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Center for Policy Studies
Public Affairs Discussion Group

Why Virtual Schools Are Growing So Fast, and What it Might Mean for the Future of Public Education

Peter Robertson - Senior Vice President of School Operations, Connections Education
Friday November 13, 2015
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Dampeer Room
Kelvin Smith Library
Case Western Reserve University

Dear Colleagues:

The business press calls virtual K-12 schools a "disruptive innovation." In business jargon, that is a good thing. Pearson, the world's largest education company, certainly thinks so. In 2011, attracted by 30% annual growth, it purchased Connections Education for $400 million.

Many policy-makers strongly support the idea of online learning as either a supplement to or replacement of traditional public schools. Some states, including Florida and Michigan, have required that students take and pass a virtual class for graduation. Other states like New York, however, have refused credit for such courses when students move there from another state. Critics argue that the growth of online courses and schools disrupts education itself, with average student performance not matching achievement in traditional public schools.

Why is this new form of education growing? What is the case for its value? Perhaps this form of instruction is particularly useful for some students but not others. If so, however, who can benefit, and who gets to decide whom it's for? What role should for-profit companies have in education, and what is the effect of virtual schools on the traditional public schools? What should public policy be?

In his work at Connections Education, Peter Robertson has a leading role in supporting 36 schools serving 80,000 students in 25 states. Yet he brings to his role much wider experience. He joins us to provide a view from the inside and discuss the tough questions.

All best regards,
Joe White
Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy and Director, Center for Policy Studies

About Our Guest

Peter Robertson joined Connections Education in 2009 and is Senior Vice President of School Operations. Mr. Robertson was previously Vice President of Education Services at SchoolOne where he led the redevelopment of a web-based student information system. Prior to that, he was Executive Director of Elementary and Secondary Education Product Management & Development for the Educational Testing Service, where he was responsible for the integration and on-going development of System 5, a standards-based, assessment-focused suite of School Improvement products and services. Prior to that, Peter served as Chief Information Officer for the Cleveland Municipal School District where he was responsible for student assessment, educational research, and program evaluation; and for the management of information technology resources and infrastructure system-wide. Peter spent four years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company; worked as an educational researcher at the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching; and served as a Social Studies and Communication Arts Program teacher at Montgomery Blair High School in Montgomery County, Maryland. He served on the Shaker Heights (Ohio) School Board from 2007 to 2011 and served as the student member on the Montgomery County (Maryland) School Board from 1983 to 1984. He earned an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School and from the Teachers College of Columbia University.

Where We Meet

The Friday Public Affairs Lunch convenes each Friday when classes are in session, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Our programs are open to all and no registration is required. We usually meet in the Dampeer Room of Kelvin Smith Library. The Dampeer Room is on the second floor of the library. If you get off the elevators, turn right, pass the first bank of tables, and turn right again. Occasionally we need to use a different room; that will always be announced in the weekly e-mails.

Parking Possibilities

The most convenient parking is the lot underneath Severance Hall. We regret that it is not free. From that lot there is an elevator up to street level (labeled as for the Thwing Center); it is less than 50 yards from that exit to the library entrance. You can get from the Severance garage to the library without going outside. Near the entry gates - just to the right if you were driving out - there is a door into a corridor. Walk down the corridor and there will be another door. Beyond that door you'll find the entrance to an elevator which goes up to an entrance right inside the doors to Kelvin Smith Library.

Friday Lunch Upcoming Topics and Speakers:

November 20: Integrating the Inner City Through Mixed-Income Development. With Mark Joseph, Associate Professor at MSASS and Director, National Initiative on Mixed-Income Communities; Taryn Gross, Program Manager for the Initiative, and Emily Miller, Project Coordinator for the Initiative. Co-sponsored with the Schubert Center for Child Studies. ***Alternate Location: Mandel Community Studies Center Room 115, 11402 Bellflower Road***

November 27: Thanksgiving Break

December 4: Making Clean Energy Work. With Walter Money, Whole House Energy Solutions.

November 10, 2015

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Upcoming Events

Social Justice Institute’s Think Tank 2015 Film and Q &A: Finding the Gold Within

Thursday November 12, 2015, 6:00 p.m., Strosacker Auditorium, Case Western Reserve University, 2125 Adelbert Road, Cleveland, OH 44106. Co-sponsored by the CWRU Social Justice Institute and the Schubert Center for Child Studies

Finding the Gold Within invites audiences to experience what it means to be a young black man navigating through college. The film lends itself as a platform for a discussion about race, education, and masculinity.

Is Fear and Loathing About China Warranted?

Tuesday November 17, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Market Garden Brewery, 1947 W. 25th Street, Cleveland, OH. Sponsored by the Cleveland Peace Action Education Fund

A disussion with Paul Schroeder, Ph.D., China expert and Visting Assitant Professor of Poltical Science at Case Western Reserve University. Professor Schroeder examines the relationship between the U.S. and China today. He will discuss how the two countries are cooperating today and what the current contentions are. He will also take a look at China's international goals and internal problems. This program will be followed by a lively discussion.

November 2015






































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