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Step Aside, Betsy DeVos. You’re Not Extreme Enough: Featuring Asora Education.

December 4, 2016

I had an interesting comment to my post, Betsy DeVos and Her 2015-16 School Choice YearbookHere is the comment, in part:

I, for one, would go much farther than DeVos and look for systems of schools that are mostly in the for-profit arena in which the subsidies toward low income families would be similar to what we do in the area of food. Think: Education Stamps.

The comment comes from David V. Anderson, who has a website, asoraeducation.com. An excerpt from the home page:

Asora’s Campaign To End K-12 Market Failure

Perhaps more important than Asora’s activities and plans in self-paced online instruction, we recognize that reforms will be few and relatively ineffective if the economic incentives for school improvement are absent. We believe that marketplace reforms can be done locally and most easily by private education providers. Asora’s NAEP proficiency estimation methodologies can be used to provide consumer information locally, which can be an important ingredient in marketplace reform. We believe that if the marketplace for education is healthy, most of the desired reforms will arise- almost automatically.

Allow me to offer some more excerpts from Asora’s numerous web pages. I won’t comment much. I’ll just let readers take it in.

Here’s an excerpt from a page entitled, School Ailments:

Market Failure

Most Americans regard K-12 schools as special institutions that are not part of our competitive free market economy. For that reason, most observers shy away from applying the lessons of economics on this important sector of our economy. Because of this neglect, the healthy incentives usually associated with a free market of competing enterprises are not present- and dysfunction has taken its place instead.

Our approach to improving schools is thus aimed at restructuring the local marketplace in which schools operate, rather than in micro-managing the instructional systems and strategies employed in the schools. We believe the problem is macroscopic and one in which a healthy competitive marketplace has not developed.

Problems in this marketplace were understood by an early giant of economics, Adam Smith, and by a recent one, the late Milton Friedman. Consistent with their writings in this area we see at least two dysfunctional characteristics of the education marketplace:

1. Erroneous consumer information about student and school performance.

2. The distorting effects of the subsidized public monopoly in government schools.

By changing these two factors in a beneficial direction, we believe many reforms would follow with demonstrable benefits to the school children within the improved systems.Transparency and choice are the solutions we envisage for these problems.

Subsidy Reform 

We don’t disagree with the concept that there is a community or public responsibility to ensure that all children have access to a good K-12 education. Thus we agree that government has a responsibility to subsidize K-12 schooling. But if subsidies are not administered in a market friendly manner, bad things can and do happen.

Rather than subsidize only the public schools with universal (full tuition) support to all of their students, we think subsidies should follow the child. By doing so, parents are empowered to make “consumer” choices in the selection of schools. The market distorting effect of restricting the subsidies to just public schools goes away when parents are given the choices to direct their children to alternative schools. Thus we advocate for public and privately funded vouchers, scholarships, tax credits, etc that provide the means to empower these choices.

The marketplace for education is further improved if we can limit the amount of government subsidy by asking parents to use private funds to supplement the government contribution. In fact, we think means testing is a good way to award vouchers. We like the model used at the college level wherein Pell Grants (tuition scholarships) are means tested. Children of low income families would have larger grants (or subsidies) while those of middle and high income families would have increasingly smaller (or no) stipends as family affluence increased.

Choice Engenders Competition Which Fosters Successful Reforms

In any system of schools it is difficult to foreordain what reforms would best increase student performance. But in a competitive environment, trial and error, together with other experience will guide schools toward solutions that best match local circumstances. What works best will not always be the same in different schools and different communities. Rather, the best practices will evolve as local situations change. As in other industries, competitive forces will tend to grow the more successful enterprises while thwarting the expansion of the laggard performers.

So, who is the “we” behind the above market conjecture? Here’s an excerpt regarding “who we are”:

Who We Are: 

The Stellar Schools effort was initiated by David Anderson in 2003. Since that time, discussions with prospective partners have been held but to this date the effort remains a sole-proprietorship with three unpaid managers (COO, CFO and CMO) and no employees. We believe we have the intellectual assets required to move forward but have very little financial capital to continue the work. Nonetheless, we believe that our ideas and plans are sufficiently promising that it is simply a matter of “when,” not “if,” concerning the launch of this business.

Anderson’s unique life experiences, including those as a student, a teacher, a research scientist, a policy analyst, and a financial planner, have given him the insight and conviction to confidently push the Stellar Schools concepts forward.

For more about the Qualifications of our staff click the link. Also relevant and available on our website is a speech by David Anderson, available in text, view-it-here video, or download the viedo, formats. It includes descriptions of some of his relevant life experiences.

Some more about Anderson’s experiences as noted on the What’s New page, in a section on think tanks:

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.

And here is the Asora staff:

As we launch Asora Education Enterprises we are in search of founding staff members. Despite all but one position being unstaffed we list them here to give prospective “players” an idea of the roles we need filled. You can click on the links to see resumes and biographies of our staff.

CEO David Anderson Resume Biography
COO Jonathan Scott
CFO Jay Jacot
CAO David Anderson (acting)
CIO David Anderson (acting)
CMO Susan Anderson
CCO David Anderson (acting)
Lead Instructor David Anderson (acting)
Etc.

Asora is mostly David Anderson, and as of this writing, it is mostly a website. But there is promise on the horizon, and that promise comes via Trump and a Republican-dominated Congress, as Asora’s What’s New page attests:

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%

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?

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.

An investment opportunity, folks. For-profit. Online. The market will run itself. Friedman knew this.

Here’s a page on Asora’s course brokerage services:

Online Courseware Brokerage Services

In the current year it is estimated that a rather small percentage of K-12 instruction is online- about 1% (compare this with 10% for post-secondary). According to sources at the Education Industry Association, the online percentage of K-12 instruction will grow to approximately 50% in ten years. By that time, most online instruction will be received within schoolrooms- unlike the current situation wherein most online instruction is received in homes. This suggests that Asora’s Stellar Schools design will become increasingly relevant going forward.

As should be evident to visitors who have reviewed our business plan for Stellar Schools (available elsewhere on this website) that one of our roles will be that of a broker of third party products and services. In doing that, we plan to acquire and integrate third party online instructional content into the courseware that we will supply to customers- including franchisees.

Given our limited financial capital, we are beginning the development of Stellar Schools by first establishing a brokerage service, which will focus on instructional formats that accommodate self-pacing and on instructional content for the core curriculum.

Identifying prospective customers of online content

We are interested in providing brokerage services primarily to physical (brick & mortar) schools for the K-12 levels of instruction. Since we intend to provide AP courses, we sometimes identify them as 13th grade level courses. This leads us to occasionally use the nomenclature K-13 to express the instructional levels we cover.

Our company is an advocate of tutorial instruction because of its several advantages over traditional age-based group instruction. The latter’s defects, including pervasive social promotion in nearly every public and private school, suggest that the tutorial alternative should be considered.

To provide that tutorial instruction requires a self-paced learning environment supported by an asynchronous (on-demand) online instructional system. Thus our preference is to work with schools seeking a self-paced instructional format within core curricular areas. There is no need to convert all courses to the new online format in one step- the transition can proceed one or two subjects at a time.

Within Asora’s Stellar Schools project, we have our own long-term plans for developing/obtaining online content covering the core curricula for levels K-13. Implementation of those plans awaits adequate financial resources. …

Again, investors needed. So, do you Want to be an Asora Player?

Advancing the Goal of Ending Education as We Know It

Asora® Education Enterprises Seek Players
in its Stellar Schools Franchising Project

If you might consider being a participant in Asora’s Stellar Schools effort, we provide some further information in this area of our website that may be of interest to you. Or if you know of others who might find this of interest you and they may also find this section to be of interest.

Here our perspective is that of an investor, granting organization, or any other interested party who wants to have a better understanding of the characteristics of Stellar Schools that would help it thrive as a business or as a service organization.

In very brief terms we answer that in our abstract– The Quest in a Nutshell.

A more detailed presentation of these considerations with respect to a number of business concerns is to be found in our report, Rationale & Motivation for Stellar Schools.

Some of the introductory material from our Rationale & Motivation report is also presented in three video clips, including one that specifically addresses investor concerns. There is a great deal of risk in such an investment. Thus one of our issues relates to what measures can be taken to reduce these risks.

An opportunity to spread for-profit education that will eclipse both public and private schools. True, we’re little more than a website just yet, but we’re on the cusp of an education privatization scheme that “would go much farther than DeVos.”

Anderson has many more web pages than those featured in this post.

Feel free to peruse them at asoraeducation.com.

betsy-devos-5  Betsy DeVos, before she came around to supporting Trump

____________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

4 Comments
  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Some of the information is dated 2008, 2011 and with staffing mostly family members in multiple roles.
    He does not seem to be very good at holding down a job anywhere, even if he is fine as a physicist.

    This is one of many pitches that will surely be content for another book project for you.

    Milton and Rosa Friedman are surely smiling.
    This pitch follows a template for vulture capitalists who see nothing but money in education.
    Tinker here, tinker there, no collateral damage to students,or parents. Teachers are not needed. Sooner or later THE MARKET will tell us how to do the education thingy… (Sorry, this just makes me angry).

  2. Harlan Underhill permalink

    Laissez les bon temps rouler.

  3. John Plencner permalink

    While there are good ideas, there is a large amount of “head in the sand”, especially at the high school level. The private marketplace does not have to deal with the 5-10% of students that do not want to be in school (they get sent to the public schools). The private marketplace is not hospitable to students with special needs (they get encouraged to attend the public schools). If students do not perform, they get sent to the public schools. The model works only because students that the private sector does not want to deal with are sent elsewhere.

    As far as Anderson’s suggestions:

    1. Union interference in management – Working in several districts, I have only seen this happen when there is gross mismanagement.

    2.E-books instead of print. Terrible idea. Numerous studies show e-books are less effective and that students prefer print books, especially in math and science. (Ex: Woody, W. D., Daniel, D. B., & Baker, C. A. (2010). E-books or textbooks: Students prefer textbooks. Computers & Education, 55(3), 945-948.)

    3. Self-paced learning. Agree that we have to move that way. Computers help. The problem is at the lower end of the scale. What do you do with students that are years behind where they should be?

    4. End Social Promotion. If the above is implemented, it will happen. However, mastery needs to be well defined in each curricular context.

    5/6. The social interaction of schooling is a must for most students. Flipping is not for everyone, and eliminates the give and take of the learning environment. It puts the load upon the students to learn the material or to ask for help. If too many students need help, the model breaks down. Try upper division courses with average students, and you will see what I mean. Students need to be able to interact in real time.

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