The New Year finds more concerns regarding the advent of K12 Inc. running a virtual charter school here in North Carolina.
The company’s stock has been on a dive for a while now. Stockholders were not happy to hear in 2008 that the company had outsourced the grading of student essays to a company in India. Couple that with the continuation of high compensation for K12 Inc’s leadership and students showing poor performance in learning, and you get a strong downward trend in stock prices.
It continues to be a company that focuses more on making money than on educating children. Hard to imagine why Sen. Jerry TIllman was so insistent upon having them set up shop in North Carolina.
As you can see:
A recent study concludes that online charter schools in general, K12 Inc. included, are doing a lousy job of educating their students. Three research institutions participated in the study, including CREDO out of Stanford University, which tends to be pro-privatization and whose last comparison of charter and district schools had charters coming out a little ahead. (In its previous study, district schools came out a little ahead.) The academic growth of online school students is so low that, according to CREDO, it's as if students missed half a year's learning in reading and a whole year's learning in math compared to district schools. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Online schools like those run by K12 Inc. amount to home schooling with benefits. If you have motivated students whose parents keep them on task, they'll learn from the parent-assisted curriculum. But because of the need to keep student numbers growing in the face of one-third of the students leaving every year, K12 Inc. actively recruits students who are unsuited for education that comes to them through a computer in their homes. Yet those students are encouraged to stay enrolled because, like other charter schools (and district schools as well), online charters get money from the state on a per student basis. Lose students, lose money.
Currently, K12 Inc. is being investigated over possible securities laws violations. It's been alleged that there is a “substantial disconnect between compensation and performance results.” This isn't the first time stockholders have complained about the company. Previously, stockholders sued because they said K12 Inc. inflated its schools' academic results. During the most recent shareholder meeting, investors voted down the corporation's plan for executive pay. The previous year, the CEO received $5.33 million and the CFO received $3.6 million.
“The previous year, the CEO received $5.33 million and the CFO received $3.6 million.” By the end of 2016, we will be able to say, those are YOUR NC tax dollars, at work.
Student enrollment at COVA has grown to about 5,000 thanks in part to marketing by K12. But despite the allure of flexibility and education from home, COVA is finding a relatively high number of students are dropping out. Last year the school reported a 12 percent graduation rate. That’s compared to a 72 percent average for all public high schools statewide.
Students who do not have the drive, skills, reading ability, or whatever to succeed in traditional mass education classes will not be well served by COVA or any online school. I’m not saying that those students were all well-served by their schools–far from it, I’m sure. I’m saying that the answer is clearly not a magical online fairy godteacher. (What would most of you have done with all of that “flexibility” of “education from home?” And now the kids these days have the world-wide timewasting pR0n-shilling internets at their disposal, when all we had was Space Invaders, Philip Roth novels, and clove cigarettes! And by the way: 88% is not a relatively high percentage of dropouts–that’s a shockingly high percentage compared to pretty much any dropout rate you can imagine.)
So with the state spending $5900 per pupil what are students, parents and taxpayers getting? Is anyone holding online management organizations accountable?
Short answer: no. And yet, we have faith that “throwing money at” computers and technology at a for-profit company in Virginia will solve problems that mere human teachers can’t. In fact, we are rather busy beating up on teachers and underfunding their pensions and health care plans while we in Colorado are sending $22 million dollars a year to Virginia for a graduation rate of twelve percent. This scandal is a bonus twofer: it’s the old online scama-lama-ding-dong plus the handover of public money for the privatization of public services.
Also in Colorado:
K12 Inc. School in Colorado Denied Charter School Authorization for Sub-Par Performance, Forced to Pay Back $800,000 to State
..only 37.6 percent of students at virtual high schools graduate on time, whereas the national average for all public high schools is 79.4 percent, more than twice that. Other critics have wondered where some of the taxpayer dollars directed to online schools end up.
A study of the performance of Pennsylvania online charter schools by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that 100 percent of cyber charters performed "significantly worse than their traditional public school counterparts in both reading and math.”
Students at K12 Inc.'s Tennessee Virtual Academy (TVA), which operates as a public school under the auspices of Union County Public Schools, made far less educational progress than any other school in the state in the 2012-2013 school year, according to the Tennessee Department of Education. According to The Tennesseean, TVA students "made less progress as a group in reading, math, science and social studies than students enrolled in all 1,300 other elementary and middle schools who took the same tests.
In South Carolina:
It was found that there is a significant difference between the graduation rate for low socio-economic students attending full-time virtual high schools versus low socio-economic students attending brick and mortar high schools. According to the data in this study, virtual high schools are performing at a significantly lower rate in the area of high school graduation rate in comparison to low socio-economic students attending brick and mortar high schools.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that “Reps. Bill Hayes and Teresa Fedor, the House Education Committee's top Republican and Democrat, forwarded an anonymous whistle-blower's email” to David Yost, the state Auditor. The whistle-blower alleges that Ohio Virtual Academy, a K12 Inc. school, failed to remove more than 400 chronically truant students from its rolls. With charter schools funded on a per-pupil basis, padding enrollment with fake or absent students would mean collecting extra state funds while spending less money in the classroom.
In November 2012, the Georgia Department of Education issued a report finding that K12 Inc.'s Georgia Cyber Academy "has repeatedly failed to comply with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and has violated student civil rights by failing to provide services required by the law." Georgia Cyber Academy has 1,100 special needs students. The Department of Education threatened to close the online school if issues relating to special education were not addressed
K12 Inc was investigated for using non-certified teachers in defiance of state law.
In Kansas, home of the Koch brothers and ALEC;
Lawrence school district Superintendent Rick Doll announced... that the district has taken the management of Lawrence Virtual High School over after the school posted a graduation rate last year of just 26.3 percent.
And in Wisconsin:
In August 2012, two Wisconsin school districts with online education programs...announced that they would not renew their contracts with K12 Inc. for the 2012-2013 school year....
Rick Nettesheim, principal of eAchieve, told the paper that his school is glad to be free of the company: "It's been our experience that the interest of their shareholders is the most critical deciding factor when decisions are being made. They may say they have the best interests of students in mind, and I'm sure their teachers care about their students just as much as our teachers care about students, but the people making decisions do have to answer to shareholders, and I think that's a conflict of interests."
Who is going to profit from bringing virtual charters into North Carolina?