT’s EXPLORE assessments for 8th grade. Beginning in 2014 ACT will also offer tests at the lower grade levels, which will allow 4th grade comparisons.


If these tests are administered with consistent demographic criteria and report sufficient details of student performance, then such schools can potentially use Asora’s mapping technology to derive estimated NAEP proficiencies. Since we already have or can calculate NAEP estimates for the public schools, this would enable comparisons between the public and private schools.


Preserving Private School Flexibility
Little of what we are proposing here would limit a private school from using its own preferred operational format. The private school could continue to use other assessment systems that it favors. Many private schools would opt to use their own favored tests in addition to those needed to report the kind of performance information needed to allow comparisons with their competitors.


Private schools would remain free to avoid participation in this proposed “comparative testing” regime. They could retain their special identities but they’d also remove themselves from the competitive marketplace. Attracting enrollment might be more difficult.


Asora Still Seeks To Build A National Guide To Schools


You can consult Zagat’s Guide if you want a decent meal out.


You can read Consumers’ Report to help buy your next car.


But if you want to find a good school for your child, you’re out of luck.



We at Asora have the capability to develop a national guide to public schools and could also do this for private schools- if they would cooperate. As the first step in this project we published a guidebook to schools in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC- which is available for purchase on this website.


Uncertain Status Of Bush Institute’s Global Report Card
As you may be aware, the Global Report Card (GRC) that is published by the George W. Bush Institute is potentially an important information source for parents and stakeholders in public education. The GRC numbers are percentile rankings showing how various American school districts perform relatively compared to others in their states, within the United States, and within the OECD countries.


Being limited to public school districts and not reporting at the school level, the GRC is of limited value to parents choosing schools. Its principal beneficiaries appear to be policy analysts interested in geographic comparisons of schools systems.


We will continue to monitor developments in the GRC and look forward to their service being extended to the school level and/or being supplemented with other kinds of school performance information.


Who Can Do This Locally?
There are many local organizations that are capable of obtaining performance information and making it public. Many of these community level groups would also likely benefit from doing this. Others fear getting involved. Among those who might want to consider playing these roles are:


* Local news media
* Book and magazine vendors
* Business associations
* Religious congregations
* Local governments
* Research organizations
* Civic associations
* Consumer organizations
* School operators and owners
* Organized labor unions
* Other charitable and philanthropic groups



For those of you interested in helping school reform efforts, and particularly private school improvements, you could probably work through one or more of the groups show above. If you have any questions about how you might participate, give us a call or use the Contact Asora Education link to reach us.


This quarter’s
Theme Essay provides some additional ideas about the roles these various groups might play.


Asora Will Send A Speaker To Promote Local Reforms In Your Area:
We are now soliciting speaking engagements and other kinds of consultation to those in communities that would like to learn more about our proposals for reform and how they can be implemented locally.


Except in our local areas of Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts, we will charge fees and expenses for these visits. Two hours of speeches, discussions and advice (you determine the apportionment) for a fee of $250 would be a good investment.


In areas close to us, we work pro bono as our contribution to our local communities’ efforts to improve schools.


We’re Getting Started In Taunton, Massachusetts
We have been engaged in discussions with education experts in Taunton where we hope to engage its Chamber of Commerce in a feasibility study of what might be done. Instead of giving a speech to communicate some of these ideas, we have already participated in a local cable access television station interview. We hope to develop a fruitful collaboration with local stakeholders in education.


Our work in Taunton is pro-bono because it is in the region (Rhode Island and the eastern half of Massachusetts) where we offer our services gratis.


What Was New in July 2013


By David V. Anderson

Solving Milton Friedman’s Puzzle


Our theme this quarter, Solving Milton Friedman’s Puzzle, marks the 10th anniversary of Asora Education as well as the input we received from Milton Friedman concerning our efforts to develop franchising networks of novel schools.


Ten years ago this month, Friedman observed,


“…I have long been puzzled by the situation in cities like New York and San Francisco: there are strictly private elementary and secondary schools which charge very high tuitions and have long waiting lists, and I keep asking why is it that other private enterprises haven’t taken advantage of that situation as a source of profit. Somehow there is a customer base there; there is a market opportunity.”


Our goal in this update is put forward some answers to that question.


Whatever that answer is, we believe that the poor performance of K-12 schools is more a problem of inadequate external incentives than of pedagogical imperfections. As Friedman’s remark seems to imply, those negative incentives are discouraging entrepreneurs from entering this K-12 education market sector.


We believe that if we can fix the environment in which schools operate, then that will encourage new players to enter the business. They will compete and innovate. We foresee that resulting in all kinds of internal improvements in the ways schools educate our children.



Adam Smith’s Insight About Subsidized Teachers
The great moral philosopher and economist Adam Smith, even in 1776, understood part of the problem we face today in K-12 education. He gave a number of examples showing that schools operating without subsidies were more effective in educating their students than those with them. From his own observation as a former student at Oxford University he remarked that the subsidized professors there had, “…given up altogether even the pretense of teaching.” Like Smith, we also worry about the effects of subsidies.


Can The Profit Motive Be More Altruistic Than Pure Altruism:?
One of the essential points made by Adam Smith was that of the dynamic of the “invisible hand” under which the free marketplace of self-interested players produces societal goods and benefits of significantly greater value than if the producers were solely motivated by altruistic feelings.


When one examines the for-profit sector of the education industry in the United States one sees both the altruistic and financial incentives at play and yet the marketplace is not very free. The robust competition seen in other economic sectors seems absent here. Surely there is a profit motive, but it seems weak.


Most players in this sector are limited to the extent they can compete. They compete against other private vendors but rarely compete against the government owned schools, which might retaliate if they did.


These for-profit players derive most of their revenue from contracting with the government entities and therefore refrain from competition between themselves and those patrons.


But what about those vendors who operate or would operate purely in the private sector and aren’t affected by being a government contractor? This is essentially the question posed by Friedman.


There are either barriers to their entry into this marketplace, or there are perceived risks discouraging those who would invest their time and resources developing for-profit schools and other educational services.


Or perhaps these enterprises don’t have the guts to forge ahead when there isn’t a clear path to profits for themselves and benefits to their customers. Do they shy away because of the chorus of demeaning rhetoric showered upon them or anyone else who would dare profit from the schooling of children?


The misdirected altruism of the detractors of for-profit education does not acknowledge that free market competition is the greatest engine for reaching the societal and educational goals they profess. That is to say socialists, and others favoring government solutions, do not understand that capitalism is the engine that can best achieve the very goals they seek. Think of it this way:


Capitalism is a very good engine of altruism, while that of socialism falters.


Moreover we think most prospective for-profit school operators tend to misjudge the marketplace based on the misinformation being put out by their existing public and non-profit private competitors.


Where is the Federal Express of education? Where are the enterprises that can take on this failed and broken sector of our economy?


Design a Novel School at StartUpWeekend?
In early June we ventured West to participate in the Start Up Weekend organization’s competition in which teams of school experts would design novel schools. (Emphasis on “would.”)


Of the nearly one hundred participants, approximately 40 made one-minute proposals to the gathered participants, coaches and judges. The organizers used text messaging from the audience to estimate approval levels of the various proposals.


Our proposal was simply that of suggesting that whatever the successful model school was to be, that successful replication of that school should be done through a franchising network or an equivalent licensing arrangement.


Through haphazard control of the display screen behind the presenters, the audience was able to see the approval levels generated by the texting responses. As the presentations proceeded we were gratified to see our proposal near the top- within the top three or four.


We quickly learned that the winners of this initial round of the competition were determined by four judges who could and did overrule the audience preferences. Our rank, we have inferred, was lowered from the top handful to at least 15
th- by the judges. Why would they have such a different opinion of the presentations than the audience?


We looked at the credentials of the judges. Not one of them had any relevant private sector experience. This suggests that they might be alienated by any proposals with a for-profit aspect.


Of the 40-odd proposals, most were variants of old progressive education models. Few were about finding ways to operate schools more effectively or more efficiently. Most of the explanations given were incoherent. For example: Consider a school in which teachers are given one day off each week so they could better prepare their lessons? Beyond being a boon to substitute teachers, what benefit could accrue from such an arrangement?


It was a waste of time. Recognizing that fact we abandoned our participation early.



How The Education Industry Association Fits In:

We have been a member of the Education Industry Association (EIA) now for about seven years. Through contacts developed as a result of our participation we have learned a great deal about the private sector of education within the United States.


An irony for us is that the most influential experience we had there derived from a suggestion to us from a government staffer about NAEP testing. As we became experienced in making local estimates of NAEP proficiencies, we gained a unique perspective about the performance of local public schools. Moreover, we indirectly learned about the paltry performance of private schools- which on average is no better than that of public schools when compared for similar demographics.


The knowledge and estimates we have developed could be a valuable marketing tool for vendors in this industry, but very little interest has been shown in these capabilities.


The inference we draw is very troubling for K-12 education: Our private education sector is discouraged from competing too vigorously against their competitors. Surely those who would use our estimates in their marketing would be engaged in robust competition. The absence of such kinds of marketing not only depicts a fearful attitude of these vendors, it also helps perpetuate the education establishment’s propaganda that the existing levels of performance are about as good as can be achieved with current levels of financial support.


Fix The Market First. Other Reforms Will Follow:
Schools and other players in the education industry are subject to the same principles that guide other sectors of the economy. Among them: You must get the incentives right or people will not be very productive.


We believe that the education sector of our economy has very little competition and thus lacks many incentives for improvements that would result from a higher level of it. When the various vendors and institutions within the education sector are effectively motivated through competition, we believe that pedagogical reforms will be almost automatic as the marketplace rewards those offering the better services and products.


Vouchers Alone Have Not Helped Much:
A great deal of hope has been attached to government funded school vouchers as well as privately funded scholarships with the expectation that the resulting school choice would generate more competition among schools. That competition should provide incentives for all different kinds of schools, public and private, to improve.


Various voucher programs, some in existence for over 20 years, have been studied and most demographic groups have shown little improvement- except for black children.


Our theory for this unexpected weak result is that, with the exception of blacks, parents are generally choosing schools not much better than the public school alternatives. To explain why black children did show improvement, we hypothesize that their former public schools, on average, were inferior to the private schools they chose to attend.


This theory is corroborated by the Nation’s Report Card, which shows a rough parity in the quality of public versus private schools for the economically disadvantaged demographic that typically receives the vouchers. If the “choice” school is no better than the former public school, it should not be surprising to see such weak results.


Consumers Need Honest Performance Information:
As most economists know, a healthy marketplace needs more than consumer choice: It needs reliable information about the products and services being sold. In this regard, the education sector suffers from a lack of such information.


In the public system, student performance is grossly exaggerated in the information provided to the public. In contrast, private schools tend to hide their performance information (assuming they have measured it). How can a parent or other consumer of education make an informed decision when the information is either erroneous or not provided
? It’s no wonder that parents take vouchers and then waste them on an equally lousy school!


Asora Still Seeks To Build A National Guide To Schools:
You can consult Zagat’s Guide if you want a decent meal out. You can read Consumers’ Report to help buy your next car. But if you want to find a good school for your child, you’re out of luck.


We at Asora have the capability to develop a national guide to public schools and could also do this for private schools- if they would cooperate. As the first step in this project we published a guidebook to schools in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC- which is available for purchase on this website.


As you may have seen in earlier updates, we have looked upon the Global Report Card (GRC), of the George W. Bush Institute, as a resource that can help parents and other stakeholders better judge their local public schools. Yet, the GRC estimates available from the Bush Institute are rather meager. The GRC numbers are percentile rankings showing how various American school districts perform relatively compared to others in their states, within the United States, and within the OECD countries.


We have proposed doing something similar but more extensive than the GRC. We propose extending the percentile rankings down to the school level, which will help parents and others find relatively good schools (rather than just the districts). We also propose using our estimates of NAEP proficiencies as a means of developing a Local Report Card (LRC) that at the school level would provide information about absolute student performance. We think that this expanded reporting of student skills would greatly improve the consumer information available in the marketplace of education. This information, in our judgment, would foster real competition among school providers.


One might ask how consumer information for private schools could be provided. Absent state legislation requiring their participation in state administered testing, we think that private school operators can be “pressured” into testing their students appropriately so comparisons can be made with their public counterparts.


Our advice to private schools would be to participate in the ACT testing that will soon be available to most grade levels of K-12. Assuming these schools would report their scoring distributions, we already know how to map those results into corresponding NAEP proficiency estimates. Were all that to happen, we could produce a web based guide to both public and private schools. That would further improve the information available to parents and other consumers of K-12 education.


These consumers would come to learn that both public and private schools are severely deficient. Such information might finally foster the development of better schools- perhaps operated by for-profit operators.


We have recently had some brief communications with the Bush Institute in which they declined any collaborations that would work towards extending their GRC service into the areas we have recommended. Whether they are planning to work with others to accomplish similar ends is not clear.


Because of that we are in the process of finding other prospective collaborators who could help us build a more robust national guide to K-12 schools. Please contact us if you are interested or know of others who might want to participate.


We Can Do Much Locally:
In previous Asora Updates we discussed efforts that we’d like to shepherd in local communities. Civic associations, religious congregations, and other community groups (even Parent Teacher Organizations?) might want to engage in consumer information efforts. Chambers of Commerce, Kiwanis, Rotary Clubs, newspapers, radio & TV stations come to mind as organizations that might want to help.


What can these groups do to help that is affordable to them?


They could fund a local testing program to help community stakeholders and parents learn how many and which children need help. They could use existing information, such as high school SAT & ACT scores, AP pass rates, the Global Report Card, and college acceptance numbers to help diagnose local problems in K-12 education.


Community organizations can provide incentives to private schools that would motivate them to report their students’ performance levels. That will allow comparisons between public and private schools.


We understand the reluctance of private schools to report on their students’ skills. They don’t want their customer base to know how poorly their students perform (about the same as public schools) when compared for the same demographics.


These groups could hire Asora to calculate estimated NAEP proficiencies for their local public schools. In the past, Asora has generated such estimates under the sponsorship of statewide non-profit organizations, but local communities didn’t pay serious attention to the sobering information we generated. To get people involved, on the ground, perhaps these estimates should be contracted locally where stakeholders are more likely to pay attention to the results.



Asora Will Send A Speaker To Promote Your Local Reforms:
In the near future, we will be soliciting speaking engagements and other kinds of consultation to those in local communities who would like to learn more about our proposals for reform.


Except in our local areas of Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts, we will charge fees and expenses for these visits. Two hours of speeches, discussions and advice (you determine the apportionment) for a fee of $250 would be a good investment.


In areas close to us, we work pro bono as our contribution to our local communities’ efforts to improve schools.


Did We Answer Milton Friedman’s Question?
Milton Friedman essentially asked why there aren’t more entrepreneurs operating for-profit private schools? We tried to suggest that the marketplace lacks sufficient consumer information for robust competition that would attract market entrants. Whether or not the foregoing discussions fully answer his question, we do have the methods to develop adequate consumer information. We are ready to embark on this path. We await well-endowed stakeholders coming forward with the means to get started.





What Was New in April 2013


By David V. Anderson


A Flawed Education Industry



Our theme this quarter,
A Flawed Education Industry, considers problems among the providers of K-12 educational services- particularly those that have contributed, either directly or indirectly, to the poor performance of students in their communities. Our emphasis this quarter is on the private side, where for-profit and non-profit enterprises bear some of the responsibility for the poor performance of K-12 students in America.

Thus we continue our themes concerning private sector education reform that we wrote about in recent quarters. As in those discussions, we have been seeking legal and economic environments that would foster a healthy and prosperous free-market in the education sector. This quarterly update takes a closer look at the weaknesses of private providers:

How and where are they to blame?

And what can they do to profit themselves and advance their student clients?


Is There Corruption, Collusion or Cronyism?
Earlier this month, Wall Street Journal Columnist Daniel Henninger wrote about the harmful effects of corruption, collusion, and cronyism have on national economies in the developing world. That led us to consider the possibility that these same factors might be playing less than constructive roles in the education industry?


From our perspective the unethical and/or illegal behaviors associated with corruption, collusion, and cronyism are not just affecting the government run public schools but also seem to be evident on the private side of this industry.


Sometimes a traditional practice in education is not seen as corruption when it arguably has the characteristics of it. For example, allowing schools to provide both instruction and official testing is a clear conflict of interest, which almost always leads to degrees of laxity that would be reduced or absent if those two functions were performed independently.



Corruption in Non-Profit and For-Profit Private Schools:
Ever wonder what the actual performance levels are among students in private schools? It’s generally not easy to get the data, and when it is provided it is often neither comparable to the metrics used by their competitors in the public system nor with those used by other private schools.

Their little secret, in about half of the cases, is that their students under-perform their public school peers, when appropriate controls for students’ economic situations are taken into account. They don’t want parents and other stakeholders to know this. So they keep quiet by not reporting student performance information. It seems to be an effort at deception and serves as an example of unethical– if not corrupt- activities among those in private education.

Or could it be that they are innocently unaware and are simply following their inherited traditions?

Passive Collusion in the Supplementary Education Community:
We consider a form of collusion in which rivals conspire to cooperate when a healthier marketplace would have them compete instead.

We distinguish active collusion from passive collusion. In the former, the rivals explicitly agree to cooperate. But in passive collusion, the players work from an unspoken understanding that certain behaviors will be rewarded and others punished.

This is how we interpret certain behaviors of vendors in the supplementary education services sub-sector where many of them have limited their activities in the private pay marketplace by focusing on government contracts. Specifically, they have refrained from aggressive marketing to private pay customers out of fears that such marketing would offend their public contractor patrons. The result: Fewer children benefit from their instructional and remedial services.

Asora Education has seen this first hand. In nearly every instance where we have offered vendors the use of our localized public school NAEP proficiency estimates we have been met by silence. Why would they forego such an obvious source of information to use in their marketing to attract clients? Perhaps there is another explanation, but we think
most supplementary education providers are afraid of the blowback they’d receive if they used marketing that was critical of the schools run by their government patrons. They don’t want to “bite the hand that feeds them.”

Friends Win Contracts By Being Good Cronies:
When a supplementary education services provider or other vendor in the education sector seeks business from a public school system it is important to develop a pleasant relationship with those potential patrons.

Doing business with other clients and customers that might offend the patron could lead to fewer contracts, less business and difficulties renewing contracts.

For example, consider a vendor that would approach its private pay customers by using contrast marketing in which attention is called to the poor performance of the public schools. That’s not nice! Good friends or cronies don’t publicly criticize their patrons.


Fix The Market First. Other Reforms Will Follow:
Schools and other players in the education industry are subject to the same principles that guide other sectors of the economy. Among them: You must get the incentives right or people will not be very productive.


We believe that the education sector of our economy has very little competition and thus lacks that type of incentive for improvements that would result from more of it. When the various vendors and institutions within the education sector are effectively motivated by the means of competition, we believe that pedagogical reforms will be almost automatic as the marketplace rewards those offering the better services and products.


Vouchers Alone Have Not Helped Much:
A great deal of hope has been attached to government funded school vouchers as well as privately funded scholarships with the expectation that the resulting school choice would generate more competition among schools. That competition should provide incentives for all different kinds of schools, public and private, to improve.


Various voucher programs, some in existence for over 20 years, have been studied and most demographic groups have shown little improvement- except for black children.


Our theory for this unexpected weak result is that, with the exception of blacks, parents are generally choosing schools not much better than the public school alternatives. To explain why black children did show improvement, we hypothesize that their former public schools, on average, were inferior to the private schools they chose to attend.


This theory is corroborated by the Nation’s Report Card, which shows a rough parity in the quality of public versus private schools for the economically disadvantaged demographic that typically receives the vouchers. If the “choice” school is no better than the former public school, it should not be surprising to see such weak results.


Consumers Need Honest Performance Information:
As most economists know, a healthy marketplace needs more than consumer choice: It needs reliable information about the products and services being sold. In this regard, the education sector suffers from a lack of such information.

In the public system, student performance is grossly exaggerated in the information provided to the public. In contrast, private schools tend to hide their performance information (assuming they have measured it). How can a parent or other consumer of education make an informed decision when the information is either erroneous or not provided? It’s no wonder that parents take vouchers and then waste them on an equally lousy school!


Asora Seeks To Build A National Guide To Schools:
Because of the aforementioned bad behavior by private schools and enterprises working in the education sector, these institutions are not doing their part in the development of accurate consumer information. Given their fears of robust competition they refrain from aggressive (but honest) contrast marketing.


If the industry will not fix its broken marketplace, outsiders like Asora can work to fix it.


Our company has been interested in establishing a national guide to public schools that would be based on our calculations of estimated NAEP proficiencies at the school and district levels. We have already published a guide for the three jurisdictions of Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC.


There is one national guide to school districts and that is provided by the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas. Their Global Report Card (GRC) enables stakeholders to obtain percentile information showing how individual school districts compare to others within their states, within the US, and within the OECD countries of the world. Valuable as that is, it does not provide a measure of student proficiencies. They can’t tell you how many children in each school are at or above grade level.


We have offered the Bush Institute our assistance to expand their GRC to include a Local Report Card (LRC) based on our NAEP proficiency estimates.


We are in the process of determining whether collaboration with the Bush Institute would be pursued or whether we should find a different organization (almost certainly a non-profit) that would provide an Internet based guide to American public schools and districts. Rather than mimic or copy the GRC, we would estimate percentiles for schools and districts as well as proficiency percentages using our Asora based methodologies.

Asora Is Available To Help Local Stakeholders:
In the previous Asora Update (January), we discussed efforts that we’d like to shepherd in local communities. Civic associations, religious congregations, and other community groups (even Parent Teacher Organizations?) might want to engage in consumer information efforts. Chambers of Commerce, Kiwanis, Rotary Clubs, newspapers, radio & TV stations come to mind as organizations that might want to help.


What can these groups do to help that is affordable to them?


They could fund a local testing program to help community stakeholders and parents learn how many and which children need help. They could use existing information, such as high school SAT & ACT scores, AP pass rates, the Global Report Card, and college acceptance numbers to help diagnose local problems in K-12 education.


Or they could hire Asora to calculate estimated NAEP proficiencies for their local schools. In the past, Asora has generated such estimates under the sponsorship of statewide think tanks, but local communities didn’t pay serious attention to the sobering information we generated. To get people involved, on the ground, perhaps these estimates should be contracted locally where stakeholders are more likely to pay attention to the results.

Asora Is Seeking Partners And Capital For These Efforts:
Our proposals to establish national guides to public (and private) schools are not new. But our goal remains the same: We want to find collaborators and the funding to carry out some of these proposals.


We need the human resources, which requires funding to support them. Instead of approaching institutions with just the proposals, our new plan has us working with the institutional operators to find the capital they need to do the work. Or we can simply find the funds and work with the funding source to find the institution to do the work.

Yes, Asora could be the institutional operator for providing school performance information, but we think a non-profit, non-partisan, free market oriented and national organization might be better. The performance numbers will be more accepted if they are coming from a trusted independent source.



Asora Will Send A Speaker To Promote These Reforms:
In the near future, we will be soliciting speaking engagements and other kinds of consultation to those in local communities who would like to learn more about our proposals for reform.


Except in our local areas of Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts, we will charge fees and expenses for these visits. Two hours of speeches, discussions and advice (you determine the apportionment) for a fee of $250 would be a good investment.


In areas close to us, we work pro bono as our contribution to our local communities’ efforts to improve schools.




What Was New in January 2013

By David V. Anderson

Fixing Your Local Private Schools


Our theme this quarter,
Fixing Your Local Private Schools, focuses on an aspect of our theme from the previous quarter- that of Private Sector Education Reform. As in that discussion we seek a legal and economic environment conducive towards a healthy and prosperous free-market, except here we ask what can be done locally to improve mediocre private schools.


The typical public reaction to the previous sentence would be some version of doubt or offense: “What do you mean ‘mediocre private schools?’ Why not focus on the troubled public schools?” Our answer is that both kinds of schools are troubled and of the two only private schools are relatively easy to reform.


Private schools are local- with few exceptions- while public education systems are often managed over larger geographic regions or at least have some of their services controlled from afar. Being local increases the feasibility of reform.


The NAEP Says: Private Schools Bad, Public Schools Bad:
One of Asora Education’s key competencies is the analysis of NAEP testing and the calculation of NAEP estimates at the local level. Overlooked by us until just recently has been the NAEP testing of economically disadvantaged private school students. Consider this: nationwide, the NAEP proficiencies of economically disadvantaged children are about the same whether they are in public schools or private schools. And irrespective of the tested grade level: 4th, 8th or 12th.


For 8th grade, the math proficiencies, nationally, are equal with 19% of the tested disadvantaged children deemed proficient. For 8th grade reading the private schools are somewhat better with 24% designated as proficient compared to 18% in the public schools.


In terms of what we call the “overall” proficiencies (defined as the minimum of reading and math percentages) of economically disadvantaged students in 8th grade the public and private schools are at 18% and 19%, respectively- a statistical tie. This is a new development.


Some fifteen years ago, public school 8th grade proficiencies trailed those of private schools, 8% versus 15%, respectively. During the ensuing years, both school types saw improving proficiencies, but the public school student proficiencies increased faster- possibly the result of the No Child Left Behind legislation. We wrote a report,
In Critical Condition: American Private & Public Schools. It is contained in the document NAEPTrends.doc which you can download from our Reports on Reform page.

Low proficiency percentages, like any of these just shown, surely justify our use of the label “mediocre.” Given these numbers, a more appropriate descriptor might be “severely substandard.”




Range of Strategies to Reform Private Schools:
A key problem in our dysfunctional K-12 education systems, discussed in our October 2012 Asora Update, is that of market failure. As in that discussion we believe that school level reforms will be more or less automatic once the K-12 marketplace is made healthy. We have a concept for doing that locally.


Our strategies for accomplishing marketplace reforms are based on competition. New school operators, for example, could use realistic but sobering information about their competitors to inform their marketing strategies as well as inform the technical aspects of their school operations. Various kinds of community organizations, including trade, business, religious, media and political, can work to give consumers of K-12 education realistic information about the education resources in their midst. Parents, once disabused of their Pollyannaish complacency about local schools, can also seek good information about their alternatives.


Marketing with Honest Student Proficiency Information:
Providers selling in to any given locality can solicit customers by using accurate information about the characteristics of their enterprises and those of their competitors. This includes “contrast” marketing that brings attention to their competitors’ deficient characteristics.


When the enterprise is a school or other provider of educational services, student proficiency information is of great interest. So, for example, what percent of students at any specific grade level have received a proficient score in one or more subject areas? In nearly every state, the public school proficiency information provided by the state testing authorities is grossly exaggerated making it essentially useless for use by private competitors as a marketing tool.


Asora can help. We can use the inflated state reported proficiencies to calculate estimated NAEP proficiencies for these schools. When the private school or private afterschool tutoring service uses our NAEP estimates, they can point to the poor quality of their public school competitors as a means to advertise their comparably better services.




The ACT can be the Engine of your Marketing:
One of the limitations to using Asora’s NAEP proficiency estimates is that we currently have no method by which we can make such estimates for private schools.


But here is an alternative significantly better than using just our NAEP estimates:


We know how to map NAEP proficiencies onto the ACT proficiency scale. ACT does not actually publish proficiencies per se but it does publish its scoring distributions, which allow us to determine an effective ACT proficiency. By using the appropriate cut score on each ACT scale, we can make the NAEP and ACT proficiencies equal. For example, in math we estimated that the ACT score of 23.5 corresponds to the NAEP proficiency cut-score. In reading and science the respective ACT scores are estimated to be 22.5 and 24.0.


This means that Asora can calculate a NAEP estimated proficiency for any group tested on the ACT. If a private school or other supplementary education provider is willing to publicize its ACT results, they can also obtain corresponding NAEP estimates using Asora’s mapping services. Once done they can then do comparative marketing in which they can show their organization’s NAEP estimated proficiency against the ones Asora has estimated for the public schools.


Given that the ACT organization provides testing from grade level 8 through grade level 12, these kinds of estimates will enable marketing in the upper middle school levels through 12th grade.


Looking forward, the ACT organization has announced plans to test grades 3 – 7 in addition to its current menu of 8 – 12. Their testing of the lower grades begins in 2014.



Religious Congregations Can Guide Their Adherents
It may seem a bit odd that most religious denominations are “agnostic” when they consider what schools would provide instruction most consistent with their own values. Most seem accepting of public schools even as these government run institutions become more and more secularly oriented. Then they wonder why they lose so many of their younger members as they mature into young adults.


We can envisage religious congregations getting more pro-active in the education of their children. On the one hand, they could consider running their own school or helping parents homeschool their children. Or alternatively, they could provide guidance to their members about schools- most often private schools- that offer instruction consistent with their religious group’s values.


Chambers of Commerce as a Nexus of Reform
Local communities often have civic, religious and business organizations that have financial as well as altruistic motives to promote quality education services in their areas.


Of these kinds of associations, we think that Chambers of Commerce may have the most interest in education given the fact that their members are often seeking highly qualified workers who have mastered a high school curriculum. These Chambers know that high school diplomas and/or transcripts generally exaggerate student accomplishment and are therefore of little value in the hiring process.


Because of the unreliable information provided by the public school systems, many employers use their own internal testing as a means of qualifying job applicants. Our suggestion is that Chambers of Commerce could undertake this role for all relevant graduating high school students in their communities.


Here is what a Chamber might consider doing:


1. Contract with the ACT to test 12th grade students in their local area.


2. Fund the testing costs through parental contributions and other charitable sources.


3. Provide a transcript of each student’s test results to the student and prospective employers.


4. Moreover, in those cases where the student is deemed proficient according to the ACT scoring scale award the student a Chamber Diploma attesting to this accomplishment.


While individual student scores would be kept relatively private, the Chamber could consider publishing the NAEP or ACT based proficiencies on a school-by-school basis. If this information were available for private schools as well as the public schools in the local area, such published data would help the consumers of education make intelligent choices.


And locally, the free market pillar of honest consumer information would be strengthened.



School Security and Safety Information
The recent horrific tragedies in Newtown, Connecticut remind us of the importance of student safety in public and private schools.


Without commenting on what might be the best polices for ensuring student safety, it would be of interest to most parents, students and other stakeholders to have information about the various schools’ resources in this area.


For example, does the school employ security personnel? Are some of its employees trained in this area? What kinds of lethal and non-lethal counter measures are in place? Does it have effective surveillance systems? Etc.



Leveling the Local Playing Field
As we discussed in the previous quarter’s update, the second pillar of a healthy free market is that of fair competition. It requires corrective measures to balance the effects of the large subsidies for public education. Without such remedies, we’d end up with the situation envisioned by Milton Friedman when he said, “Try selling a product that someone else is giving away.” To level this playing field requires subsidies to the private providers or their customers. Giving the customers some financing to purchase educational services encourages more competition than subsidies to the enterprises.


Vouchers and Kindred Devices can Spur Competition
This subsidization of customers can be accomplished with government funded vouchers or with other kinds of financial assistance. Tax credits, including the refundable variety, are more popular than vouchers- even when their monetary value is the same. Private scholarships- sometimes called private vouchers- can help. Micro-vouchers that are targeted to just one course or one academic term can help students avoid a bad teacher or course in situations where the public school is otherwise adequate for the student’s instruction.


Lastly, when private schools can be operated for significantly less cost than before it enables reductions in tuition charges. Such reductions make such schools more affordable and thus more attractive to a larger number of customers. Asora Education’s proposals for cost efficient schools employing self-paced blended instructional models provide an example of this sort. Lower tuition charges can have the same effect as a partial scholarship or voucher.


Invite Us For A Pep Talk!
If you wonder if some of these local reform efforts might apply to your community, you or the appropriate organization in your area could invite us to provide more information about the possibilities and alternatives. More information about Asora’s consulting services and our speakers bureau are available elsewhere on our website.


Still Awaiting Feedback From The Global Report Card
In all four of our 2012 quarterly updates, we mentioned the Global Report Card (GRC), which provides percentile ranks for school districts within the United States in three different frameworks: statewide, national and international. The GRC results are provided by an online service of the George W. Bush Institute for Public Policy. You can view them at


http://www.globalreportcard.org/map.html.


We have proposed to the Bush Institute that we discuss a possible collaboration based on the additional kinds of local proficiency estimates we have developed. We still await their reply, though we are not holding our breath.


At Asora we have improved upon the methods used by the GRC. More details are described in our report, Mapping District Level K-12 Scale Scores Onto National & International Assessment Distributions. The report is in the file QuantileMeasurements.docx , which can be downloaded from our Reform Reports page.


Guidebooks Or Web Guides To Public Schools And Supplementary Services?
Our first guidebook,
It Takes More Than A Village to educate your child when the schools aren't up to the task, covered the public schools in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. The phrase "More Than" refers to supplementary services, which include many tutoring companies and other vendors in the "afterschool" space. You can learn more about this guidebook by clicking here. The guidebooks play two roles: First, parents and others can use them to find a better public school. More importantly, the guidebooks contain directories to those offering supplementary and alternative services.


Thus our guidebooks provide a means by which vendors can publicize their services and thereby "drive" customers to their businesses.


By early 2012, we had extended our local NAEP estimates to all of the East Coast states. In contemplating a hardcopy guidebook to this region, we are challenged by the many hundreds of pages necessary to present even the most basic estimates for each school and district. For this reason and others, we are now contemplating a Web guide in which advertising would fund the service.


For early 2013, we are embarking on a four state analysis of the Lake Michigan states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. We are curious whether we will be able to see any effects of the 22-year old voucher system used in Milwaukee. Our analysis will allow comparisons with other urban areas, including Chicago, Gary, Indianapolis and Detroit. We can’t wait to get started.


But We Need Working/Human Capital To Complete Our Guidebooks
Until now the guidebook project has been a one-person effort. Performing the data analysis required to cover the entire United States along with the other preparatory work will required the full time efforts of at least one other collaborator/worker. These guides would include information much like that contemplated for the school level report cards proposed by Mitt Romney.


Thus seek various kinds of assistance in the completion of this project. Interested parties could consider, among other possibilities:


1. Investing in the production of the Web guide.
2. Collaborating with Asora in its production.
3. Contracting with Asora to make these kinds of estimates for states and regions of interest.


The numbers we generate paint a "picture of need." When parents and stakeholders finally "see this light" they will often seek out the services of the vendors listed within.


What Was New in October 2012

By David V. Anderson

Private Sector Education Reform

Our theme this quarter, Private Sector Education Reform, is based on free-market economic principles as verified in practice. In every other economic sector of our economy for-profit and non-profit private providers provide a superior product or service compared to entities that are government owned and operated.


As is also true in every other industry, for-profit providers almost always produce a better product at lower cost than those who are non-profit. Casual observers tend to find this counter-intuitive. They argue that the revenues of the non-profit are not depleted to provide a profit stream and thus there are more resources for the non-profit to provide its product as compared to the for-profit. On the contrary, what businesses understand is the incentives provided by the profit motive result in efficiencies so great that they not only provide a profit stream to the owners but they also provide additional capital inputs to the business not available to the non-profit.


Many observers nevertheless prefer the non-profit approach because they think it is based on altruistic motives instead of “evil” profit motives. But it is not an “either-or” issue. All providers usually have altruistic motives. This means that the for-profit enterprise has both monetary and altruistic incentives, while the non-profit counterpart only has the “feel good” altruistic motivations.


Case in point: The Coop supermarkets that formerly operated in Northern California were non-profit enterprises. These were high quality retail operations that eventually became insolvent. Today, in these same locations are for-profit supermarkets of even higher quality than their predecessors and they are operating comfortably in the black.


In other economic sectors, the effects of competition in a free marketplace have guided the evolution of the providers. That competition tends to discourage government run enterprises as well as those that are non-profit and does so to such an extent that the vast majority of the businesses are for-profit.


Pillars of a Healthy Education Industry Marketplace
In June of 2011 we discussed what we called the three pillars of a healthy marketplace for education:


1. The pillar of accurate information. With good information, parents and other stakeholders can make appropriate choices for a student. Without it, consumers will often choose inferior providers of educational services.


2. The pillar of fair competition. When providers are treated equally, only those providing high quality goods and services survive. That's unlike the current environment where monopolistic operators (the public schools) are receiving large subsidies that markedly distort the playing field on which the providers compete.


3. The pillar of the rule of law. When laws and regulations are applied fairly, healthy competition can ensue. Alternatively, when favoritism is shown the best providers may lose market share and risk going under.


If we had these “pillars,” we believe that education reform would be natural and automatic. The needs of students and parents would translate into market share for the providers who were recognized most cost effective.


But these pillars are lacking. Is there a path to education reform that will create these building blocks? Can we get there even when the education establishment opposes such reforms?


The Fed-Ex Role Model:
In looking for examples we remembered how the establishment of the Federal Express Company not only helped repair a broken marketplace within the parcel delivery economic sector, but it also resulted in an enterprise that provided a better service at a lower cost than its government run competitor- the US Post Office.

The key aspect of the success of Federal Express in this market was their emphasis on efficiency and cost control that allowed them to compete on price with the Postal Service’s subsidized service.


Asora Stellar Schools Can Be The Fed-Ex Of Education:
The original activity of Asora Education Enterprises was the drafting of a business plan to create a franchising network of for-profit private schools employing various new technologies and methods- including online instruction. While that plan still awaits investment capital, our financial projections show how this provider of schooling would be able to significantly undercut our competitors in terms of cost while at the same time improving the students’ academic outcomes.


As with other new firms, securing sufficient market share to enable various economies of scale will require aggressive marketing. Given the propaganda and other forms of misinformation promulgated by the public schools and sometimes the private schools, the marketing campaign will require some comparative information about those other schools. But how can we “rate” the competition when honest measures of their services are lacking?


Using Asora’s NAEP Estimates As A Marketing Tool?
When Asora’s business plan was unable to secure investment capital, we offered other services including the calculation of student proficiency estimates for individual public schools and school districts.


Working under various contracts with public interest foundations, for example, we analyzed the public schools in the seven states of Oklahoma, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Vermont. For each school and district we used each state’s published school proficiency levels as input to a mapping process that estimated what the NAEP (Nation’s Report Card) proficiencies would have been in each case. Given the fact that the states almost always report grossly exaggerated levels of student performance, our method resulted in more realistic levels of student proficiencies. And also more sobering.


Our method was also applied to the public schools of Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC and then used to produce a guide to public schools in that region. It was in this context that our book became a marketing tool for education providers because the book not only gave information about the schools, it also gave considerable information about supplementary instructional services and resources that could enable parents and other stakeholders consumer information directing them to these alternatives.


Sadly, very little interest has been shown by players in the education industry in using our public school performance estimates.


Fear Of Aggressive NAEP “Based” Marketing
We were surprised that providers of tutoring services and other educational products showed very little interest in using our NAEP estimates.


As we discussed this disappointment with providers, consultants and academics, we came to the tentative conclusion that most firms in this sector also provide services directly to public school organizations. Given that using our NAEP estimates of public school performance for marketing might offend the public school establishment, we were told that most companies would forego such aggressive marketing. But since when is it considered “aggressive” to tell the truth?


Still this information should be of interest to enterprises that don’t contract with the public schools. If such companies do not exist in sufficient numbers, we think it is time to create them.


Capitalists Might Reconsider Their Reluctance
Do capitalists bear some of the responsibility for the broken marketplace of education? Let’s look at the broad marketplace of education providers defined to include public education. What can for-profit private firms in this industry do to cure this dysfunctional marketplace? Moreover, what can other companies in other industries do to help their counterparts in the education industry?


Instead of asking this of individual firms, let’s ask what existing trade associations and other business support organizations can do to help build a competitive education industry?

Chambers Of Commerce As The New Nexus
Let’s think about Chambers of Commerce. What are their purposes? Isn’t one of their goals the promotion of enterprises within their communities. Maybe Chambers could focus on the education sector where such “industrial” development is sorely needed? What can they do?


There is another reason why Chambers of Commerce might want to help the education sector: It is in their self-interest to promote education reform that will result in better prepared entry level employees to their businesses.


One avenue that Chambers of Commerce could consider is the development of independent testing of school children- particularly at the high school levels. Chambers of Commerce could offer testing to students and then issue certificates of mastery to those who pass their tests. For example, a Chamber of Commerce might use the ACT tests (available at grade levels 8 through 12). They could even issue “Chamber” Diplomas to those who have demonstrated grade-level competence. Within a community, businesses could make the passing of such testing a criterion for hiring.


By doing this or something similar, the Chambers of Commerce would help provide good consumer information about schools and other educational services. The provision of such information would help alleviate the present market failure within the education industry. With such information, parents and other stakeholders would be able to make more informed choices, which would enhance the competition among the schools and other providers.

And get this: No legislation is needed for Chambers to undertake such projects.


The Romney Proposal For School Level Report Cards
In May of this year, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney proposed that school level report cards be developed for individual schools around the country. The schools would be evaluated against solid standards.


In his speech outlining this proposal there were few details, but we can imagine how such a proposal could be implemented.


One obvious avenue to such an outcome would simply have the NAEP, which is based on testing sparse samples of students, extended to test all students in American schools. That would permit reporting student proficiency percentages at the school level. We would also include private schools in this testing system. Federal legislation would be required.


Or, as we suggested above, the ACT tests could be used to generate school level report cards for the middle and high school levels. Other similar tests, already in use, could be used for the lower grade levels. Michigan is one state already using the ACT for this purpose. To cover all schools would again require some kind of federal legislation. Failing that, covering more schools might be accomplished by private “campaigns” to increase interest in this approach among school operators and stakeholders.


At Asora we are already producing school level report cards based on our estimates of NAEP proficiencies. We have generated estimates for nearly every public school in the East Coast states. To finish and extend this work we need to find sponsors who can fund the efforts required to cover the entire United States. In terms of feasibility, it is this approach that will most likely succeed. But we’ll not be able to include private schools.

Still Awaiting Feedback From The Global Report Card
In our January, April and July 2012 updates, we mentioned the Global Report Card (GRC), which provides percentile ranks for school districts within the United States in three different frameworks: statewide, national and international. The GRC results are provided by an online service of the George W. Bush Institute for Public Policy. You can view them at 

http://www.globalreportcard.org/map.html.
We have proposed to the Bush Institute that we discuss a possible collaboration based on the additional kinds of local proficiency estimates we have developed. We still await their reply, though we are not holding our breath.


At Asora we have improved upon the methods used by the GRC. More details are described in our report,
Mapping District Level K-12 Scale Scores Onto National & International Assessment Distributions. The report is in the file QuantileMeasurements.docx , which can be downloaded from our Reform Reports page.


Guidebooks Or Web Guides To Public Schools And Supplementary Services?
Our first guidebook, It Takes More Than A Village to educate your child when the schools aren't up to the task, covered the public schools in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. The phrase "More Than" refers to supplementary services, which include many tutoring companies and other vendors in the "afterschool" space. You can learn more about this guidebook by clicking here. The guidebooks play two roles: First, parents and others can use them to find a better public school. More importantly, the guidebooks contain directories to those offering supplementary and alternative services. 


Thus our guidebooks provide a means by which vendors can publicize their services and thereby "drive" customers to their businesses. 


By early 2012, we had extended our local NAEP estimates to all of the East Coast states. In contemplating a hardcopy guidebook to this region, we are challenged by the many hundreds of pages necessary to present even the most basic estimates for each school and district. For this reason and others, we are now contemplating a Web guide in which advertising would fund the service.


But We Need Working/Human Capital To Complete Our Guidebooks Until now the guidebook project has been a one-person effort. Performing the data analysis required to cover the entire United States along with the other preparatory work will required the full time efforts of at least one other collaborator/worker. These guides would include information much like that contemplated for the school level report cards proposed by Mitt Romney.


Thus seek various kinds of assistance in the completion of this project. Interested parties could consider, among other possibilities: 


1. Investing in the production of the Web guide. 
2. Collaborating with Asora in its production. 
3. Contracting with Asora to make these kinds of estimates for states and regions of interest. 


The numbers we generate paint a "picture of need." When parents and stakeholders finally "see this light" they will often seek out the services of the vendors listed within. 


There Is Much More On Our Website 
For further information, consider reviewing our home page where there are links to more detailed descriptions of the services and activities of Asora Education. Alternatively you might consider visiting "What Was New" to learn more about our recent and not so recent history.


What Was New in July 2012

By David V. Anderson
The End Of Tutoring As We Know It
Our theme this quarter, The End Of Tutoring As We Know It, is based on recent developments in the methods and technologies that support and provide tutorial instruction. The business plan for Asora Education’s Stellar School Franchising Network of K-12 schools has always contemplated a version of automated tutoring, which we have called Cyber Tutoring. New research in the field has now shown how computer based tutoring algorithms are almost as effective as human tutors in helping students “learn from their mistakes.”


The research in tutoring effectiveness strongly suggests that Cyber Tutoring, which can be delivered much less expensively than its traditional alternative, will attract many customers while human tutors will lose market share. We believe, with near certainty, that human tutors will still be needed as a back-up resource and as the star performers who will be appearing in the pre-recorded Cyber Tutoring video clips. We also continue to believe that, going forward, peer tutoring by more advanced students will remain a viable practice.


Whether in a homeschooling virtual classroom or in a real brick & mortar school, the Cyber Tutoring services will be much less expensive to provide. Depending on the economies of scale involved, the cost of Cyber Tutoring may run in the pennies per hour as compared to the human alternative where costs sometimes reach the $100 per hour level.


As may be apparent to those who have studied the history of education, the evolution of K-12 schooling towards automated instruction and tutoring bears some resemblance to the Lancastrian schools developed in England in the years around 1800. In that model, one teacher would manage a school of perhaps 200 children by using “monitors” drawn from the more advanced students in the school. The monitors were essentially peer tutors who had the job of working with small groups of students. If the schools we are contemplating come into fashion, we’ll have schools in which one professional teacher will be able to manage similar numbers of children. The peer tutoring, however, in this case will be augmented by the automated instructional and tutorial services. Also in this mix would be additional personnel who would perform those teaching and management chores that are needed to supplement the online instructional systems as well as to provide for conventionally taught elective courses.



Our topics this quarter, which relate to the automation of instruction and tutoring are:


Effects on Afterschool Tutoring Companies
Automated tutoring will not be a major source of losses at first, but over time it will gain market share for those tutoring companies offering it. In time it will reduce the demand for and the revenues from human tutoring. Those providers who offer both human and computer based tutoring will find ways to combine the two formats in ways that will increase their market share but at the same time significantly reducing their charges and costs. Price competition will likely be severe. As automated tutoring becomes a mainstream educational service, only those providers who combine large economies of scale with other efficiencies will have a good chance of survival.


Human and Computer Based Tutoring
In any given course, the tutoring process can be largely specified in such a way that a computer can be programmed to act as the tutor. But not completely. If one regards tutoring from a Question & Answer format, it should be possible to list and program many of the common questions, mistakes and omissions that arise in the student’s mind. But just as a Website’s FAQ is never a complete list of user questions, we doubt that a computerized tutoring service will be able to respond to all student problems.

Over time, we expect the computer based tutoring process to improve its ability to respond to the student. Even so, we believe that human tutors will be needed to respond to difficult situations not foreseen by the computerized tutoring systems.


The Methods of Step-Based Tutoring

For this discussion, Tutoring is regarded as the instructional feedback that follows a student’s incorrect answer to a test question. Prior to the tutoring, we are assuming that the student has received instruction in the topic under consideration.


We distinguish two types of tutoring: Single step and multi-step. In the former, the tutor explains the correct answer in terms of the most immediate item of prerequisite knowledge. In the latter multi-step method, the tutor reviews a sequence of prerequisite knowledge items and makes an attempt to identify where in the sequence the student’s misunderstanding or omission first occurred.


Many research studies have been conducted in recent years to determine the effectiveness of computer based tutoring. Much of this was reviewed by Kurt VanLehn in


The Relative Effectiveness of Human Tutoring, Intelligent Tutoring Systems, and Other Tutoring Systems (in Educational Psychologist, 46, 197-221, 2011)


In the case of computer based Single Step tutoring, VanLehn reviewed dozens of other studies and found a significant improvement: The average tutored student performed at the 62nd percentile compared to the untutored who remained at 50th.

For computer based Multi Step tutoring there was remarkable improvement: The average tutored student rose to the 76th percentile. That review also presents results for human based Multi Step tutoring that are quite similar with the tutored students achieving 79th percentile. Not much better than the computer based version, but signficantly more expensive to provide.

We are indebted to Professor Herbert Walberg, who called our attention to VanLehn’s review.

Organizing Online Instructional Programs

Based on the foregoing we perceive three components to the instructional process:


1. Presentation of information by the on-screen teacher.
2. Testing students on this content.
3. Tutoring students, online and “live”, to resolve errors.


Nearly all of the first two components can be automated and most of the third.


The teacher, as we have noted, is no longer in the classroom, but is a “star” teacher who makes perfected video segments of the instructional material. We say “perfected” because the combination of rehearsing and using multiple “takes” removes most errors in the presentation. This is a distinct improvement over live presentations where a slip of the tongue can lead to confusion. “Perfected” also suggests making the presentations interesting and compelling. The star teachers and their assistants can also assist with the “live” end of the tutoring service.


The instructional program could be managed by one or more individuals. The star teacher could do it all- and be the author of the presentations, all of the tutoring material and the testing. Or a group of instructors, including the teacher, tutors, and assessment experts, could manage the development and management of a course.


Who Is Left In The Classroom?
As we have indicated elsewhere in our business plans, the students within a classroom will be operating in a self-paced mode. Different students will likely be working on different courses among various subjects. What school personnel should manage the classroom?


The Stellar Schools, of our plans, will also teach elective courses. Some of them will be taught online in the manner of the core subjects, but others will be taught in more traditional group instruction. The personnel in the classrooms, ideally would have skills in the elective areas and would be able to cover the tutoring needs for some of the core subjects. Minimally, the classroom-based workers would carry out so-called classroom management chores, including the maintenance of order.


Still Awaiting Feedback From The Global Report Card
In our January and April 2012 updates, we mentioned the Global Report Card (GRC), which provides percentile ranks for school districts within the United States in three different frameworks: statewide, national and international. The GRC results are provided by an online service of the George W. Bush Institute for Public Policy. You can view them at 

http://www.globalreportcard.org/map.html.
We have proposed to the Bush Institute that we discuss a possible collaboration based on the additional kinds of local proficiency estimates we have developed. We still await their reply, though we are not holding our breath.


At Asora we have improved upon the methods used by the GRC. More details are described in our report,
Mapping District Level K-12 Scale Scores Onto National & International Assessment Distributions. The report is in the file QuantileMeasurements.docx , which can be downloaded from our Reform Reports page.


Guidebooks Or Web Guides To Public Schools And Supplementary Services?

Our first guidebook, It Takes More Than A Village to educate your child when the schools aren't up to the task, covered the public schools in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. The phrase "More Than" refers to supplementary services, which include many tutoring companies and other vendors in the "afterschool" space. You can learn more about this guidebook by clicking here. The guidebooks play two roles: First, parents and others can use them to find a better public school. More importantly, the guidebooks contain directories to those offering supplementary and alternative services. 


Thus our guidebooks provide a means by which vendors can publicize their services and thereby "drive" customers to their businesses. 


During the winter, we extended our local NAEP estimates to all of the East Coast states. In contemplating a guidebook to this region, we are challenged by the many hundreds of pages necessary to present even the most basic estimates for each school and district. For this reason and others, we are now contemplating a Web guide in which advertising would fund the service.


But We Need Working/Human Capital To Complete Our Guidebooks
Until now the guidebook project has been a one-person effort. Performing the data analysis required to cover the entire United States along with the other preparatory work will required the full time efforts of at least one other collaborator/worker.


Thus seek various kinds of assistance in the completion of this project. Interested parties could consider, among other possibilities: 


1. Investing in the production of the Web guide. 
2. Collaborating with Asora in its production. 
3. Contracting with Asora to make these kinds of estimates for states and regions of interest. 


The numbers we generate paint a "picture of need." When parents and stakeholders finally "see this light" they will often seek out the services of the vendors listed within.

What Was New In April 2012




We Know How To Fix Schools. Do You?



For First Time Visitors:

Welcome to Asora Education Enterprises, which is presently engaged in:


1.) Publishing Web based regional guides and guidebooks to public schools and the supplementary resources locally available that are needed to bring the children attending these schools up to grade level. The need for the latter is implicit in the low performance levels of nearly all public schools (and most private schools) that we have studied.


2.) An achievement test consulting service, in which we analyze state administered tests to remove the exaggerations found therein. Our guidebooks are based on those studies.


3.) The Stellar Schools Franchising Project, which plans to organize K-12 franchising networks of brick & mortar schools that are based on a blended format of self-paced online instruction combined with real books (including e-books) and real tutors.


4.) The online courseware brokerage.


5.) A speakers' bureau focused on these topical areas.


If you're a new visitor to our website we suggest that you might review the "headlines" below before venturing into the other areas.


What Was New In Preceding Updates:

If you have not seen our previous quarterly "What's New" updates, then you might want to peruse our "What Was New" page to see them by using the link at the bottom of this page.



What’s New in April 2012

by David V. Anderson

The Keystone of School Reform: Enforcing Assessment Results

Our theme this quarter, Enforcing Assessment Results, alludes to the fact that our present K-12 schools, both public and private, are egregiously deficient in the uses of assessment. Particularly, the measurements of student competencies are mostly ignored as input to decisions regarding promotion, graduation and transcripts.


We contend that educators, both public and private, have a tradition in which the responsibilities for instruction reside with the same management that is also responsible for assessment related functions. This represents a conflict of interest in which the school, so to speak, becomes its own auditor. This conflict, whether by accident or intent, has led to “look good” assessment systems. After giving its students proficient designations, these systems then proceed to promote, certify, and graduate large percentages of children who, in most cases, are really sub-proficient.


How does Asora have this insight when so many others don’t? Many educators and stakeholders understand the problem but remain unsure about the remedial steps that might be taken.


Our understanding at Asora is based on our studies of student proficiency levels, which we have performed for nearly all of the public schools in approximately 20 states. Through our mapping technology we have generated NAEP assessment estimates of student proficiencies. This has allowed us to compare schools across state lines and has allowed us to see the effects of economic demographics more clearly than before. And as we discussed last quarter, under its theme of a
"ceiling of mediocrity," even schools in affluent areas are doing a poor job bringing their students to proficient levels of content knowledge.


Our prescription for curing this disease in based on removing the conflict of interest inherent in having instruction and testing under the same management. We advocate removing the responsibility of official tests, transcripts, promotion, retention, proctoring, and graduation to a separate agency or organization.


If implemented, this proposal will have disruptive consequences for the schools. They will no longer be able to engage in the
unwarranted promotion of sub-proficient students. Rather they will be challenged to provide remedial services to those who test below grade level. Happily, cost-effective solutions are available to help children catch up. They include computer-based instruction, online courses, peer tutoring as well as human tutoring.


Our topics this quarter, which touch on our desire to
enforce assessment results, are:


Setting The Stage With Milton Friedman's Observations
The late Nobel Laureate and Professor of Economics, Milton Friedman, had much to say about the problems of K-12 education. Based on his writings, speeches, correspondence and personal communications, we know a great deal about his opinions in this area. Taking the liberty to paraphrase his actual commentary, we might find him saying


1. “Consider two brothers who have been able to build a far better quality Buick in their Wisconsin barn than their industrial counterparts in a Detroit factory. Doesn’t that say something more about the factory than the barn? Of course, this is a metaphor regarding home schooling and its surprising superiority to public and even private education.”


2. “Look at the marginal performance of private schools, which according to NAEP testing, is only somewhat better than that of their public counterparts. Adam Smith understood this. He observed and commented on the harm done to private vendors when their public (government) counterparts receive government subsidies. In other words, try selling a product that someone else is giving away.”


3. “ ‘Dumb and Dumber’ are appropriate labels for non-profit private schools and public schools, respectively. To have really effective schools likely requires them to be for-profit.”


4. “Franchising may be a good business model for K-12 education. Within a franchising network all kinds of franchisee schools would participate regardless of their ownership and governance format- public, private non-profit, and private for-profit.”


Professor Friedman’s observations about the superiority of home schooling have been consistent with the preceding comments about unwarranted promotion. Parents love their children and would rarely abuse the testing processes involved in home schooling. This suggests that their children would tend towards proficiency. Unlike parents, schools do not have the same level of regard for the children in their care. They find it expedient to pass them along, year after year, until they can pass them on to society.


Friedman’s last two points, though not directly related to the issues of unwarranted promotion, are supportive of some of the solutions. Why not run schools for profit? And why not use franchising to further improve their quality and cost-effectiveness? Asora’s own proposals for franchised Stellar Schools are based on these principles.


A Taxonomy Of Cheating

In the past year, several cheating scandals have been uncovered in our K-12 school systems. Last year, in Atlanta, nearly 180 school teachers and administrators were accused of altering test results for Georgia’s statewide assessments. Casting a wider net, investigators found similar patterns and irregularities in approximately 200 other school districts nationally. Let’s consider cheating where it impacts student progress in K-12 schools. By types we have:

1. Student cheating. Copying others’ answers, using prohibited communications devices, and theft of examination materials are among the improper behaviors seen in student cheating.

2. Teacher cheating. Stealing examination materials, ignoring student misbehavior, coaching students, allowing extra time, and altering answer sheets are some of the kinds of improprieties teachers have been found doing.

3. School administrator cheating. Here there is sometimes collusion with teacher cheating. In other instances school system administrators have instituted policies known to interfere with the security of examination documents and data.

4. System cheating. Seemingly innocuous policies that are designed to deceive parents and other stakeholders represent a type of cheating that is not obvious and yet has many harmful effects. Laxity in the standards tested by state assessments, extremely low passing grades at the classroom level, and the promotion of children who fail in the classroom are the principal forms of system cheating. Much of this cheating is so “traditional” that educators don’t recognize its presence.


Tests, Testing, and Genuine School Reform
Is the title of Herbert J. Walberg’s excellent book (Hoover Institution Press, 2011), which includes recommendations for more independence of the assessment systems used in K-12 education. Many of Professor Walberg’s conclusions are quite similar to ours. One result: We have been working together on some op-ed articles in this topical area.

Cheating Breeds Unwarranted Promotion
One common attribute among the different forms of cheating is that of an exaggerated proficiency designation. The scale of this exaggeration is quite large. Nationally, at the 8th grade level, it results in approximately 99% of the students being promoted to the next grade level when, in fact, only about one-third of them are sufficiently proficient to warrant that promotion.


This brings us again to the concept of
unwarranted promotion of which we consider three types.


Social Promotion. The most well-known type of unwarranted promotion is that of social promotion wherein school authorities promote a child who is academically unprepared for the next grade level but is moved along anyway based on maintaining the child’s social relations.


Fiscal Promotion. Many schools would ideally want to retain a child who is sub-proficient and provide the student with remedial instruction to bring them up to grade level performance, but they find it too expensive to do so. This type of unwarranted promotion is not really a separate category of promotion, but rather more accurately describes the education system’s motivation for moving the child to the next instructional level. We're tempted to call it the "dirty little secret" of social promotion.


Marginal Promotion. In some cases, educators argue, with some validity, that the child is not that far behind the grade level performance standards to justify being held back an entire academic term.


To Fix Schools We Must End Unwarranted Promotion
Think about it: A school that did not engage in unwarranted promotion would only promote students found to be proficient in their studies. Subsequent achievement testing would then likely find nearly all of these children proficient in their grade levels. The system wouldn’t be perfect, but proficiency percentages in the 90% range would be likely.


How can we end the unwarranted promotion and the underlying cheating that is its cause?


Removing The Conflict Of Interest That Is The Root Of The Problem
As we stated above, we believe that the root of the problem resides in the fact that schools have the dual responsibilities of instruction and testing, which constitute a conflict of interest. The school will be motivated to look good and can achieve that through easy testing. Or as we labeled it above, by cheating.


The solution is the establishment of independent testing and certifying organizations that would have a number of responsibilities:


1. Establish subject content standards.
2. Test students on this content.
3. Report results.
4. Control passing and retentions by passing only those found proficient.
5. Control transcripts.
6. Control diplomas and graduations.


How Schools Would Respond
Schools would focus on instruction as their former testing and certifying roles would no longer occupy their time. The initial effects of the independent testing would include large numbers of children retained. Schools would need to focus much of their efforts on remediation. With traditional instructional methods and technology, this would be costly. Schools would be forced to seek alternatives. Luckily, cost effective alternatives are coming. Self-paced instruction can be enabled through online instruction delivered on demand. The teachers would morph into tutors. Within a few years, we foresee the levels of retention going down. The role of online self-paced instruction would attract more and more participants- well beyond the remedial role. We think a high percentage of the instruction would move to this format.


The interplay between the enforcement function of the independent testing and certification organizations and the instructional services in the schools would end the unwarranted promotions and would lead to the desired status wherein schools would have nearly all students accorded the status of proficient- we think 90% or more.


Now you know what we know! You can go out and fix the schools in your midst.


Awaiting Feedback From The Global Report Card
Last quarter, in January 2012, we mentioned the Global Report Card (GRC), which provides percentile ranks for school districts within the United States in three different frameworks: statewide, national and international. The GRC results are provided by an online service of the George W. Bush Institute for Public Policy. You can view them at

http://www.globalreportcard.org/map.html.

We have proposed to the Bush Institute that we discuss a possible collaboration based on the additional kinds of local proficiency estimates we have developed. We await their reply.


At Asora we have improved upon the methods used by the GRC. More details are described in our report,
Mapping District Level K-12 Scale Scores Onto National & International Assessment Distributions. The report is in the file QuantileMeasurements.docx , which can be downloaded from our Reform Reports page.


Guidebooks Or Web Guides To Public Schools And Supplementary Services?
Our first guidebook, It Takes More Than A Village to educate your child when the schools aren't up to the task, covered the public schools in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. The phrase "More Than" refers to supplementary services, which include many tutoring companies and other vendors in the "afterschool" space. You can learn more about this guidebook by clicking here. The guidebooks play two roles: First, parents and others can use them to find a better public school. More importantly, the guidebooks contain directories to those offering supplementary and alternative services.

Thus our guidebooks provide a means by which vendors can publicize their services and thereby "drive" customers to their businesses.


During the winter, we extended our local NAEP estimates to all of the East Coast states. In contemplating a guidebook to this region, we are challenged by the many hundreds of pages necessary to present even the most basic estimates for each school and district. For this reason and others, we are now contemplating a Web guide in which advertising would fund the service.


But We Need Working/Human Capital To Complete Our Guidebooks
Until now the guidebook project has been a one-person effort. Performing the data analysis required to cover the entire United States along with the other preparatory work will required the full time efforts of at least one other collaborator/worker.

Thus we seek various kinds of assistance in the completion of this project. Interested parties could consider, among other possibilities:


1. Investing in the production of the Web guide.


2. Collaborating with Asora in its production. 

3. Contracting with Asora to make these kinds of estimates for states and regions of interest. 



The numbers we generate paint a "picture" of need. When parents and stakeholders finally "see this light" they will often seek out the services of the vendors listed within.


What Was New in January 2012

By David Anderson


We were not late with the December 2011 update!

Rather we decided to shift our quarterly updates forward to be dispatched in the months: January, April, July & October. We did this in recognition that December is a month of distraction with Christmas and other holidays focusing your and our attention away from these more secular matters.

A Ceiling of Mediocrity

Our theme this quarter,
A Ceiling of Mediocrity, is descriptive of the performance of children in public (and sometimes private) K-12 education. Our interest here is data driven. We find that even in the best public schools that a majority of children are below grade level. Thus we refer to these "best" schools as being at the "ceiling of mediocrity." So far, beyond one or two exceptions, there are no excellent public schools and to find a good one is exceedingly difficult or impossible depending on where one resides.


As we have been gathering assessment proficiency data for a guidebook to public schools of the East Coast United States, we have been struck by the seeming inability of our schools to produce proficiencies much over 60% - even when nearly all of the students are not disadvantaged.


A more meaningful statistic, in our opinion, is not the proficiency level of the entire tested population. Rather a more relevant parameter is the performance of a group with specified demographic characteristics that enables making comparisons with other groups having those same demographics. In making the NAEP estimates discussed here, we have looked at the subset of tested groups limited to those groups having 80% or more non-disadvantaged children. We call this group the
Top Tranche.


Nearly All Schools Are Sick
When we segregate our proficiency estimates by these demographic tranches, the usual disparity of student performance, from state to state, narrows significantly:


At the 4th and 8th grades, the differences among states diminish. The spread of their proficiencies narrows by half or more. We see this effect at the 12th grade as well, but are not as confident given the additional assumptions and approximations used at that level to generate our estimates.


When we see this narrower range of public school performance it suggests that the operations of public schools, from state to state, do not vary much. Given that the proficiencies seen for the Top Tranch rarely exceed 60%, it suggests that nearly all schools are drab, monolithic and dysfunctional. Moreover it implies that there are few if no role model schools for others to emulate. These problems extend beyond public schools into most private schools as well.


We believe that a combination of two practices, that are endemic to public and private education, provide the essential basis and explanation for these problems:

1. Group instruction

2. And its accomplice, social promotion.

The good news is that technology now makes both of these practices obsolete and relatively inefficient. Online instruction, mediated by tutoring, combined with a rigorous assessment regime can replace these traditions. They can lead us into a new era in education in which proficiency will be the norm (rather than the exception it is now). Asora's Stellar Schools are designed around these concepts.


Is It Possible That Washington D.C. Tops the 4th Grade Heap?
One of the results of these NAEP estimations- covering all public schools in 14 East Coast states- is that Washington D.C., with an estimated NAEP proficiency of 65%, for the Top Tranche, is significantly ahead of number two, Massachusetts (at 61%). and number three, Connecticut (at 58%).


When demographics are ignored, one gets the usual result: Massachusetts leads with 47% proficient, and D.C. comes in last at 17%.


Although our focus is on the Top Tranche, for comparison we note that in the Bottom Tranche (where 80% or more of the children are disadvantaged) the estimated numbers of proficient children range from 9% to 27% over these same 10 states.


The nearby table shows the best performers in the Top Tranche NAEP estimations for the three grade levels of interest.

Grade

State
Estimated NAEP Proficiency
4th
DC
65.4%
4th
MA
61.0%
4th
CT
57.7%
8th
NJ
56.2%
8th
CT
54.5%
8th
RI
54.3%
12th
MA
49.6%
12th
NJ
44.0%
12th
CT
43.5%




New Jersey Leads in the 8th Grade Comparisons

As the chart shows, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island take the top three positions- win, place and show- with 56%, 55% and 54% estimated proficient within the Top Tranche, respectively.


Massachusetts Wins the High School Competition Among Those in the Top Tranche

Whether or not demographics are taken into account, Massachusetts high school students have NAEP estimated proficiencies significantly above its nearest rivals. Within the Top Tranche, we estimate Massachusetts average proficiencies of 50%, 6 points above runners-up New Jersey and Connecticut.


We believe that Massachusetts is unique among the Northeastern States in that it uses its achievement testing (the MCAS examinations) as a graduation requirement. Based on this we hypothesize that it acts as an incentive for students to learn more or, in some cases, to drop out of the tested group. Either way, the average MCAS performance of the tested group should increase, which indirectly increases our NAEP estimates for them.


When Even The Best Are Bad

The implications of the foregoing suggest that even the very best public schools, which are found in the Top Tranche, are highly dysfunctional when approximately half of their children are below grade level.


Private schools are not immune to these problems, though they are impacted less than their public counterparts.


We know how to fix these schools, but the political will is not there to accomplish such an overhaul. It is left to parents to arrange additional instructional resources to fill the gaps. Asora's guidebooks are designed to help parents detect their children's shortcomings and lead them to resources that can provide the needed remediation. We are currently producing a book covering schools in East Coast states. Here's a peek at the book's cover page:

Pasted Graphic


Enhancing the Global Report Card
Last summer we learned about the Global Report Card (GRC), which provides percentile ranks for school districts within the United States in three different frameworks: statewide, national and international.The GRC results are provided by an online service of the George W. Bush Institute for Public Policy. You can view them at

http://www.globalreportcard.org/map.html.

Jay Greene, a professor at the Univeristy of Arkansas and a Fellow at the Bush Institute, is the pioneer who developed this school performance measure in which local school districts are compared in mathematics skills at the three different levels just mentioned.


Unlike our work, in which we estimate proficiencies at the school and district level, the GRC uses percentile rankings as its figure of merit. Currently it does not report at the school level, but the data to do that is available.


At Asora we have generalized the methods Greene developed to provide more accurate estimates of the percentile rankings. More details are described in our report,
Mapping District Level K-12 Scale Scores Onto National & International Assessment Distributions. The report is in the file QuantileMeasurements.docx , which can be downloaded from our Reform Reports page.


Encouraged by GRC's international example, we have also developed an analogous method for estimating NAEP proficiencies of selected foreign countries to which we can compare districts and states in the United States. For example, New Hampshire, which has an 8th grade NAEP math proficiency of 43.3% falls between Estonia (42.2%) and Germany (43.9%). We don't interpret this as to say New Hampshire is as good as these European countries. Rather these European countries and New Hampshire are doing a poor job of educating their students when over half of their students are not meeting standards.



Our Guidebooks Can Help Tutoring Firms Attract Private Pay Customers
Our first guidebook, It Takes More Than A Village to educate your child when the schools aren't up to the task, covered the public schools in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. The phrase "More Than" refers to supplementary services, which include many tutoring companies and other vendors in the "afterschool" space. You can learn more about this guidebook by clicking here. The guidebooks play two roles: First, parents and others can use them to find a better public school. More importantly, the guidebooks contain directories to those offering supplementary and alternative services.


Thus our guidebooks provide a means by which vendors can publicise their services and thereby "drive" customers to their businesses.


We Seek Help To Complete Our Guidebooks
In the past year our efforts on the guidebooks have expanded. We recently completed the data analysis for an additional 10 states (Delaware through Maine) with the intention to publish a guidebook for the East Coast states. We are reviewing that decision and are considering instead a "growing" guidebook that will eventually cover all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.


We seek various kinds of assistance in the completion of this project. Interested parties could consider, among other possibilities:

1. Investing in the production of the books.

2. Collaborating with Asora in their production.

3. Contracting with Asora to make these kinds of estimates for states and regions of interest.


The numbers we generate paint a "picture of need." When parents and stakeholders finally "see this light" they will often seek out the services of the vendors listed within.


What Was New in September 2011

By David Anderson


We have two themes this quarter because we don’t have the patience to delay one of them until the next quarter!

Our first theme regards the profession of teaching. We envisage radical changes coming to such an extent that
teachers, as we know them, will become extinct. Supplanting teaching will be new forms of instruction, including online courses and various forms of tutoring. The total instructional work force will shrink significantly- we think a 25% reduction is in the likely range.

Our second theme, related to educational economics, is that education
reformers should fix private schools first. Though not as dysfunctional as their public cousins, most private schools are mediocre, with more than half of their students (also) below grade level. We think non-profit private schools lack the incentives to thrive and therefore pin our hopes on for-profit schools. And just think: reforming a private school can be done with very little interference from the government and unions.

GDP Boost From Good Teaching- It’s In The Trillions
Recent research studies conducted by Stanford’s Eric Hanushek and others not only confirm the correlation between good teachers and student proficiencies, but also predict the effects better teaching would have on the national economy. They estimate that just replacing the bottom 10% of teachers with average teachers would move the United States student skill levels (in math) to equal those of the top European students (in Finland) and would increase the present value of future US GDP by more than $100 trillion. This is not a typo. More information on this can be found here.


I’ve Had A Good Look At Teacher Competence
Approximately ten years ago, I considered becoming a substitute teacher in California and was required to take an eligibility examination, the CBEST, that is used to screen California teachers to ensure their basic academic competencies. The test was quite easy and did not test beyond the 10th grade level. Yet, 30% of California teachers fail this examination on their first attempt. The national situation is not much different. In light of the preceding remarks on the value of good teaching, does this not suggest that we might replace the bottom 30% of teachers and by doing so elevate American students to skill levels well above the best seen in Europe?

Then Finland would want to catch up to us!

How Asora’s Stellar Schools Will Achieve Highly Competent Instruction:
If dismissing the bottom 10% of teachers has the beneficial improvements of bringing American children to Finnish levels of academic performance, what would the removal of the bottom 25% combined with the retraining of the remaining 75% do? In the Stellar Schools environment, (click here to learn more about this) the instruction is online, which requires significantly fewer teachers- or shall we say “instructors”-than before. In our model, the classroom teacher’s job morphs into that of a tutor-facilitator, whose role does not include much instructing beyond what occurs in the one-on-one tutoring relationships. A very small percentage of instructors would appear on-demand in the online self-paced environment where they would instruct many hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of children each. For these “on camera” roles, Stellar Schools can hire star instructors, which in many cases might be university professors who possess great content expertise as well as pedagogic skills.

How can one be so sure of this? Well, I experienced something like this in my 1957 high school physics class, which was taught via television with Berkeley physics professor Harvey White doing the instruction. If the “proof is in the pudding” I later earned a Ph.D. in physics. Even then the economy of scale was quite significant with 100,000 students, all across the United States, enrolled in this class.

Replace Teaching As We Know It With What?
Various prognosticators and futurists predict that K-12 education will evolve to implementations based mostly on self-paced online instruction in which the instructional model is that of tutoring. According to Clayton Christensen’s recent book, (Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns), more than half of K-12 instruction will be online within the next eight years.


If this is our destiny, what will happen or perhaps more importantly what
should happen to the profession of teaching? We take a view consistent with our business plan for Stellar Schools which should not be meant to exclude other approaches involving online instruction.

In the subsector of online tutorial instruction we foresee that for every 100 teachers currently working in K-12 education:

1. Approximately 68 tutors will be engaged working in classrooms.

2. Another 6 tutors will work remotely at a “help desk” facility.

3. No more than 1 instructor will deliver content online.

By these estimates alone, it is clear that the population of instructional staff (those who teach, tutor or instruct) would shrink by 25% in this scenario. But not all of the remaining 75 instructional workers would continue his or her employment in K-12 education; rather there would be turnover based on finding the most competent individuals for each position. We presume that many current teachers will be retrained to work as tutors, which will not only include learning new pedagogical techniques and methods, but will also require many of them to “beef up” their content knowledge.

Adam Smith And Milton Friedman On Subsides:
In reviewing the student proficiencies of American K-12 students, it is noteworthy that 8th grade private school students do not perform anywhere near the popular conception. In fact, the Nation’s Report Card consistently reports that less than half of these students (about 45% of them) are proficient in reading and math. Public school children’s proficiency levels are lower- typically around 30%.

In earlier Asora updates we commented on the broken marketplace for K-12 education. What did Adam Smith contend and what did Milton Friedman say about this issue?

Smith wrote in his famous book, “The Wealth of Nations,” that subsidized teaching would tend to reduce the number of privately paid teachers and would act to bring the quality of private instruction down towards the level of the subsidized one. And Friedman once quipped, “Try selling a product that someone else is giving away!”


What About the Mediocrity of Non-Profit Private Schools?
We think non-profit private schools operate under weak incentives for success: There’s no profit motive except for the incentive of solvency. Without a profit motive there is little encouragement for growth and once the “seats are filled” there is little interest in further improvements beyond the relatively weak effects of altruism.

We think that for-profit schools, though currently limited in number, have the potential to be the engines of reform. Were it not for the broken marketplace of education, we believe nearly all K-12 schools would be for-profit or operated under contract with for-profit management companies.

Milton Friedman agreed that non-profit schools have these problems, when we asked him about these issues in 2003. The relevant correspondence and related report are contained in a
pdf file downloadable here.

When Do Public-Private Joint Efforts Make Sense?
There are obviously many relationships between government schools and various kinds of private enterprises. Among the latter are the vendors of textbooks, specialized instructional & testing services, and education management organizations. In each of these areas, the government entity prescribes the goods and services to be purchased and has the authority to renegotiate different terms as the contracts specify or allow. Political interests often dictate these arrangements. If those interests are opposed to effective reforms, as is almost always the case where teachers’ unions hold sway, then the private goods and services will not contribute much to educational progress.

Asora’s Stellar Schools model also foresees public-private collaborations, but proposes that they be under franchising contracts. Under franchising, the for-profit franchisor is the party that dictates the resources and methods to be used and is relatively immune to political meddling. This is so because altering the franchise contract would damage the franchisor’s brand (and reputation) and would be resisted by the franchisor. We believe the franchising model allows the Stellar Schools franchisor to operate one or more networks of schools regardless of the legal format of the franchisee schools (government, non-profit, or for-profit). Learn more about franchised Stellar Schools
here.


Asora Can Help Tutoring Firms Attract Private Pay Customers
In July 2011, Asora Education Enterprises participated in the annual EdVentures Conference of the Education Industry Association (EIA). Of the member companies within the EIA, a plurality are enterprises providing various kinds of after-school instructional services. At Asora’s booth we encouraged these “tutoring” companies to consider using our data (primarily of school and district level estimated NAEP proficiencies) to attract “private pay” customers, either by directly contracting with us or by using our guidebooks to public schools and supplementary instructional services. We continue to seek forward-looking providers in this area to solicit our help in developing prospective clients.


We Seek Help To Complete Our Guidebooks
Most of our efforts in the past year have focused on the production of guidebooks to public schools and supplementary instructional resources. Our first book, "It Takes More Than A Village," was published in February 2011. For the Potomac Region of MD, VA and DC it provides estimated NAEP proficiencies for nearly every public school and school district and it provides lists of vendors and other resources that provide "after school" supplementary services, which can help bring students up to grade level.

We have collected the data needed to produce a second guidebook, this time for the ten states in the Northeastern US. We seek collaborators to help us complete this effort.


There Is Much More On Our Website


For further information, consider reviewing our home page where there are links to more detailed descriptions of the services and activities of Asora Education. Alternatively you might consider visiting "What Was New" to learn more about our recent and not so recent history.



What Was New In June 2011

June Theme: Sharing the Blame for K-12 Education Market Failure

At Asora Education, we believe in the superiority of free market capitalism over its rivals to deliver the best quality goods and services at the lowest possible costs.

We do not believe what most educators hold: That education is a special industry that's immune from the laws of economics and free markets. In particular we believe that educational services and products would be far superior to what we have if a free market were allowed to operate in this economic sector.

Instead, the productivity of our education sector is low, the costs are high, and the quality of its "output" is mediocre at best. Not only is public education dysfunctional, but private K-12 education is also troubled- though to a lesser degree.

We believe the degradation of K-12 education has resulted from well intended but wrong headed laws and regulations that have been enacted over the past century (and longer), which have broken down the pillars of a functioning free market competitive economy in this sector.

Those pillars include:


1. The pillar of accurate information. With good information, parents and other statkeholders can make appropriate choices for a student. Without it, consumers will often choose inferior providers of educational services.

2. The pillar of fair competition. When providers are treated equally, only those providing high quality goods and services survive. That's unlike the current environment where monopolistic operators (the public schools) are receiving large subsidies that markedly distort the playing field on which the providers compete.

3. The pillar of the rule of law. When laws and regulations are applied fairly, healthy competition can ensue. Alternatively, when favoritism is shown the best providers may lose market share and risk going under.

Unfortunately, most efforts at reform concern themselves more narrowly. They tend to ignore the "pillars" while focusing on the details of the instructional systems. Thus most efforts at education reform in the K-12 sector involve attempts to make changes to the practices, to the tools, to the personnel, and to the curricula of primary and secondary education. But they haven't borne much fruit: Children perform at about the same low levels as they did during much of the last century.

A longer discussion of these concerns can be found on our page:
What Ails Our Schools.


Teachers Are The Most To Blame
Who then should we blame for our dysfunctional K-12 schools? Ordering the "candidates" by their duty to educate our children we have:

Parents. They have been misled and typically don't scrutinize the schools of their children.

Teachers. Some can't teach well and most of them irresponsibly vote for the union.

School Administrators. They manage the bad practices.

Teachers' Unions. They work to "elect" their friends to school boards who then usually do the union's bidding.

School Boards. They often neglect their positions of trust and put the unions' interests ahead of their duty to children.

Law Makers. Many legislators are in the pocket of the unions who then resist prudent reforms.

Business Organizations. Chambers of Commerce and others complain about low skills but do little to help.

All of these folks should know better- and none more so than the teachers.

SES Providers Should Focus On Private Pay
There is currently much concern within the SES providers' community over the uncertain future of government subsidies to them for their tutoring services provided to public school children.


Whether or not the SES "sector" loses these funding streams, they should also consider getting more active in the "private pay" sector.


To attract parents to their services, SES providers need to have ways to market themselves based on the real needs of children. These needs are not always evident to parents and other stakeholders because of the public school system rosy propaganda to the contrary.


Asora's guidebook projects (and its ability to do contract research in the area) are resources that can be used to generate the "how bad it is" information about public schools. Companies within the SES sector might find this information beneficial in their marketing programs.

It Takes More Than A Village

As we mentioned in our previous update, we have had some difficulties in producing an e-book version. We recently contracted with a production service that will generate the various versions appropriate for reading on different mobile devices, including iPad, Nook, Cruz, and even Kindle. We hope to have versions for sale at the various online book sellers- with our first efforts being focused on the iBookstore of Apple.


But, in the meantime, we have published a paperback edition of our book. The front and back covers of our book tell you more:


front

[We thank, ChloroFill, LLC for their generosity in allowing us to use their art work. ChloroFill is a producer of environmentally responsible building materials. (www.chlorofill.com)]

and the back cover:
The book's extended title,backcover

We will soon have our e-book available from the online bookstores operated by Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Apple's iBookstore. The book can be read on the color e-book readers sold by these same stores. Also, our book will be readable on Amazon.com's Kindle reader, but only in black and white. We look forward to color Kindle readers but we don't know when they will arrive?


In the meantime you can also purchase the book, either, in e-book pdf format, or as a paperback by
clicking here to reach the guidebook area of the Asora website.


Next Book: Guidebook For The Northeastern United States

As we mentioned in the last two updates, we have assembled nearly all of the state reported assessment data required to prepare a guidebook for the ten states in the northeastern United States- from Delaware and Pennsylvania to Maine. This Northeastern Region encompasses a population nearly four times that of the Potomac Region.

While we don't currently have the financial or human resources to complete this project in a prompt fashion, we are nevertheless going to push forward and hope to have something in the fall.

Maybe someone out there reading this would like to collaborate? As authors and collaborators, we intend to generate some income from the book sales. Thus, we aim to make some profit from this effort even as we "profit" the parents and other stakeholders benefiting from our information.



Asora Is For Sale

When we say that our business is for sale, we mean that we are looking for others to help it grow. At one extreme this quest would result in the sale of our business with no further participation of Asora personnel, while at the other we'd still be involved in some aspects.

If we remain involved in some way, we envisage various kinds of collaborations: partnerships, joint-ventures, consulting arrangements. Asora's current management will likely need to be replaced within the next five years.

Most of our assets are intangible, including our expertise, our work product, and, perhaps, most important our registered trademark Asora®.

What Was New In March 2011

March Theme: Pervasive K-12 Corruption Thwarts Reform

We've been thinking quite alot about the forms of corruption that exist in our public and private K-12 education systems and how this misbehavior has greatly degraded the performance of these schools from their full potential. A longer discussion of these concerns can be found on our page:
What Ails Our Schools.

One aspect of this corruption relates to the dishonest reporting of student proficiencies by most state departments of education. In our analysis of 2009 testing, only two states were free of this kind of propaganda: Massachusetts and South Carolina.

From the standpoint of economics, providing consumers with bad information about the products and services in a marketplace will lead them to make poor decisions- which would include the passive acceptance of their children's enrollment in an inferior local public school.

We think that an educational marketplace with honest information about student proficiencies would tend to increase the competition among schools (public and private) which, in turn, would lead to performance improvements that would be much less likely in the highly propagandized environment in which we live.

We at Asora Education are making an attempt to replace this propaganda with more realistic estimates of local school proficiencies. If we can prominently display our information in front of the consumers (parents and other stakeholders) we may be able to remedy some of the harm coming from this kind of corrupt activity. Thus our guidebook projects may provide a cure to this disease of lying- from so many state departments of education?


It Takes More Than A Village

We had a set-back in our efforts to publish e-book versions of our guidebook to the public schools in Maryland, Virginia & Washington D.C. (when the e-publishers were unable to deal with a book of this one's complexity).


But, in the meantime, we have published a paperback edition of our book. The front and back covers of our book tell you more:

front

[We thank, ChloroFill, LLC for their generosity in allowing us to use their art work. ChloroFill is a producer of environmentally responsible building materials. (www.chlorofill.com)]

and the back cover:
The book's extended title,backcover

We later hope to have our e-book available from the online bookstores operated by Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Apple's iBookstore. The book can be read on the color e-book readers sold by these same stores. Also, our book will be readable on Amazon.com's Kindle reader, but only in black and white. We look forward to color Kindle readers but we don't know when they will arrive?


In the meantime you can also purchase the book, either, in e-book pdf format, or as a paperback by
clicking here to reach the guidebook area of the Asora website.


Limbo Status Of Guidebook For The Northeastern United States

As we mentioned in the December 2010 update, we have assembled nearly all of the state reported assessment data required to prepare a guidebook for the ten states in the northeastern United States- from Delaware and Pennsylvania to Maine. This Northeastern Region encompasses a population nearly four times that of the Potomac Region.


We don't currently have the financial or human resources to complete this project. Maybe someone out there reading this would like to collaborate? We aim to make some profit from this effort even as we "profit" the parents and other stakeholders when they benefit from our information.



Asora Has Moved To A Less Hostile Location

In January, Asora Education Enterprises relocated to Atlleboro, Massachusetts from our previous location in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island was a difficult environment not only because of a great deal of hositilty to market based education reform, but also because policy makers and organizations that purported themselves to be friends of free markets were frequently dismissive of our efforts.

From the top to the bottom of the Rhode Island education establishment (Governor's Office, Board of Regents, Rhode Island Department of Education, and various School Committees) not one accepted our offers of pro bono assistance while some made efforts to discredit our work.

This was not a partisan issue. Players from both major parties were obstacles to us.

Massachusetts, though having the best public schools in the nation, still has many of the same problems seen in other states. To the extent Asora engages in pro bono work in our new location, we're hopeful that we can find partners accepting of our talents. We look forward to more harmonious relationships as we look for opportunities here in Massachusetts.


Our December 2010 Update:
December Theme: Franchising Is Key To Reform
Those of you familiar with the Asora Stellar Schools plans know that our goal is the provision of K-12 instructional services in real brick & mortar schools. Various kinds of online instructional systems including digital content would be provided to schools in a network.

A review of education industry developments shows many vendors moving to provide instructional services very much like those embodied in our business plan.

There is one organizational design feature of Asora Stellar Schools that is not being addressed by other vendors: establishing franchising networks of schools. We chose this network format over rival structures, such as licensing and wholly owned networks, because we think it is not only a better match to the ownership structures of exisiting schools but also because we believe it provides superior incentives for developing excellent schools.

More information about the advantages of franchising school networks can be found our Why Franchising Page. Our business plan for Asora's Stellar Schools provides many details about the relevant franchising arrangements. It can be downloaded from our Reports on Development Page.


It Takes More Than A Village

We are still in the process of publishing the guidebook to public schools and alternatives for the Potomac Region and will first sell it as an e-book that can be read on a variety of color e-readers as well as computer screens. The front and back covers of our book tell you more:

front

[We thank, ChloroFill, LLC for their generosity in allowing us to use their art work. ChloroFill is a producer of environmentally responsible building materials. (www.chlorofill.com)]

and the back cover:
The book's extended title,backcover

We soon expect to have our e-book available from the online bookstores operated by Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Apple's iBookstore. The book can be read on the color e-book readers sold by these same stores. Also, our book will be readable on Amazon.com's Kindle reader, but only in black and white. We look forward to color Kindle readers but we don't know when they will arrive?

In the meantime you can also purchase the book, in pdf format, by
clicking here to reach the guidebook area of the Asora website.

Finally, we also look forward to printing paperback and hardback versions of the book.


Status Of Guidebook For The Northeastern United States

We have assembled nearly all of the state reported assessment data required to prepare a guidebook for the ten states in the northeastern United States- from Delaware and Pennsylvania to Maine. This Northeastern Region encompasses a population nearly four times that of the Potomac Region.

Once we start generating revenue from the guidebook for the Potomac Region, we should be able to launch this far more ambitious publishing effort. As is the case for the Potomac Region guidebook, the school-by-school proficiency estimates will be freely available on our website but the guidebooks will be our profit center.




We Can Help Providers Of Supplemental Services

Our guidebooks are based on a premise familiar to providers of supplemental services: Schools are often failing children who can benefit from one or more of the services offered by that provider.
For us at Asora it is more than a premise or assumption. We have the proof. We have done the research covering tens of thousands of schools to demonstrate quantitatively that most students in most schools in most regions are below grade level. Thus the premise gains additional stature giving providers of supplemental services operating in these areas additional data on which they can base their marketing to families and other stakeholders who are seeking help for children at risk of falling behind.


Our September 2010 Update:


September Theme: Profits Can Drive Reform
A familiar refrain among those pushing for education reform is: “where is the funding?”

In every economic activity, whether within the government, whether among non-profits, or whether in profit making businesses a funding mechanism is key if that activity is to continue and grow. Education is no exception.

One of our business activities has been our assessment services. Our primary activity has been the production of estimated NAEP proficiencies at the school and district levels. At its root, it is a data analysis and publishing endeavor. A secondary role of this effort is that of providing marketing information to our Stellar Schools project.

Until recently, this work was sold as a consulting service in which typically a non-profit educationally focused organization would hire us to produce these NAEP estimates for the public schools within the states of interest and additionally provide analysis about them. We profited financially from this activity- albeit modestly.

Now we are developing guidebooks to public schools based on the same kinds of analysis and data processing. We see the provision of these NAEP estimates as an essential ingredient to education reform. After all, parents, educators, and other stakeholders need honest information about schools if they are to act in the best interests of the children attending them. The more information, the better.

If we can earn significant profits from these guidebooks, we can use a major portion of these positive cash flows to reinvest in more books, more editions, and other means of disseminating this valuable information. Thus,
the more the profits, the better it will be!

To these ends we are in the process of publishing a guidebook for the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC region, while at the same time developing the data sets for a much larger effort involving the northeastern United States. More information about these two efforts follows farther along.


It Takes More Than A Village

We are in the process of publishing the guidebook to public schools and alternatives for the Potomac Region and will first sell it as an e-book that can be read on a variety of e-readers as well as computer screens. The front and back covers of our book tell you more:

front

[We thank, ChloroFill, LLC for their generosity in allowing us to use their art work. ChloroFill is a producer of environmentally responsible building materials. (www.chlorofill.com)]

and the back cover:
The book's extended title,backcover

We soon expect to have our book available from the online bookstores operated by Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and particularly at Apple's iBookstore. We emphasize the latter because it sells books for the iPad reader which can display color, which we use in some of our graphics.

In the meantime you can also purchase the book, in pdf format, by
clicking here to reach the guidebook area of the Asora website.

Finally, we also look forward to printing paperback and hardback versions of the book.

Our 2nd Guidebook Is For The Northeast

In our most recent Asora update we suggested that our second guidebook would pertain to the four states surrounding Lake Michigan. We also suggested that our third effort would concern an area we called “greater New England.” Given the relatively lower marketing costs we expect to have in the Northeastern United States, we have begun work on a book for this region.

By the Northeastern United States we mean all of the states northeast of and including Pennsylvania and Delaware- ten states in all. At this time (early September 2010) we have obtained most of the data needed to perform our analysis. We hope to engage collaborators in this project. And we hope to make a profit selling these books. If we can make this project financially profitable, we’ll then be able to extend the geographical coverage to the entire Untied States and will be able to produce new editions every two years (to coincide with the NAEP testing calendar).



We Can Help Providers Of Supplemental Services

Our guidebooks are based on a premise familiar to providers of supplemental services: Schools are often failing children who can benefit from one or more of the services offered by that provider.

For us at Asora it is more than a premise or assumption. We have the proof. We have done the research covering thousands of schools to demonstrate quantitatively that most students in most schools in most regions are below grade level. Thus the premise gains additional stature giving firms operating in these areas additional data on which they can base their marketing to families and other stakeholders who are seeking help for children at risk of falling behind.



Towards The
Tutored Schoolroom

We were pleased to organize a session on this topic at the recent Education Industry Association’s annual convention- held in July this year in Chicago.

My presentation, though introductory of the principal speaker, concerned the history of the roots of online instruction. Starting before Gutenberg, I traced how we evolved from the in-person devoid of books learning environment of those primitive times to the “anywhere, anytime, and anything” characteristics of what is possible in current times- were educators to allow it.
Click here to see how we went from “there, then, not much” paradigm to the one of “anywhere, anytime, and anything.”

Cheryl Vedoe, the CEO of Apex Learning, was the principal speaker of our session. She described how her company is now providing online content and instruction at the high school level for a number of brick and mortar schools around the country. Apex courses are rigorous. This is surely true in the sense that they “cut their teeth” on providing AP courses online.

In such schoolrooms, the routine chores of teaching have been automated thus changing the schoolroom into one that uses tutors to help children master the blended sources of information coming to them online and from the more traditional books. Thus tutors replace teachers or teachers morph into tutors.


Where To Go From Here?



For further information, consider reviewing our home page where there are links to more detailed descriptions of the services and activities of Asora Education. Alternatively you might consider visiting "What Was New" to learn more about our recent and not so recent history.



Our June 2010 Update:

June Theme:
Reform Is In Parents’ Hands
For too long, too many Americans and parents of schoolchildren have regarded education officials as the responsible parties for ensuring the proper education in K-12 schools. While most people agree that parents have the right to direct their children’s education, most don’t think about the parents’ obligations. We believe parents are also responsible to supervise, arrange and manage their children’s instruction. If parents agree, they will do what they can and seek vendors providing the needed materials and services. Below we discuss three activities here at Asora that will help parents find ways to address these needs.

Education Industry Association Activities

Our company, Asora Education Enterprises, has been a member of the Education Industry Association (EIA) since 2006. We have benefited greatly from the information shared by other members at the Association’s two annual meetings. This year we are pleased to be involved in two different sessions at its 2010 Edventures Conference being held in Chicago, July 22-24. More information about the conference can be found at www.educationindustry.org . Our roles at the conference are described under the next two headlines.


Marketing Supplemental Services

Asora Education is organizing a TableTalk discussion at this summer’s Education Industry Association Edventures Conference. It is entitled,

“Using Public School Guidebooks To Market “Supplemental“ Services.”


In this discussion we plan to discuss how Asora’s efforts in publishing such guidebooks can provide information to parents and other stakeholders that will be useful to them as they seek alternative and/or supplemental services for children who have fallen behind as well as those who are minimally proficient. In particular guidebooks can provide lists of various organizations, resources, vendors, products, and services. One of the most important categories is that of after-school tutoring services. While existing guidebooks and online versions of them can help parents find a public or private school, they generally will not help them find services that supplement or replace the schooling being received by their children. Asora does not aim to be a monopoly publisher of such guidebooks and invites competition. There is more discussion about Asora’s guidebook project below under
It Takes More Than A Village.


Joining Tutors And Online Technology

As some of you know, Asora has a plan to develop what we call Stellar Schools that would employ self-paced online instruction in physical schools. Other vendors are also working in this area as well. Asora continues to seek its niche in this area- and particularly seeks partners and investors in this quest.

We recently have been excited to learn of a charter high school in Chicago that provides most of its instruction online in classrooms in which the teaching staff work as tutors/facilitators. When the Education Industry Association sought proposals for presentations at its forthcoming meeting this July in Chicago, we offered a session that would highlight this development. In this session, which is now confirmed, there will be two presentations: First, Asora will present an historical view of self-pacing, group instruction, and distance education.
(You can download the PowerPoint versions of that historical view here.) That should set the stage for Cheryl Vedoe, the CEO of Apex Learning, who will describe how her company provides online content and instruction for the VOISE Charter School in Chicago and how this form of blended instruction can grow in the K-12 space.


Get On Board The Time Machine To 1956

The just mentioned historical view of distance education is based on more than historical documents but includes Asora CEO David Anderson’s own personal experience as a student in a Television Physics Course he took in high school in 1956. In his search for video clips of those lessons he has found contemporaneous video of his physics teacher doing a demonstration much like the ones that were in the course. See that and more by boarding the time machine to witness aspects of distance education in its toddler stage.


It Takes More Than A Village

We have completed the guidebook to public schools and alternatives for the Potomac Region and are looking at our options for publishing it. The full title of our book reads,

“In the Potomac Region of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC,
It Takes More Than A Village to educate your child when our public schools are not up to the task.”

Our guidebook answers the question: How do public schools stack up in this three state region? And with this information what
more parents can do to ensure the proper education of their children.

Parents must do more than just choose a school for their children. When the schools provide an insufficient education (as they nearly always do in today’s public and private schools) children need their learning augmented by other means. The book addresses those needs under its two themes of parental responsibility:

1. That of choosing a school

2. That of providing supplemental or alternative instruction

The book aims to provide much of the information parents will want to have to fulfill these obligations. You can download a draft version of its main body by visiting our
Reports of Regional Guidebooks page.


Starting A Small Stellar School

For anyone who has read Asora’s business plan for Stellar Schools, starting a school may seem like a daunting task, but we think it will be easier than what one might first surmise. What we are proposing is really not much more or less than homeschooling that is done online. Many parents master that role. Instead of doing it at home we do it in a school. Here the parent is replaced by the tutor/facilitator. The child or handful of children are replaced by a larger group of children. We believe that such a small school can be developed from resources already available on the Web and in bookstores.

We think a school of perhaps ten children represents a good starting place. With luck you may be reading about such a school in forthcoming Asora updates.



Our March 2010 Update:


March Theme: A Genuine Race to the Top
We at Asora® Education Enterprises like the concept of the Race to the Top. On the other hand, there are many powerful groups who don’t. Led by teachers’ unions, these beneficiaries of the status quo feel threatened by the implied reforms and will work to limit and weaken any reform that might limit those benefits.

Governors are Hijacking the Race to the Top


We are fearful that the
Race to the Top is being degraded into a “minor league” competition that some have labeled the Race to the Middle. (Jamie Gass of Boston’s Pioneer Institute http://www.educationnews.org/ed_reports/thinks_tanks/60099.html)

We are alluding to the current effort by the
National Governors’ Association to develop Common Core Standards for student achievement. We question whether such a group of state based politicians and education officials representing most of the states will succeed in negotiating rigorous common standards. Their current proposed standards are weak. Two states have already rejected them: Minnesota and Massachusetts. Their reasoning? They didn’t want to weaken their relatively higher standards they had worked so hard to establish.

We have a defacto national standard in the content tested by the Nation’s Report Card (the NAEP test), but political considerations have prevented it from being designated as such. We at Asora do regard the NAEP as the primary national standard and will do so until better criteria are established.

Looking ahead we think that national standards for student competence (or anything else) need not necessarily be a product of the states and/or the national government. They could also be the product of non-profit national organizations- as is the case in the field of accounting where a private organization sets the standards and does the testing of candidates for the CPA designation. In the K-12 space we already have the ACT and SAT tests which correspond to a set of “national standards” developed by their respective non-profit organizations. A large plurality of K-12 stakeholders already accept these tests and the content standards on which they are based. At Asora we are particularly interested in the ACT and how it relates to the NAEP.

We see the standards of the NAEP, the ACT, and the SAT as being roughly comparable and regard them as suitable expectations for student achievement in the
Race to the Top. In comparison we reject the Common Core Standards in their current form and moreover see no need for a political framework such as the National Governors’ Association to be the author of academic standards.

So what is Asora Education doing to compete in this quest?

All of Asora’s activities represent efforts to improve student competency, whether in our work regarding student assessments or in our work to develop more cost effective schools. If this sparks your interest, please read on:


Asora’s Potomac Region Guidebook Project

The three “state” region of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia defines the geography of a guide to public schools and school districts we are presently generating. Using our mapping methodology, for each school in this region we generate estimates of the percentages of children who would have been assessed to be NAEP proficient in their studies. We do this for reading and mathematics at the 4th, 8th, and 12th grade levels to provide realistic measures of student competencies. We see two primary benefits from this:

1. We avoid exaggeration and use a realistic criterion of what it means to be at grade level: NAEP proficiency or better.


2. We enable stakeholders to make comparisons across state lines, which will be of particular interest in and around metropolitan Washington, D.C.


Given our interest in elevating student proficiencies, it is critical that we focus on demographic groups needing the most help. For each school, we also obtain and publish data relevant to disadvantaged children, including what fraction of each tested group is economically disadvantaged and what percentages of each is proficient according to our NAEP estimates.


We have developed some new metrics that focus on the achievement of disadvantaged children. For example, we have the
Least of These (LOT) Status Fraction, which calculates the ratio of the proficiency of the disadvantaged student subset to that of the entire tested group at the school and/or district level. When this number is close to one, it indicates a school or system that more effectively educates the children of the Least affluent families, which is an important social and educational goal.


Other demographic information from the US Census relevant to each school is also presented. For a glimpse of a prototypical version and its accompanying spreadsheets
click here.


As we complete the gathering of information for this guidebook, we are already seeing interesting data patterns that will be of particular interest to researchers as well as other stakeholders. Some districts and schools appear to do a better job educating the disadvantaged than others. Charter schools, in particular, are showing great promise in this regard.


As we complete the guidebook for the Potomac Region, we will embark on one for the four state region surrounding Lake Michigan. A third project we are contemplating will cover the Hudson River Region, including the New York metro area, and possibly extending to cover the entire region of Greater New England.


In these projects, we’d love to find a way to include the private schools as well, but their lack of participation in the same tests taken by public school children makes that unlikely in the near term.


We seek collaborators, co-authors, publishers, patrons, etc. to help us finance, generate and distribute these guidebooks.


Asora May Organize A Workshop: On Self-Paced Online Instruction In Real Schools

Asora is currently having discussions with the Education Industry Association, of which we are a member, about our proposal to organize a workshop on futuristic schools at the Association’s 20th Annual EDVentures Conference, to be held in Chicago this July. The subject schools would primarily rely on web-based instruction assisted by various kinds of tutoring. Our tentative title for this symposium is, Empowering the Schoolroom with Tutors and Self-Paced Online Instruction.

One of the motivating factors that have inspired this proposal comes from Clayton Christensen and co-authors who wrote a book last year, Disrupting Class, that made convincing arguments about how online K-12 education will gain market share of approximately one-half by 2019. If true, this prediction promises many opportunities and raises a number of questions.

One of the most important concerns and challenges: How will people and machines learn to work together in the provision of online instruction in real schoolrooms? What is the role of tutors in this? Will students perform better?

We hope to provide some answers and some conjecture in this workshop by providing presentations in the following topical areas (exact titles to be determined later).

1. Virtual schools operating in schoolrooms

2. Training teachers as tutors in this human and machine based environment

3. Integrating and augmenting content from multiple vendors

4. Administering practice tests and proctored assessments in an online system

5. Relevance of post-secondary successes with online instruction in classrooms

6. Transitioning from a group instructional format in easy steps

Many members of the Education Industry Association (EIA) have or are acquiring expertise in these areas. If the Workshop is approved, we hope to gather as many of them as possible to make presentations in the workshop while inviting others curious about these prospects and opportunities. We have identified at least a half dozen experts who will be invited to lead the topical discussions.
If we are not able to organize this within the context of the EIA we will consider finding a different venue for this symposium- if sufficient interest is shown.

In either case I’d appreciate your comments and feedback on this proposal- particularly if you would be interested in participating or attending.

Asora is Encouraged by Success of Rocketship Education Schools

We recently read about a group of charter schools in San Jose, California that utilize online instruction for a significant part of a student's day. Operated by Rocketship Education, which is a non-profit effort, several of these schools predominantly enroll children from low income families and yet have shown remarkable progress in elevating student proficiencies well above district averages.

We regard this as an important "data point" that suggests online instruction can be a key ingredient in helping children gain and maintain knowledge and skills needed to prosper in school and later. It encourages Asora's Stellar Schools effort to develop similar kinds of schools based on online self-paced instruction (in real buildings.)

Our December 2009 Update:

December Theme Is "Free Labor"
As some of you know, Asora Education Enterprises is undercapitalized. Or perhaps more bluntly, Asora's only marketable assets are its achievement test analysis work and maybe its Registered Trademark.

Finding investment capital and sweat equity players has been difficult. On the achievement test work we will now undertake projects without initially securing a contract. In the area of Asora's Stellar Schools, we will likewise work gratis in helping prospective and existing school owners explore our proposed learning formats.

Beltway Tri-State Guide to Schools
Asora's work in the area of studying achievement tests has mainly been that of converting state reported student proficiencies, which are typically inflated, to ones consistent with the Nation's Report Card or NAEP. By estimating NAEP proficiencies for schools in adjoining states, it is then possible to compare schools across state lines, which may be of interest to stakeholders in multi-state metropolitan regions. There are a number of multi-state combinations of interest, including the tri-state areas surrounding Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. We are going to focus on the latter first.


Getting a Small Stellar Foothold
In our efforts to find school operators who might want to adopt the Stellar Schools instructional format, we have concentrated mainly on existing schools. In doing so we have neglected an important niche market for which Stellar Schools may be a very good fit: Small schools with less than 100 students. As a matter of fact, our business plan discusses schools being composed of one or more 50 student units. Below that number, loss of scale leads to higher per student costs, but they can remain manageable depending on the details of the situation.

If the Stellar School model allows efficient operation at smaller school sizes than the alternatives, it should be attractive to "communities" that seek small schools but previously could not afford the types available. Among the opportunities here are, religious schools serving relatively small numbers of children that might pertain just to the children of a congregation, private schools in sparsely populated suburban or exurban areas, and public schools that for whatever reason serve only a small population of students. In this latter category, there is Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine, which reportedly has only 7 students in its public school!

Our September 2009 Update:

September Theme Is Assessment Corruption
Asora Education Enterprises would not be in the business of mapping exaggerated/inflated state reported proficiencies onto the NAEP scale if there were no deceptive state assessment systems. Many can be regarded as corrupt in that they knowingly continue the deceptions despite the evident harm they do. We have examined, to different degrees of specificity, over two dozen states’ assessment systems. Only two, South Carolina and Massachusetts, do not grossly distort their students’ proficiency levels as compared to the NAEP. An essay we wrote on this subject, “Exaggerations in Public Education Assessments: When is it deception? Is it sometimes corruption?” can be downloaded from our Reports on Reform page.


Asora Can Help The Race To The Top
The U.S. Department of Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, is conditioning the distribution of his department’s allocation of Stimulus money on the recipient state’s good behavior with respect to a number of favored reforms. The department is encouraging states to compete with one another as to which has the better reforms as part of the department’s Race To The Top. One of the sought reforms is that of making state assessment systems more robust and better aligned with the NAEP. When they are not so aligned (as in 48 of 50 states) Asora’s mapping service can be used to make estimates regarding local school and district performance as a temporary substitute for a properly functioning state-testing regime.


Studying The Great Pretender: Tennessee
Recently we have been making local estimates of NAEP proficiency for Tennessee public schools and districts. In the course of that work we have reviewed the state published proficiencies from its TCAP testing system and compared them to those of the NAEP, as anyone with an Internet connection can do. Not only does Tennessee exhibit the highest inflation nationally, according to one survey, but is also has such extreme inflation for ethnic groups that it claims high school Hispanic students are equally proficient as their White cohorts, in sharp contrast to the NAEP proficiencies showing Hispanic students’ proficiency percentages less than half that of White students. Our preferred hypothesis for this unexpected result involves abuses in the provision of special accommodations in the testing. Alternative explanations of outright cheating, doctoring scores, cooking books, etc. though possible, are unlikely.


Special Accommodations Violate The Precepts Of Good Science
The practice of Special Accommodations is mostly based on theory that student testing should be used to boost children’s self esteem as opposed to the idea that testing’s main purpose is to measure a child’s knowledge and skills. Giving special accommodations to children who are blind or have other handicaps, unrelated to their academic skills, is a worthwhile practice if the alternative testing measures student capabilities in the same units as the testing for non-handicapped children. However, it appears that special accommodations are mostly given to children who have learning disabilities and other characteristics that are related to their academic skills. Providing them with special accommodations has the effect of measuring their skills with a different metric. In other fields of science, using inconsistent metrics in the measurement of phenomena would be considered academic misconduct. But in education, the inconsistent metrics of special accommodation are not only allowed, they are mandated in the laws and regulations pertaining to public education! In Asora’s Stellar School assessment systems, special accommodations will not be provided except to blind students.


Publicity On Replacing Defective State Assessment Regimes
Nearly all state operated public school assessment systems use tests that are inconsistent with the NAEP. Even in the two states where the inflation is not significant (Massachusetts and South Carolina) their state operated testing systems are vulnerable to political manipulation. In Asora’s home state of Rhode Island, where the NECAP test is used, the testing regime suffers from at least six defects, including the structural conflicts of interest that arise when testing and instruction policies are set within the same government unit. We think an independent agency or organization should manage the testing. We would seek to use a test with a national reputation, such as the ACT tests, which are given in grades 8 through 12 in many schools nationwide. ACT test results are easily linked to NAEP proficiencies when the ACT scoring distributions are known- as is the case in Illinois.

We are currently making presentations in Rhode Island on these problems and will soon offer them to groups in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, which are the other states using or considering the use of the NECAP tests. The popular image of NECAP is that of a step towards reform. The reality is that NECAP is a major part of the problem. It’s surely not part of the Race to the Top. Rather we see it clouding the issues, which we believe retards effective reform.


The Asora Guidebook Project
Why isn’t there a “Zagat’s” guide to schools? We are considering the benefits and profits that may ensue from writing guidebooks for major multistate metropolitan regions. In such areas as New York metro, Washington D.C. metro, and even the three state region around Chicago, there may be interest in comparing schools across state boundaries, which is currently difficult given the inconsistent testing systems. With our NAEP proficiency estimates calculated for each school in such regions, these comparisons would be easier. We’d love to find a way to include the private schools as well, but their lack of participation in the same tests taken by public school children makes that unlikely in the near term. We are looking for partners in this project: equity and sweat.


Encouraging Protestants to Consider Stellar Schools
While all sectarian groups have interests in K-12 education, Protestants have a peculiar historical affiliation with public education and the group instructional models on which it is based: They were its founders in the early 16th century, after the Reformation. As public education took hold in 19th century America, it was almost exclusively affiliated with the Protestant outlook. Catholics in America saw this and established their own schools to preserve their sectarian values. Because of this historic connection, Protestants have tended to rely on public schools for their children’s education. Even in recent decades, when public schools have lost their Protestant sectarian attributes and have become quite secular in their approaches to education, most Protestants continue to patronize them. We can think of two reasons why Protestants might consider Asora’s Stellar Schools as a solution for their children’s educational needs:

First, through the Asora self-paced online instructional system, the curriculum can be tailored to provide that combination of core curricular subjects and electives that would reflect the church's values and religious beliefs.

Second, through the Asora instructional system, student proficiencies can be greatly increased as the model is designed to eliminate social promotion and the dysfunctions that accompany it.


Our June 2009 Update:

June Theme Is Assessment
To use the phrase, “A Perfect Storm,” probably overstates the coincidental nature of recent developments at Asora Education Enterprises. However, every recent activity has had assessment as its key component or at least as an important aspect.

Honest Assessment Drives Reforms
The need for honesty in public school assessment reporting may go unanswered within the public systems. Thus private testing and certification proposals should be considered. We have written on this in our report, "Making Tests And Diplomas Honest Will Drive Reform." It's here for download from our Reports on Reform page.

Tipping Point
There are now several indicators that online instruction has entered a rapid growth phase and will affect nearly all aspects of K-12 education going forward- if for no other reason because of its low cost. Perhaps our realization of this sudden surge in Online Education has been late and delayed by our earlier blindness to what was going on around us. As the two book reviews (below) suggest, online instruction will dominate in about ten years. We had better get busy doing our part!

Assessment As Profit Center
Those of you who have explored our business plan (available in our Reports on Development area) know that it has many facets. In terms of instructional modes of operation it proposes up to 15 different options within each course of study. The only one required, however, was the assessment component’s proctored examinations. In every other instructional mode, the student will be free to use it or not. Implict in that will be the freedom for students to take their instruction elsewhere. It suggests that we design our service to have two profit centers: instruction and assessment. Our brand will depend more on the latter- perhaps much in the same way that the accounting industry’s designation of CPA relates to the “test” and not to the learning process.

New Mappings
One of Asora Education's services has been the estimation of what local schools and districts would have attained on the Nation’s Report Card or NAEP. The ELQ method we employed converted or mapped the state reported (and almost always inflated) proficiencies into ones on the NAEP scale. We now have written a fairly detailed report that derives the old or Simple ELQ method and derives a new more accurate Piecewise Continuous ELQ method. It checks the errors of the methods in simulated examination environments and then applies them against known demographic groups proficiencies on the two exams. The report ELQ-Mappings.docx and its supporting spreadsheet ELQ-Derivation.xlsx are downloadable from our Reports on Reform page.


Discovery Of Enhanced Deception
Our analysis in the Mappings work brought us face to face with some of the harms inflicted by the states' almost routine use of inflation in reporting assessment proficiencies. Though always there in the published data we had not realized the extent to which inflation is different for different demographics. It’s small in good schools and large in schools where disadvantaged children predominate. How convenient for making public schools “look good!” It serves inflation in small portions where only a small amount is needed to make the schools look good. And for the truly dysfunctional schools it ladles giant servings to make the horrible appear barely passable. For the public education propagandists it optimally apportions the deception to where it is needed the most- to cover up the worst situations the most.

Taken For A R.I.D.E.
As an example of the Enhanced Deception just mentioned we wrote an op-ed piece for a Rhode Island newspaper. “Taken For A R.I.D.E.,” refers to the Rhode Island Department of Education and its use of inflation to make the good look better and the bad look not so awful. It is on our Reports on Reform page for your perusal or download.

Liberating Learning - Book Review
Scholars and policy analysts Terry Moe and John Chubb (both are both), have written the book, “Liberating Learning,” which is a very interesting review and prognosis of how online instruction will grow and help reform public schools. As is my habit, I generally write an online book review on the Amazon.Com website when I purchase books from the site and I did so for this excellent book. Their book was, more than any other input, influential in convincing me of the Tipping Point mentioned above. It is on our Reports on Reform page.

Disrupting Class - Book Review
Another book we reviewed is “Disrupting Class.” It also makes arguments about how disruptive innovation will develop within the education sector and confirms we are at or beyond this Tipping Point. My review of it, "Good wheat - Too much chaff," is also on the Reports on Reform page.

Our March 2009 Update:


Public School Achievement Test Deceptions
Most, but not all, stakeholders in public education are aware that state reported student proficiencies in mathematics and reading are significantly exaggerated above the well-respected Nation's Report Card (also known as the National Assessment for Educational Progress or NAEP). Asora consulting has reviewed recent trends in state reported proficiencies and found 12 cases with an additional type of deception: Not only are the proficiencies exaggerated, but they are reporting (false) gains in 8th grade reading proficiencies when, in fact, the NAEP shows them declining.

The states practicing this double deception, ordered from worst to least in terms of the false gain are: NY, WY, NM, RI, AR, NH, VA, IL, ND, LA, ME & AL. In Rhode Island and New Hampshire, we believe that a narrow curriculum coupled with teaching to the test may account for the false gains.

Three reports covering these matters are available.
NECAP-op-ed.doc is taken from an op-ed piece that discusses the Rhode Island situation. NECAP-sequel.doc extends that analysis to include New Hampshire and Vermont. Finally, DoubleDeceptionDozen.doc discusses the twelve states practicing the double deception. All three reports are available from our Reports on Reform page.

Education Industry Association Foresees Large Role For Online Instruction
At its annual Washington, DC meeting, members of the Education Industry Association (EIA) were briefed on the outlook for various specialties within the field. We learned that publicly traded companies engaged in online instruction comprised one of the very few market sectors to see its stock market valuations rising over the past year. Additionally, we saw estimates that online instruction will comprise 50% of all K-12 instruction by 2019- as compared to about 1% currently.

Developing Asora's Brokerage Services For Online Instruction
During the past quarter Asora has contacted many prospective online providers to learn more about their offerings. We have also been developing a list of private schools- beginning with the New England states- that we are now in the process of contacting. For more information, please see our Courseware Brokerage page.

Offering Public Speakers
Asora Education Enterprises is offering public presentations about its many projects and accomplishments. For further information, please see our Asora Speakers Bureau.

Building A High School Physics Course
We are currently considering the creation of a Stellar Schools high school physics course that would build on the prototype we developed last year. By doing so, Asora would be able to offer this course to schools and homeschooling students. With such a course operational, suppliers of other courses would better understand the instructional formats unique to Asora's Stellar Schools.

Our December 2008 Update:

Everyone Is Using The 500-Year Old Protestant System
As mentioned elsewhere on this site, the age-based group instructional format that has been used in nearly all public and private schools was developed long ago by the Protestants during the Reformation as a way to improve literacy among the laity. Needless to say, Catholic parochial schools also use this traditional mode of instruction. Given that social promotion is a pervasive characteristic of age-based group instruction, the time has arrived to replace the latter with a format that structurally prevents social promotion: self-paced tutoring. This is what Stellar Schools and their online self-paced instructional systems are designed to do. The relevance of this to Catholic schools is discussed on our page devoted to Catholic education.

Asora To Establish Courseware Brokerage
As we take steps to develop Stellar Schools, we are now taking the first step in which we would provide online instructional services. This path begins with the development of brokerage services that would match school clients with providers of instructional courseware and other services. This service will commence in January 2009. Then Asora will have two revenue generating activities: The brokerage services and the ongoing achievement test analysis work.

Asora's Achievement Test Studies Reveal Pervasive Social Promotion In American Public Schools

Over the past 15 months, our consulting arm has generated estimates of how thousands of individual public schools would have performed on the Nation's Report Card. We find, in every state and region studied, high levels of social promotion in every public school- including the very best schools where 20% or more of the children are promoted beyond their skill levels. In the worst schools the percentages socially promoted generally exceed 95%.

This information convinces us that instructional systems need to be structured to prevent social promotion. Stellar Schools online self-paced instruction is designed to do that. These studies also provide us a marketing tool we can use to publicize the problem, which can help us "sell" the Stellar Schools concepts.

Click here for more information about the achievement test services. We also have reports on these studies available from our Reports on Reform page.



Asora's CEO Lost Election But Spread The Word

Asora Education Enterprises' CEO, David Anderson, failed to unseat the incumbent State Representative (from Providence's Upper East Side). Campaigning, nevertheless, had several important benefits. Based on many conversations with voters, we found that they are well aware of our dysfunctional public schools and yet feel powerless to help reform them. The campaign's platform included many school reform proposals (all consistent with developments towards online education) some of which might take root and maybe lead to incremental improvements. Yet there is also a public apathy that suggests reforming public schools will likely not succeed given the lack of public pressure on school officials. This public lethargy suggests that reforming private schools, as envisaged by our Stellar Schools project, may be the more fruitful path to success.

Our September 2008 Update:

Education Next Will Report On Choice
Paul Peterson, editor of Education Next, told an audience of think tank education experts that his publication will soon release information about school choice systems around the world that will show a strong relationship between the degree of choice available and the proficiency of students. Such information is welcome as it will encourage the enlargement of the opportunities for innovators to develop alternative schools and methodologies. This would make more room for Asora to participate.


Asora Analyses of State Achievement Tests
Continuing its work for stakeholders around the United States, Asora has now completed work analyzing how local schools and districts would have performed on the NAEP in six states: Oklahoma, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. As we've noted before a similar picture emerges in each of these states: Social promotion affects every school and even the best public schools have very large fractions of their students below grade level.

Asora is seeking a contract to do all of the public schools in the United States. Recent discussions with
GreatSchools.Net may lead to such a result. Or could lead to imitation (in which others would use our openly available methodologies) to accomplish the same goal.

Asora CEO: Candidate For State Assembly
David Anderson is now engaged in a political campaign for the Rhode Island General Assembly where he would represent its 4th district (located on Providence's East Side). See his campaign website for details. Given the severely dysfunctional status of the state's public education system, well over half of his political efforts are focused on it. Given the part-time nature of this body, he will be able to continue the Asora developments after his election. To avoid conflicts of interest he will propose Stellar School "like" solutions for public schools, but will suggest the use of other vendors such as K12, Inc. to provide the courseware.

From the point of view of public policy he is proposing:

1. The state adopt internal reforms of schools, including
honest reporting of test results, Regent's diplomas (given to students who are actually proficient), alternative certification, and more online instruction.

2. The state adopt what we call external reforms by introducing funding mechanisms (scholarships, tax credits, vouchers) to give all parents a choice in selecting the schools their children attend. He would also change the labor laws to allow multiple unions to represent workers according to the workers' individual choices. This would be a form of a right to work law.

Asora Speakers Bureau
Asora Education Enterprises will offer public speakers to venues interested in K-12 education reform. Please use our contact page to request further information about having one of us make a presentation at your location.


Our June 2008 Update:


Asora Looks At Protestant And Other Sectarian Schools
We have now added some information that might be of interest to Protestants and other sects regarding their interests and responsibilities in the education of their children. Asora's Stellar Schools, or the non-profit version, can help. Please check Asora & Protestant Etc. Education for more information.

Asora Looks At The World's Schools
Recently reported research from the American Institutes for Research now allows us to estimate levels of proficiency in other developed countries with respect to math and science achievement levels they would have obtained on the United States' Nation's Report Card. While not all countries are covered, enough European, Anglophone, and Asian states are included to tell us that roughly 40%, 30% and 50% of 13 year old students are proficient in these subject areas, respectively. This means that social promotion is a world wide educational problem because, at best, only about half of the world's students (of those tested) are found to be proficient (at or above grade level).

Asora In Switzerland
CEO David Anderson was invited to make a presentation (June 16th) at a symposium organized at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne where he spoke about "Self-Paced, Online Physics Instruction." Given the fact that social promotion appears to be a world-wide problem, we announced that we have decided to look beyond the United States for potential partners in the development of Asora's Stellar Schools. You can view/hear the speech from our physics page.

Asora At The Vatican
As a part of our European visit we made some efforts to meet with Catholic education authorities at the Vatican when we visited there in late June. Although we were unable to secure an appointment for such a meeting on this visit, we plan to continue our efforts to offer our ideas that would potentially benefit Catholic schools around the world.

Prototypical Physics Course Example
Until now, the Asora website provided only one example of how a Stellar Schools course might operate. That is the Algebra 1 segment found elsewhere on this website. We have now begun the development of an AP level high school Physics With Calculus course. In it we have made further improvements to the Stellar Schools instructional model. By viewing the introductory Lecturette #1, site visitors can glean much about the twelve instructional modes being planned for this course (and similar ones for most of the other subjects in the core curriculum). Please visit our page on Asora Physics to learn more.

Asora Analyses Of The NECAP States
Continuing its work for stakeholders around the United States, Asora partnered with the Ocean State Policy Research Institute (where CEO Anderson also plays a role as Education Fellow) to examine the achievement test proficiencies reported in the states of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont- all of which use the NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program). Consistent with its previous studies in the states of Pennsylvania and Oklahoma as well as with its work for individual counties in California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, a similar picture emerges: Social promotion affects every school and even the best public schools have very large fractions of their students below grade level. Of the six tests administered by the NECAP, we were pleased to learn that one of them, its high school mathematics test, has proficiencies that are no longer inflated relative to our NAEP estimates. The worst NECAP/NAEP school in the NECAP states is Hope IT High School in Providence where less than 2% of its 11th grade children were found to be proficient. Despite that statistic, nearly all of those tested will receive high school diplomas next year. Go figure!

Asora Extends Its Work For Oklahoma
In addition to our achievement test analysis service in which we predict what proficiency percentages individual schools and districts would have obtained on the NAEP, we have been working with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs to disseminate relevant estimates of local schools and districts to media outlets in the various Oklahoma localities. Written as op-ed articles, we have used mail-merge to provide locality specific information as to the best and worst schools at the various grade levels within the state's counties and districts.

Asora Announces Appointment of CMO
Susan Anderson has accepted our offer to manage Asora's marketing operation. As Chief Marketing Officer, Susan will be responsible for the relations with and the development of investors, suppliers, collaborators, and customers.

Asora CEO Will Run For State Assembly
David Anderson recently announced his candidacy to run for the Rhode Island General Assembly where he would represent its 4th district (located on Providence's East Side). Given the severely dysfunctional status of the state's public education system, about half of his political effort will focus on it. Given the part-time nature of this body, he will be able to continue the Asora developments after his election. To avoid conflicts of interest he will propose Stellar School "like" solutions for public schools, but will suggest the use of other vendors such as K12, Inc. to provide the courseware.

Asora Speakers Bureau
Asora Education Enterprises will offer public speakers to venues interested in K-12 education reform. Please use our contact page to request further information about having one of us make a presentation at your location.


Our March 2008 Update:

Registration of Asora® Trademark Complete:
Asora Education Enterprises received its Certificate of Registration for its trademark from the United States Patent and Trademark Office in late February.

Demolishing Inflation In Oklahoma & New Jersey:
Asora's primary revenue producing activity has been consulting in the specific area of analyzing state administered achievement tests. Typically, states report markedly higher numbers of children as proficient as compared to the Nation's Report Card. Our analysis converts these inflated proficiencies to ones consistent with the Nation's Report Card (NAEP) on a school-by-school basis.

During the winter, Asora Consulting added Oklahoma and New Jersey to the states where it has analyzed reported achievement test proficiencies of public schools and public school districts. All schools and districts were evaluated in Oklahoma while only those in Hudson County were studied in New Jersey. While we see some quantitative differences among the jurisdictions we've studied, the picture of pervasive social promotion is a constant characteristic. Our earlier studies evaluated schools in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Bristol County in Massachusetts, and Ventura County in California.
Click here for more information.

Currently discussions are underway with various patron organizations about adding another eight states to our "portfolio."

Asora® Business Plan Revised:
The Asora business plan revision is now complete and available
here on Asora's website (in the files ExSum2008.doc and FullBP2008.doc). Our previous plan was undercapitalized and required nearly ten years to reach a profitable status. This plan requires significant investment capital, of at least $40 million, but it foresees profits in the fourth year. There is quite a lot of detail in our plan and it takes 150 pages to describe it!

We are well aware that there are other paths to Stellar Schools, including the marriage of existing businesses. For example, joining an online provider, with a content provider, to an existing school network would be one avenue of development.

Starting these schools in the non-profit world is another alternative and is one we are encouraging through our plans for a non-profit Stellar Schools Development Corporation. More information on that can be found on its
website.

Reform Ideas Presented to Rhode Island Regents
In his role as Education Fellow of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute, Asora CEO David Anderson made a presentation to the Rhode Island Board of Regents, who direct its K-12 public education system. He reviewed the evidence suggesting social promotion is a primary cause of our dysfunctional systems. He advocated a three-phase reform strategy that would convert the state's schools into ones resembling Stellar Schools. His presentation, RI_Regents_01.doc, is available in our report download area.

Stellar Schools Go To Switzerland
As a part of a physics symposium to be held in June at the Ecole Polytechnic Federale de Lausanne, in honor of retiring Swiss physicist Ralf Gruber, David Anderson will speak on "Self Paced, Online Physics Instruction." European education systems, though often more efficient than their American counterparts, also suffer from the ills of social promotion. Thus, the remedy of Stellar Schools may have application outside of the United States.

Asora Adds New Management Officers:
We are pleased to announce two new players to our team. They are:

Jon Scott of Providence, Rhode Island: COO
Jon is serving as our Chief Operating Officer. He has devoted his life to helping children. He's done that in a number of ways, as a lobbyist in Washington advocating for financial aid, as a consultant to group home providers, as an athletic coach in children's sports, and as a politician- who most recently ran for the U.S. Congress. Jon also chairs the Board of Trustees of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute.

Jay Jacot of Newport, Rhode Island: CFO
Jay brings to his position of Chief Financial Officer a background in business management and forensic accounting, among others. Jay also serves as a Director of the Ocean State Policy Research Institute where he is the treasurer.

Asora Supports the Ocean State Policy Research Institute
Asora Education Enterprises have provided various services to this newly established Providence based "center-right" think tank, mostly on a pro bono basis. CEO David Anderson is also an Education Fellow of the Institute.

Stanford Report on Education and Economic Growth:
Their relationship is discussed in a current article in Education Next, authored by Eric Hanushek, Dean Jamison, Eliot Jamieson and Ludger Woessmann.

Our review of it:

Duh! "It's not just going to school but learning that matters," say the authors. They quantify this by showing that if, measured by student cognitive skills, the US K-12 system (24th place out of 50 countries) were as good as Canada's (9th place out of 50) then our GDP would be significantly higher than it is- enough so to pay for all US K-12 public education costs out of the difference (about $500 billion dollars).

Stellar Schools are designed to be signficantly better than Candaian schools so their widespread adoption and imitation should have robust economic benefits.


Our December 2007 Update:

Asora Trademark To Be Registered:
Asora Education Enterprises was notified in December that we will have our Trademark AsoraTM registered in January 2008 if no one successfully appeals its issue.


Asora Consulting Work In Pennsylvania:

Asora Consulting added Pennsylvania to the regions where it has analyzed all public schools and public school districts. As in its earlier studies of schools in Rhode Island and Ventura County in California, there is considerable evidence of massive social promotion taking place. Click here for more information.


Currently discussions are underway with various research organizations about adding Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas and Tennessee to our list of states we have analyzed.


Asora®

Business Plan Revisions:

We are currently in the middle of revising our business plan. Our analysis of the demand for private school services has been thoroughly revamped to show that private schools have been doing a poor job of attracting students compared to past performance. As public schools lose market share, home schools seem to be capturing nearly all of it. Private schools seem to lack the incentives to grow and expand. The stagnation of private schools is inconsistent with rising standards of living wherein many more parents can afford private education and yet are not pursuing it. We think that this is understandable in the non-profit world. We believe that appropriately designed for-profit private schools will be able to gain market share and we intend Asora's Stellar Schools to be part of that expansion.
_______________


Our September 2007 Update:


Bifurcation of Effort: The Three Websites
The Stellar Schools effort, as mentioned elsewhere, is now being pursued in two separate efforts: one is the for-profit effort supported by this website, AsoraEducation.Com, and the other is its "sister" non-profit effort supported by the website
StellarSchools.Org. A third website, StellarSchools.Com, is the original website of the Stellar Schools effort and is now simply a conduit or "fork in the road" website allowing access to the other two just mentioned.

We Think Social Promotion Is The Culprit
The low student proficiencies we have observed in our studies of K-12 achievement tests in several geographic locations within the United States are, almost by definition, the result of lax social promotion policies in public and private schools. Given that Stellar Schools are designed without age based grade levels and will require mastery of each subject for students to advance, these schools will elliminate the phenomenon of social promotion and thereby help cure its associated ills.

Business Plan Revisions Underway
Our former business plan for Asora's Stellar Schools, while plausible and even conservative in its projections, was not viable in the sense that the time horizon to profitability was far too long into the future (9 years). This long ramp-up period was due, in part, to our minimalist approach to our initial capital requirements. Our new plan, still being formulated, will achieve profitability in approximately three years, based on a significantly larger initial capital investment.

Report Card for Ventura County, California
Asora Consulting was recently engaged to map all public schools operating in Ventura County, California. This region's schools perform at about the national average. Social promotion, is rampant, and we estimate that only 33% of the graduates (from a median high school) actually earned their diplomas.
We currently have a draft report available (VenturaProfNums.doc) which can be downloaded from our
website. The complete report awaits our analysis of Ventura's private high schools, which we expect to undertake shortly.

Completed Rhode Island's Report Card
We have made NAEP scale estimates for every public school and district in Rhode Island. Given our interest in Rhode Island public and private K-12 education, we have undertaken this project on a pro bono basis. Two reports,
RIProfNumsBasic.doc and RIProfNumsTech.doc, provide the details and are available from our Reform Reports page.

Asora Consulting Offers Mapping Service

Our consulting service, which performed the just mentioned work in Ventura County and which is now finishing the Rhode Island analysis, is available to provide similar analyses for other jurisdictions within the United States. Please
contact us if you are interested.

Our June 2007 Update:

Stellar Schools Development Corporation (SSDC)
Arguably our most important current task in the development of Stellar Schools is the creation of the non-profit collaborating organization that will likely work with Asora to develop schools and services. We have three or four individuals who have expressed interest in becoming trustees of the board but no one has been interested in being the President of the board. The principals of Asora are prohibited by federal law from board participation if the relationship between them and the non-profit is less than "arms length." Thus David Anderson cannot play that role. He can, however, work for the SSDC either as an employee or as a consultant.

During this period we have also produced a list of tasks that need to be completed before SSDC can commence its operations as a 501(c)(3) organization.

Getting Catholic Educators on Board is Like Herding Cats
Our hope has been to find a person influential in Catholic education for the position of President of SSDC. We say this because we think Catholic school systems might play an important role in Stellar School development and could become important customers who would benefit greatly from the more cost effective Stellar School operating format. But our attempts to interest Catholics have produced no significant interest to date. In response to over 400 queries sent to influential Catholics, we found no interest and, in fact, had only 5 responses in the form of acknowledgments. We sense apathy that goes beyond normal response rates to such missives.

Meeting With Charles Lavaroni & Donald Leisey
We met with Charles Lavaroni and Donald Leisey in California in early April to discuss issues that confront entrepreneurs working in the education field. Lavaroni and Leisey are pioneers in the field of for-profit education who together coauthored a book on the subject. They and others present at the meeting cautioned that our current business plan may be attempting to do too many new things at once. A common thread of the response I received from them was to "keep it simple." When we think about how one can simplify the Stellar Schools development process we are often concluding that we should start from an existing business that already performs some of the component operations. K12, Inc. comes to mind.

School Reform News Article
In the April edition of School Reform News, David Anderson authored a guest article, "Integrity Is Remedy for Harms Caused by Social Promotion," in which he discusses the question as to whether these "harms" constitute child abuse and if so what to do about them.

Education Industry Days Meeting in Washington
At the annual Education Industry Association meeting in Washington there was much discussion about the status and reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind legislation. We learned that Senator Kennedy has introduced legislation aimed at making state administered achievement tests align better with the well respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). A staffer from the relevant Senate Committee told us that the legislation would encourage interim measures such as mapping the often inflated state achievement test scores onto a scale consistent with the NAEP. We had already been working in this area and as a result took encouragement to focus more in this area. The story of our expanded work thereby inspired now follows:

Removing the Inflation from State Tests
One way to build market demand for Asora's Stellar Schools is to publicize the failures of our competition. Achievement tests are a means of measuring the successes of schools but only if their scoring criteria adhere to accepted national standards. As it is most states publish achievement test results for their public schools that inflate the results to make their schools look far better than they really are. In terms of the percentages of students claimed to be proficient (at or above grade level) the states typically announce far more students proficient than what is published by the NAEP- and in many cases double the number! Since the NAEP cannot report results at the district or school level, stakeholders are left in the dark to wonder how students are performing locally.

To remedy that problem we have developed a method to predict what the NAEP score would have been at a school or in a district. We have used the statistical properties of idealized achievement test scores to create a simulated examination environment in which a pair of testing regimes can be related. From our understanding of these relationships we have devised a mapping procedure to convert the inflated state reported student proficiencies to ones aligned with the NAEP. The theory told us that our errors would be comparable to the sampling errors of the original NAEP results, but at first saw no means to confirm that prediction. Our report on this,
MapToNAEP.doc, is available to download from our Reports on Reform section.

Applying the NAEP Mapping to Rhode Island
We have used our mapping technique to report the NAEP consistent proficiencies for all school districts and all high schools in Rhode Island. This is a state which reports student proficiency percentages very nearly double what the NAEP measured in the state. We have made an attempt to publicize our results but the media and the schools are reluctant to acknowledge our work. The results for urban high schools in Providence were far worse than our original pessimistic estimate: The percent proficient (at or above grade level) has been only 2 to 4 percent in its four general high schools. We believe there are several dozens of states with similar situations crying out for redress. If we can publicize these failures, we think it will help us develop interest and support for our efforts to improve K-12 education. The details are in our report, GrtrPvdProfNums.doc, downloadable from our Reports on Reform section.

NAEP Performance of Ethnic Groups
Later we realized that we could use NAEP published statewide proficiency results for ethnic groups and compare them with the predictions of our mapping. Doing so verified our conjecture that the errors were about the same size as the original sampling errors, lending credence to our results. In doing this we were shocked by the very low proficiencies for blacks and hispanic students and were reminded of President Bush's well known quote about "the soft bigotry of low expectations." These children are simply pushed through the system by the social promotion policy and then handed a diploma. Little effort seems to have been made to help them acquire grade level skills.

Asora Consulting to Offer Mapping Service
Based on our seemingly reliable results from our mapping formulas we have begun to offer consulting services in this area to other organizations and individuals. Please
contact us if you are interested.

Our March 2007 Update:
Establishing Our Non-Profit Affiliate
As foreseen in our business plan for the Stellar Schools Company (now renamed Asora Education Enterprises) we are now seeking "founders" for our non-profit organization, The Stellar Schools Development Corporation (SSDC). Please contact us if you'd consider helping this effort. We plan to incorporate SSDC in Rhode Island and seek 501(c)(3) status. The latter, if awarded, will give us tax exempt status and will provide donors with deductions for their contributions. As required by the federal statutes, the non-profit affiliate cannot be under the control of the for-profit Asora company. Rather the relationship is required to be "arms length." To accomplish this, Asora will help launch the non-profit organization but will separate itself from the governance of SSDC. We contemplate various kinds of contractual relationships between SSDC and the for-profit Asora company- but within the concept of "arms length" independence.


Exploring Catholic Education
We continue to focus on Catholic parochial schools as prospective partners in Stellar Schools. Their systems are of interest for two principal reasons:

1. They could benefit from the high quality instructional content and from the low costs of providing it. We share the concern that some Catholic schools are forced to close when they become insolvent. We think the Stellar Schools format could help rescue them.

2. Given that the Catholic systems already have networks of schools, they could be an invaluable partner in developing various aspects of Stellar Schools.

We believe that our recent decision to have parallel non-profit and for-profit organizations focusing on Stellar Schools provides a non-profit environment in which the Catholic systems can more comfortably participate. We think it removes concerns over possible negative aspects of involvement with for-profit enterprises. So, for example, rather than developing a franchising network, we believe that a licensing network would be the more appropriate organizational arrangement.

In keeping with our expanded focus on Catholic education, we have added to our list of correspondents a number of leaders and experts from the Catholic school systems and from their institutions of higher learning.

Please also see our page on
Catholic Education.

Roles of The Stellar Schools Development Corporation

We see three important roles that the non-profit Stellar Schools Development Corporation can play:

1. It can act as a research and development organization to test and develop the various components of the Stellar Schools instructional systems. This is the role foreseen in the
business plan (available on this website.)

2. It can operate schools- both in developmental as well as in operational modes.

3. It can provide scholarships to students needing financial support to attend its schools.

Unlike the presumption in the business plan that the non-profit entity would transition into the for-profit company, we avoid the difficulties implicit in such an approach by having both organizations live on indefinitely. Since the non-profit SSDC will provide most of its technologies and methodologies on an "open source" basis, there need not be any formal arrangement to allow the for-profit Asora Company to benefit from them. However, we do intend to protect the intellectual property of courseware developers who can therefore expect some compensation for their efforts.

More details about the Stellar Schools Development Corporation are included in its
Strategic Plan available on this website.


Roles of Asora Education Enterprises:

The for-profit business effort intends to operate in a number of areas in which it has competence. While its main and longterm goal is the operation of one or more franchising networks of schools based on the Stellar Schools instructional system, in the short run it is begining to operate in other areas. Taken together, Asora is now or will be providing the following kinds of services:

1. Consulting. This is currently limited to providing advice to others who are seeking to apply Stellar Schools concepts.

2. Tutoring. We now offer tutoring in mathematics and physics and will extend our coverage as the staff enlarges and acquires competency in other subjects. Since the Stellar Schools instructional format entails a tutoring component we shall also train and manage personnel to perform these tasks in school settings.

3. Substitute teaching. In our early years we will supplement our revenues by offering substitute teachers to a variety of private schools. This activity will probably be phased out as we mature.

4. Productions/Publishing. The courseware we will use to deliver our K-12 instructional content will be created by our productions/publishing arm. Video and other online content will be generated in production facilties- either in-house or under contract with others. Content purchased or leased from other suppliers will be modified and extended by our productions unit. Since the Stellar Schools format requires content in both digital and hardcopy versions we shall also operate as publishers of such material- including textbooks when "trade" books do not meet our specifications.

5. Testing. Asora will generate the appropriate software and data bases to conduct its assessment regime for each of its courses. While this will be integrated into its own courseware, Asora will offer testing services to other schools outside of its networks as appropriate.

6. Franchisor. When Asora or others, such as the Stellar Schools Development Corporation (SSDC), have perfected the model schools employing the Stellar Schools instructional systems, then Asora will build one or more franchising networks of local schools. In its franchising operation, Asora, will subsume several of the other aforementioned roles just listed.


Establishing a Brand and a Trademark
You may wonder the provenance of
Asora as our new name? We recently benefited from some good advice on branding and trademarks. (Thank you, Dick!) Given that it is easier to obtain a registered United States Trademark if the name is not already in use, we have chosen the name Asora which is not in my dictionary and has never been a registered trademark.

Asora was formulated from an acronym based on the Stellar Schools defining features:

A. Academic emphasis
S. Self-paced learning
O. On-line instruction
R. Rigorous content
A. Assessment curriculum

The latter expression "assessment curriculum" needs elaboration: It refers to our definition of the curriculum as being the universe of examination questions applicable to any given course.

Once we have met the prerequisite requirements for requesting a registered trademark, we shall proceed with the application. In the meantime we shall use the less formal trademark designation- as in
Asora(TM).


Our January 2007 Update:


Milton Friedman, RIP:
We were recently saddened to learn of economist Milton Friedman's passing. As an ardent supporter of school choice and arguably the inventor of government provided school vouchers, he inspired many to work alongside him for greater parental choices in education. The Stellar Schools project was conceived, in part, as a way to provide effective parental choice by developing more efficient and cost effective schools within the private sector. Stellar Schools also benefited from his constructive commentary- particularly with regard to the problems of wholly owned networks (Edison Schools) in the development of private school networks. This strengthened our resolve to use the franchising format. He will be missed.

Developing Schools of the Future:
It is becoming more and more apparent that schools of the future will depend on Internet based technologies. This will be true regardless of the venue of learning- whether at home or in brick and mortar buildings. Stellar Schools, as elaborated elsewhere on this website, are designed to exploit the best instructional methods, the best technologies for delivering content, and the best organizational structures for managing the operations required for success in schools of the future.

Seeking Participants:
We have continued our efforts to make our ideas and plans available to an increasingly wider circle of prospective collaborators and other interested parties. Thus, if this is your first update it is likely that you've been recently added to our list of Stellar School correspondents.

What School Reform News Said About Us:
In the September 2006 issue of School Reform News, published by the Heartland Institute, an article about Stellar Schools was featured. Included were some comments on our effort from education experts. Ken Calvert, Headmaster of the Hillsdale Academy, said, "The potential is there for a great educational model, so I hope [Anderson] can get it up and running." Education professor Guibert Hentschke, of the University of Southern California, also said regarding Stellar Schools, "This type of model would definitely force [existing] schools to improve their standards in the wake of competition."

The Search for a Model School in Rhode Island
For reasons of convenience and because of the large number of private schools in Rhode Island (about 125) we conducted a survey in hopes of finding a school with an advanced curriculum with which we might collaborate. My survey had another purpose: to find suitable schools that my three-year old granddaughter might attend in the future. So far, I've not found one that would be appropriate for a collaboration but the search will continue. In the meantime the Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School (AMSA) in nearby Massachusetts is of great interest, particularly in regard to their curriculum, and I hope to visit it soon.

SchoolsTrademark Application Denied:
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has refused our application to have "Stellar Schools" granted a trademark. We appealed their initial ruling but were unsuccessful. Another enterprise, Stellar International Institute, has an existing trademark which was deemed too close to our proposed trademark. The examiners were concerned that there is not room for two educational enterprises to have the name "stellar" in their marks. Our appeal was based on the fact that the Stellar International Institute was a post-secondary institution while in comparison ours is K-12. In rejecting our appeal they noted that either organization may wish to offer services in the market niches of the other and thus the trademarks, if ours was granted, would lead to confusion in the marketplace.

We accept their decision and will be searching for a more unique label for our enterprise. One possibility is "Sirius Schools." Given that the star Sirius is the brightest in the night sky it has a similar connotation to our current appelation of Stellar. If you have any ideas on this, "send them in."

Singapore Math Copyright Issues:
For some time, Stellar Schools had been planning to implement a curriculum similar to that used by the Hillsdale Academy. However, in the mathematics area we explored whether Hillsdale's use of the Saxon Math series was best. We have tentatively concluded that Singapore Math may be superior and as a result have been considering its use.

We requested the publishers of Singapore Math to give us permission to make digital copies of their texts with the understanding that we'd compensate them for any "dilution" of their intellectual property. We were refused.

Subsequently, we have begun to review the so-called Fair Use Doctrine in patent law and some court decisions in that area. It appears that under certain circumstances it is probably legal to make digital copies without the publisher's permission. However, we intend to work with the publisher on this and have advised them of our thinking on this matter.

As an alternative we would consider authoring our own texts in both formats: hardcopy and digital.


Seeking Catholic Partners:
We sent email communications to a number of Schools of Education at Catholic post-secondary institutions soliciting the interest of Catholic educators in the prospect that Stellar Schools (or something similar) would benefit their systems of parochial schools.

Of several dozen such communications we received expressions of interest from a handful of educators with whom we hope to have further discussions.

Given the likelihood that the Stellar Schools operational format would be less expensive than that of existing Catholic school systems there is the possibility that marginally solvent schools could be saved from bankruptcy. An added benefit for their systems is the higher quality of the content and instruction implicit in the Stellar Schools model.

We also seek Catholic participation for reasons beyond its benefit to them: we believe that their parochial systems provide a good environment for developing the prototypical schools and networks. We shall seek to involve them in Stellar Schools R&D. To the extent they participate in the development of Stellar Schools we intend to offer them an ownership stake in the enterprise that would allow them to receive income from the business that would subsequently be developed.

Seeking Mergers
We are open to joining with other enterprises that are developing similar kinds of schools. The possible relationships can be of many different types. We could be bought. We could purchase. We could merge. We could be a consultant. This could be done in the for-profit or non-profit environments.

Stellar School Consulting
Given our current status as an enterprise with a vanishingly small staff together with our scant level of capital we are also making ourselves available to consult. We are eager to help new schools and others develop, test, operate, and maintain instructional formats and other features consistent with our ideas for Stellar Schools. One of the beauties of our approach is that it can be implemented on a small scale- basically one course and one student at a time.


Our August 2006 update:

The Big Time:
The outlook for Stellar Schools (or something similar) is very bright. There is a confluence of wonderful new and inexpensive technologies and the great unmet need for a better system of K-12 education that should translate into a very large marketplace for new kinds of schools. Revenues in this industry within the United States will be well in excess of $200 billion annually.

Our Stellar Schools will rely on distance education, which historically used television before it exploited web-based systems. Anyone who has bought an HD capable LCD television recently already sees the merging of television with the Internet as these monitors can display in either format. Broadcast networks are now putting content on the Internet and as the on-demand component of television services grow, more and more of the Internet will infuse what we view on television. When we think about the production of online lessons we need no longer think in terms of web page productions alone- rather we can imagine using the vast production capabilities of existing television networks to produce our lessons, lectures, and supplementary audio/visual materials. Thus distance education will come full circle back into the television industry by the virtue of this "merging" of technologies.

When we say "Big Time" we mean that big players, as just mentioned, will be involved given their expertise and the large revenue rich marketplace to be served. It is much more likely that the content taught in Stellar Schools will be produced by such media professionals than by Anderson in a back room.

If you are as optimistic as we are, then find a way to join us in this effort. Or you take the lead, and we'll help. With the future of Stellar Schools in mind let's now consider how to develop them.

Ways Forward:
A good way to think of the existing Stellar Schools “organization” is that it is a potential broker of educational services and supplies to individuals, families and schools seeking those services and supplies. Unlike so many other business/organizational formats, that of the broker requires little to no financial capital. It is also instructive to realize that even in its fully developed state, our plan envisages a continuing “broker” role for the organization.

The question we face is how can we grow from something that exists only on "paper" to a successful system of schools? We need help answering this question.

We believe that building Stellar Schools from “scratch” would be wasteful when there are already so many suppliers of related services that could be involved in the efforts. Elsewhere on our Website we present Stellar Schools Opportunities wherein we describe some of the collaborations that might bear fruit. Further elaboration of that can be found in our new report:
The Way Forward, which is accessible from our New Reports Page, where you can learn more details about these possibilities.

A Recent Speech:


Profitable Education in Stellar Schools: Franchising Robust, Self-Paced, Web-Enabled K-12 Schools, with Applications to Non-Profit and Public Schools

You can download its text VideoOverviewText or if you can view the Video. Or you can download the Video File itself.

Continuing Outreach:
Given our limited budget for marketing to potential collaborators (whether investors or players) we have worked to extend the group of correspondents who receive our seasonal updates. Since April of this year we have added approximately 300 new contacts to our list. Since our prototypical schools (as currently planned) will be non-profit we have been adding a number philanthropic foundations to our list. A large number of new contacts, who are members of the Education Industry Association (EIA), were added as well. I conversed with many of them at their EDVentures 2006 Annual Conference in Denver this July. Finally, the Stellar Schools Company, itself, is now a member enterprise of EIA.

Further publicity for us is anticipated in the publication,
School Reform News, where two articles in the September 2006 issue are relevant. One will concern Stellar Schools and the other discusses external reforms of public education (that also peripherally involve Stellar Schools). One of the articles, on External Reforms, is available on this Website.

Reforms “Beyond” Stellar Schools:
Prompted by the Better Government Competition of Boston’s Pioneer Institute we spent some time developing proposals how Massachusetts should reform its systems of public education. Knowing the likely futility of accomplishing such reforms by bureaucratic/legislative means, we also developed proposals that private individuals and groups can pursue that would also encourage public school reforms- we call these external reforms. As we just mentioned above, an article on External Reforms is on the Website.

EDVentures Conference of the
Education Industry Association:

We went to Denver in July to meet with many other educational entrepreneurs and to learn about many recent developments- some relevant to Stellar Schools. There is more happening in the industry of interest to our project than we had known about. From the many ideas and individuals we met we realize that there are many unexplored avenues to investigate as we go forward.

Possible School Collaborations:
To develop the curriculum and all the associated courseware for a K-12 school is a major undertaking so we have been seeking to find existing schools that already have courses of instruction similar to what we seek.


The Meaning of Stellar:
On more than one occasion we've been asked about the origin of our enterprise's name: Stellar Schools. The "schools" part should be obvious, but the Stellar part was born out of two thoughts. First, we seek excellent schools- as in "stellar." But we also intend to hire star teachers to produce our online content and thus in a second sense our teachers will be "stellar."






Our April 2006 Update:

Local Publicizing of Our Efforts:
Most of our present efforts now are focused on finding players and investors in our business. To that end we have been out in public forums giving speeches. Whenever I meet someone new, I generally tell them about Stellar Schools. You'll never know who might be interested. For example, when I met Mikhail Gorbachev in early April, I told him about our effort. He was interested. During the ensuing conversation several photographs were taken allowing us to depict a portion of it in our
Gorby Toon.

Alternatives to a Hillsdale Collaboration:
Our hopes of developing a collaborative relationship with Hillsdale Academy, in which we'd jointly develop an Online version of their curriculum, have been diminished by a lack of interest on their part. This has led us to seek other possible partners for collaboration. To this end we have been conducting a survey of private K-12 schools in the Providence, Rhode Island area. Several have curricula approximating the rigor of Hillsdale and a few go beyond it. None of them have a widely distributed published version such as the one put out by Hillsdale and thus none of them is as well known for its curriculum.

Developing Intangible Assets:
We have filed to have "Stellar Schools" registered as a U.S. Trademark. It is not yet taken by any other enterprise so it seemed prudent to take it now. We hope to protect some of our business methods with patents. Additionally, our Web domain
StellarSchools.com is a current intangible asset that we hope to maintain indefinitely.

The Gang of Socialists Yet Persist in Bush's Department of Education:
In the U.S. Department of Education are numerous offices and directorates that might have been expected to take a friendly view towards Stellar Schools. And indeed the Office of Educational Technology allowed us to provide commentary about its National Education Technology Plan on its
Website. However, such was not the case for the EROD (Education Resource Organizations Directory) maintained within the Office of the Chief Information Officer. When I attempted to list my information about Stellar Schools in EROD, I was told that the for-profit nature of my enterprise would preclude participation. I appealed this decision to the CIO himself who subsequently sided with the forces antagonistic to for-profit enterprises. I intend to pursue this dispute with Secretary Spellings' office when I have time to do so.

Perhaps a small benefit of this disagreement is that it reminds us of the entrenched Washington bureaucracy that is unresponsive to administration policies and of its fairly well-known left-leaning, anti-business tendencies.

Problems in Public Education:
As we have been out on the lecture circuit speaking about Stellar Schools, we've had feedback to the effect that people want to know more about the problems we are trying to remedy. They seem very interested about dropout rates and other public school pathologies. To learn more about this check out
What's Wrong With K-12 Education, elsewhere on this Website.