This week’s news concerns the for-profit virtual school operator, K12 Inc.
K12’s Tennessee Academy fails…
The corporation’s Tennessee Virtual Academy, a statewide charter school which opened online in 2011, has been ordered to close at the end of the 2014-15 school year due to consistently poor test results. Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman had originally announced that 626 new incoming students were to be unenrolled this year as the school moved toward closure. The most recent announcement reverses that decision. Fans of the Virtual Academy are applauding this change and holding out hope that the school will somehow survive beyond this year.
Huffman said that “Parents should find different options for their children for the next school year,” and reiterated that the school “is closed at the end of the coming school year.”
He added, however:
If somehow this school manages to defy the odds of its past performance and get adequate results, we would of course rescind that decision. That just makes sense. But there is nothing in their data from the first three years that would indicate to me they are going to be able to achieve that level of performance.
In some fascinating related discussion, proponents of the Virtual Academy insisted that closing the online school violated their rights. Pleas to consider parental preference and effect on neighborhoods when closing brick and mortar schools — as in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC — are regularly attacked as support for “failing education.” Support for the failing Virtual Academy, however, is hailed as a matter of “parental choice” rights.
…as K12 Tries Same in NC
Meanwhile, K12 is seeking to move into North Carolina. There, the failing record of existing virtual schools leads to similar 1984-type doublespeak. A spokeswoman for K12, Mary Gifford, told members of a study committee that low performance reflects the fact that their company tends to attract low performing students, and the home-based system of education can do little to help that demographic. (See the committee’s Virtual Charter Schools Report and NC Policy Watch.) This, despite regular ongoing claims by K12 that it is a great option for struggling students from struggling schools. E.G:
Turn struggle into success for kids who are falling behind.
The K¹² curriculum and our flexible schooling programs have been highly praised by educators and parents alike for their ability to support individually-paced learning and help get students on track. A key element of our mission is to serve these children so that they can succeed and thrive.
— from the K12 website
K12 brags aside, Gifford told the study group: “High school is a nightmare….Forty percent of the students in high school will be very successful.”
The fact that educating high schoolers is a difficult and complex endeavor is, apparently, finally, after years in the business, news to K12.
League of Women Voters on Virtual Schooling
Low academic performance of the Tennessee Virtual Academy was cited earlier this year by opponents of Tennessee legislation permitting for-profit charter operators. The Tennessee legislature considered – but ultimately rejected – legislation that would have removed the state’s ban on for-profit charter schools. Nashville’s League of Women Voters studied the issue and developed a position in opposition to for-profit charter schools.
Nationally, the League of Women Voters has taken no position on charters schools or for-profit education endeavors, but it does have a position, based on study at 227 local Leagues, calling for transparency in any privatizating of government service. (Here’s a Privatization Position paper.)
The Las Cruces, NM, League recently completed a thorough, nationally relevant, study of virtual schooling.