K12 education company settles case with Calif.

Local Education

By Ty Tagami


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Updated: 5:08 p.m. Thursday, July 28, 2016Posted: 2:47 p.m. Thursday, July 28, 2016

A company that is paid tens of millions of dollars to provide educational services in Georgia has settled a legal case in California after a state investigation into allegations of improper billing there.

There’ve been no public allegations of impropriety in Georgia, where the company, K12 helps operate Georgia Cyber Academy. The academy has come in for criticism over student results: in 2015, the school earned a D for its academic performance with more than 13,000 Georgia students, as reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia academy is among the five biggest schools managed by K12, officials said. The company educates about as many students at a collection of 14 schools in California called the California Virtual Academies, or CAVA.

K12 was the target of a civil investigation by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, whose office alleged that K12 exploited weak charter school oversight in her state to excessively bill CAVA schools by pressuring teachers to sign “doctored” attendance records. Her office also accused the school of telling people it thought were prospective parents that classes were smaller than they really were.

On July 8, K12 agreed to settle for millions of dollars, without admitting to the alleged facts or to wrongdoing. Harris issued a statement saying the company had agreed to a settlement of $168.5 million, which K12 CEO Stuart Udell characterized as “shameless and categorically incorrect” in a conference call afterward with financial analysts.

The company did agree to pay $2.5 million to the state and $6 million to the attorney general’s office. But K12 objects to the way Harris described the other $160 million.

She called it “debt relief to the non-profit schools it manages.” Udell called it “the difference between K12’s contractual price and what the schools can afford to pay” based on their state funding.

“While K12 has a contractual right to recover these balanced budget credits, in all the years that K12 has worked with the CAVA boards we have never sought to recover those amounts,” Udell said on that conference call, according to a transcript provided by K12.

The final judgment in the case describes the $160 million agreement this way: an expungement of a decade’s worth of “credits against amounts otherwise due under managed school contracts.”

Neither the conference call nor the attorney general’s news release addressed another payment: $80,000 to a former CAVA teacher turned whistleblower. She alleged she was fired because she complained about the way K12 changed the attendance records she had submitted. The attorney general intervened in her case and K12 agreed to give her $50,000 to settle her employment-related claims and $30,000 for her legal fees.

Udell told the analysts that the company settled with the attorney general to avoid a “multiyear distraction” and litigation costs that would have been many times what it agreed to pay. He also said the company plans to fight legislation in California that would prohibit charter schools from using for-profit companies like his. And he said K12, which runs some 80 schools in 33 states, has plans to expand, going statewide in Alabama and Virginia and adding schools in other states, including Indiana, Michigan, Nevada and Maine.

K12 education company settles case with Calif.

5:08 p.m. Thursday, July 28, 2016

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A company that is paid tens of millions of dollars to provide educational services in Georgia has settled a legal case in California after a state investigation into allegations of improper billing there.

There’ve been no public allegations of impropriety in Georgia, where the company, K12 helps operate Georgia Cyber Academy. The academy has come in for criticism over student results: in 2015, the school earned a D for its academic performance with more than 13,000 Georgia students, as reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia academy is among the five biggest schools managed by K12, officials said. The company educates about as many students at a collection of 14 schools in California called the California Virtual Academies, or CAVA.

John Amis

Graduate of Georgia Cyber Academy Brycen Walker of Savannah throws up his hands in jubilation as he follows Tyriq Wade of Columbus to the stage during commencement, Saturday, May 21, 2016, held at Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta. The statewide charter school educates more than 13,000 students a year, as young as 5 years old, all online and at about half the cost of traditional public schools. (Photo/John Amis)

K12 was the target of a civil investigation by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, whose office alleged that K12 exploited weak charter school oversight in her state to excessively bill CAVA schools by pressuring teachers to sign “doctored” attendance records. Her office also accused the school of telling people it thought were prospective parents that classes were smaller than they really were.

On July 8, K12 agreed to settle for millions of dollars, without admitting to the alleged facts or to wrongdoing. Harris issued a statement saying the company had agreed to a settlement of $168.5 million, which K12 CEO Stuart Udell characterized as “shameless and categorically incorrect” in a conference call afterward with financial analysts.

The company did agree to pay $2.5 million to the state and $6 million to the attorney general’s office. But K12 objects to the way Harris described the other $160 million.

She called it “debt relief to the non-profit schools it manages.” Udell called it “the difference between K12’s contractual price and what the schools can afford to pay” based on their state funding.

“While K12 has a contractual right to recover these balanced budget credits, in all the years that K12 has worked with the CAVA boards we have never sought to recover those amounts,” Udell said on that conference call, according to a transcript provided by K12.

The final judgment in the case describes the $160 million agreement this way: an expungement of a decade’s worth of “credits against amounts otherwise due under managed school contracts.”

Neither the conference call nor the attorney general’s news release addressed another payment: $80,000 to a former CAVA teacher turned whistleblower. She alleged she was fired because she complained about the way K12 changed the attendance records she had submitted. The attorney general intervened in her case and K12 agreed to give her $50,000 to settle her employment-related claims and $30,000 for her legal fees.

Udell told the analysts that the company settled with the attorney general to avoid a “multiyear distraction” and litigation costs that would have been many times what it agreed to pay. He also said the company plans to fight legislation in California that would prohibit charter schools from using for-profit companies like his. And he said K12, which runs some 80 schools in 33 states, has plans to expand, going statewide in Alabama and Virginia and adding schools in other states, including Indiana, Michigan, Nevada and Maine.

California Attorney General probe leads to $168.5 million settlement with for-profit online school operator

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

Posted:
 
07/08/2016 11:54:50 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO — Facing a torrent of accusations, a for-profit company that operates taxpayer-funded online charter schools throughout California has reached a $168.5 million settlement with the state over claims it manipulated attendance records and overstated its students’ success.

The deal, announced Friday by Attorney General Kamala Harris, comes almost three months after the Bay Area News Group published an investigation of K12 Inc., a publicly traded Virginia company, which raked in more than $310 million in state funding over the past 12 years operating a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” schools for about 15,000 students.

File photo: California Virtual Academies student Lillian Lewis, 11, studies online before her gymnastics practice on Nov. 11, 2015, at her Pleasanton home. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group archives)

“Knowing that something will be done to address the schools’ problems is very reassuring,” said Gabriela Novak, who pulled her daughter Elizabeth from K12’s San Mateo County school after a year of frustrations and difficulty communicating with her teachers. “Finally, the system is working.”

Harris’ office found that K12 and the 14 California Virtual Academies used deceptive advertising to mislead families about students’ academic progress, parents’ satisfaction with the program and their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California State University admission — issues that were exposed in this news organization’s April report.

The settlement could help spur legislation that would prevent for-profit companies like K12 from operating public schools in California.

The Attorney General’s office also found that K12 and its affiliated schools collected more state funding from the California Department of Education than they were entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data and that the company leaned on the nonprofit schools to sign unfavorable contracts that put them in a deep financial hole.

“K12 and its schools misled parents and the State of California by claiming taxpayer dollars for questionable student attendance, misstating student success and parent satisfaction and loading nonprofit charities with debt,” Harris said in a statement. “This settlement ensures K12 and its schools are held accountable and make much-needed improvements.”

The California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association both applauded Harris’ announcement and denounced the company’s practices — even though the two special-interest groups are frequently foes.

But in a news release Friday, K12 stressed that it had admitted no wrongdoing and insisted it had already planned to take up several of the 60 corrective actions required under the agreement over the next few years. It also disputed the attorney general’s description of the size of the settlement, calling it “flat wrong.”

“Despite our full cooperation throughout the process, the Office of the Attorney General grossly mischaracterized the value of the settlement just as it did with regard to the issues it investigated,” K12 Chief Executive Officer Stuart Udell said in the statement.

Under the settlement, which is subject to court approval, K12 will pay $8.5 million to settle the state’s claims.

It also agreed to “expunge” about $160 million in credits it has issued to the California Virtual Academies since 2005 that have helped the schools cover the cost of the contracts they hold with the company, whose rates routinely exceed what the schools can afford.

But Udell said that the credits should be called “subsidies,” not debts, and that the company’s commitment to expunge them shouldn’t be used by Harris to hike the size of the settlement. He also defended the credits, saying they had protected the schools against financial uncertainties.

“(The) schools have not paid that money to K12 and K12 never expected to receive it given California’s funding environment,” Udell said.

This news organization’s investigation into K12’s California schools revealed the company reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding while graduating fewer than half of its high school students. It also showed that kids who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto K12’s software may have been counted as “present” in records used to calculate the amount of funding the schools get from the state.

The revelations show why California needs tighter rules for online charter schools, said Bruce Fuller, an education policy professor at UC Berkeley.

“Virtual charter schools’ profit-seeking too often leads to deception about their true effectiveness,” Fuller said. “The Legislature should move aggressively to prevent such harm to students and taxpayers.”

The settlement requires K12 to take a slew of corrective actions.

The company must: ensure the accuracy of its advertisements, train teachers to prevent improper attendance claims and reform the way K12 contracts with the California Virtual Academies.

K12 must also eliminate any type of incentive compensation for its enrollment staff, provide all students functional computers and give families a subsidy of at least $20 per month to cover the cost of high-speed internet service.

Emily Bertelli, a spokeswoman for the California Charter Schools Association, called the settlement “a good start,” but said the Legislature must change the law to prevent such abusive practices from happening again.

When lawmakers return to work in August after a monthlong summer recess, they’ll consider Assembly Bill 1084, authored by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, which would ban online charter schools from hiring for-profit companies for instructional services.

Bertelli’s group has offered amendments that it believes will strengthen that proposed legislation.

“We are hopeful that the Legislature doesn’t miss an opportunity at this critical juncture to do right by students,” Bertelli said in a statement.

Contact Jessica Calefati at 916-441-2101. Follow her at Twitter.com/Calefati.

Online school operator agrees to $168.5 million settlement after being accused of manipulating records

July 9, 2016

Updated 4:48 p.m.

SACRAMENTO – A for-profit company that operates online charter schools in California has reached a $168.5 million settlement with the state over claims it manipulated attendance records and overstated the academic progress of students.

The deal announced Friday by Attorney General Kamala Harris also requires Virginia-based K12 Inc. to take a slew of corrective actions, the East Bay Times reported Saturday.

The settlement comes almost three months after the Bay Area News Group published an investigation of K12 Inc., which received more than $310 million in state funding for its profitable but low-performing network of California Virtual Academies, or CAVA, which serve about 15,000 students.

Harris’ office found that K12 and its 14 “virtual” schools in California used deceptive advertising to mislead families about students’ academic progress, parents’ satisfaction with the program and their graduates’ eligibility for admission at the University of California and California State University.

The Attorney General’s office also found that K12 collected more state funding than it was entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data.

“K12 and its schools misled parents and the State of California by claiming taxpayer dollars for questionable student attendance, misstating student success and parent satisfaction and loading nonprofit charities with debt,” Harris said in a statement.

Under the settlement, K12 will pay $8.5 million to settle the state’s claims. It also agreed to expunge about $160 million in credits it has issued to the California Virtual Academies since 2005 that have helped the schools cover the cost of the contracts they hold with the company.

K12 said in a statement it had admitted no wrongdoing and insisted it had already planned to take up several of the corrective actions required under the agreement.

“Despite our full cooperation throughout the process, the Office of the Attorney General grossly mischaracterized the value of the settlement just as it did with regard to the issues it investigated,” K12 Chief Executive Officer Stuart Udell said in the statement.

Udell said that the credits should be called subsidies, not debts, and that the company’s commitment to expunge them shouldn’t be used by Harris to hike the size of the settlement. He also defended the credits, saying they had protected the schools against financial uncertainties.

Teachers claim virtual charter school company inflates enrollment

By Jane Meredith Adams | | 5 Comments

More than 30 teachers at the largest online charter school network in California filed complaints against their employer on Thursday, alleging that the schools violated state and federal laws by failing to provide special education services, inflating enrollment figures and paying for conferences in Yosemite and Palm Springs with federal money intended for students from low-income families.

The teachers filed their complaints – 69 in all – with the California Department of Education, county superintendents and nine school districts that oversee nine branches of the California Virtual Academies schools. The network operates 11 schools in California with an enrollment of 14,500 students.

“There is little oversight of virtual public schools in California,” said Cara Bryant, a longtime California Virtual Academies teacher and current teacher trainer based out of the branch known as CAVA @ Sonoma, in a statement.

“I do not believe all students are getting the education they need enrolled in CAVA,” Bryant said.

K12 Inc., the parent company of California Virtual Academies, denied the allegations and suggested they were part of an effort to unionize teachers at the schools. Other allegations included the illegal sharing of confidential student information, such as Individualized Education Plans for special education students, with all teachers; failing to keep adequate financial reserves; and failing to improve a pattern of sub-par student academic achievement and graduation rates.

At the CAVA@Los Angeles school, for example, 274 students were enrolled in the 12th grade in 2012-13 but none of those who graduated had completed all the courses required for UC or CSU admission.

“The latest round of complaints filed by a small group of individuals are consistent with prior complaints brought against the California Virtual Academies by various labor organizations seeking to represent CAVA certified teachers,” said Katrina Abston, head of schools for the network, in a statement from K12.

Some teachers at the California Virtual Academies have formed a group known as the California Virtual Educators that is seeking to unionize and affiliate with the California Teachers Association, according to Stacie Bailey, a high school science teacher at California Virtual Academies.

“As with the prior complaints, CAVA absolutely believes these current complaints are without merit,” Abston said. The charter schools undergo annual financial audits by independent external auditors, Abston said, and have “a strong record of compliance.”

David Thoming, superintendent of the New Jerusalem Elementary School District, said the district would investigate the complaints and asked the letter writers to send evidence of non-compliance. Families in the New Jerusalem district have been very happy with the CAVA@San Mateo school, he said, which provides homeschool families a structured curriculum and high school students a more flexible schedule. One student in the district is an accomplished gymnast who is enrolled in CAVA@San Mateo so she can take classes around her workout schedule.

“They love it,” Thoming said. “They wouldn’t be as large as they are if families didn’t like it.”

He added, “No one’s forcing them to go there and along the same line, for the teachers, no one’s forcing them to work there.”

Links to the complaints can be found on the California Virtual Educators website. The California Virtual Academy schools named in the complaints and the districts that oversee them are:

  • CAVA@Fresno – Orange Center School District
  • CAVA@Jamestown – Jamestown Elementary School District
  • CAVA@Kings – Armona Union Elementary School District
  • CAVA@Los Angeles – West Covina Unified School District
  • CAVA@Maricopa and CAVA@Maricopa High – Maricopa Unified School District
  • CAVA@San Diego – Spencer Valley Elementary School District
  • CAVA@San Joaquin – New Jerusalem Elementary School District
  • CAVA@San Mateo – Jefferson Elementary School District
  • CAVA@Sutter – Meridian Elementary School District

Jane Meredith Adams covers student health and well-being.

Learning company that once served local districts focus of state audit

Posted:

Learning company that once served local districts focus of state audit

SACRAMENTO — An online learning company that once partnered with Lodi Unified School District to serve its students is the focus of a state audit, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced this week.

The California Department of Education has contracted with the State Controller’s Office to conduct an audit of California Virtual Academies and the group’s related charter schools because serious questions have been raised about a number of their practices. It is expected to be completed next March.

“The goal of the audit is to make sure these schools are spending public education funds properly and serving their students well,” Torlakson said in a press release.

The State Controller’s office will conduct the review of CAVA and related charter schools to verify whether these non-profit schools:

• Are organizationally separate from K-12, Inc. a for-profit company that these non-profit charter schools contract with.

• Accurately reported attendance, enrollment, and dropout graduation rates to the California Department of Education.

• Appropriately allocated and reported shared expenses.

• Appropriately identified, accounted for and disclosed related-party relationships.

According to a lawsuit filed in San Francisco two years ago, the same organization was accused of diverting students and money to its own charter schools.

The lawsuit was filed by David Ehrenfeld, a former employee of K12, Inc. who helped the company enter a contract with Lodi Unified to create an online learning program. He claimed in his lawsuit that K12 later tried to siphon students and money into a charter school owned by K12.

Ehrenfeld, who was seeking back wages and lost commissions from K12, was the national account manager for Lodi Unified, an online program for Elk Grove Unified School District and K12’s California Virtual Academy-San Joaquin, which was overseen by Stockton Unified.

Although not specifically named in the suit, Lodi Unified entered a contract in spring 2011 with K12 to begin an online learning program for students, but the program fizzled and was not continued after two school years.

The virtual academy used one part-time and one full-time district teacher specially trained by K12, and was overseen by an Independence School administrator at Henderson School. Students were required to visit Independence School regularly to meet with a teacher to discuss progress and turn in coursework.

But the academy closed in Lodi Unified in 2013, when district officials said enrollment expectations were not met. There were only 12 students during the first school year, according to district figures, although K12 had promised at least 100 students when the program was approved by the school board.

In his lawsuit, Ehrenfeld claimed that K12 diverted students into CAVA, shifting state money based on student attendance. His also contended that unnamed clients discovered and reported that K12 was diverting students intending to enroll in public school district-operated independent study programs into K12-operated public charter schools, including CAVA.

State records show that, while Lodi’s virtual academy sputtered for lack of students, state apportionment based on CAVA’s student enrollment nearly tripled — from 559 students to 1,512 — during the time period K12 served Lodi Unified, according to the State Department of Education.

The suit did not list damages to Lodi Unified or any other district that affiliated with K12, as Ehrenheld was solely seeking compensatory damages for personal wage and benefit loss. It is unclear whether there was a resolution in the case

In a previous interview, Tim Hern, Lodi Unified’s chief business officer, said records indicate the district split student income with K12, with the district drawing $46,380 and K12 receiving $17,615. The balance was used to offset the district’s cost of instructors for the program.

Under its contract with the district, K12 coordinated and oversaw student enrollment. Hern said that arrangement could mean the district would not have been aware of irregularities in student transfers.

“Because they were handling enrollment, I don’t think we would have ever known that, if it was happening,” Hern previously said.

The K12 program was launched before he joined the district, and the district officials who orchestrated the program have since left.

California Virtual Academies defend online charter schools as model of school choice

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

Posted:
 
04/19/2016 05:26:24 AM PDT

In a vigorous defense, officials behind the California Virtual Academies branded this news organization’s investigation into their online charter schools “wrong and insulting” and an attack against a model of school choice.

But critics of K12 Inc., the Wall Street-traded company that runs the profitable but low-performing academies, called for greater oversight of its practices.

The newspaper’s two-day series examined how K12 Inc., reaps tens of millions of dollars in state funding while graduating fewer than half of the students enrolled in its high schools.

Elizabeth Novak-Galloway, 12, who used to be an A student, received C s because she was missing work she never knew had been assigned, her mother said.
Elizabeth Novak-Galloway, 12, who used to be an A student, received C s because she was missing work she never knew had been assigned, her mother said. (Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group)
(
Dai Sugano
)

In a letter sent to teachers Monday afternoon, the schools’ academic administrator, April Warren, called the newspaper’s investigative series “a gross mischaracterization of all of the work that you all do on a regular basis.” But despite their broad condemnations, neither Warren nor other school officials alleged any specific factual inaccuracies in the series.

The investigation, published Sunday and Monday, also reported that teachers have been asked to inflate attendance and enrollment records used to determine taxpayer funding.

K12 says the schools operate independently and are locally controlled. But the newspaper’s review of the academies’ contracts, tax records and other financial information suggest the Virginia-based company calls the shots, operating the schools to make money by taking advantage of laws governing charters and nonprofit organizations. K12’s heavily marketed model in California has helped the company collect more than $310 million in state funding over the past 12 years.

State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, said the performance of any publicly financed school should be a matter of concern for taxpayers — and lawmakers.

“Charter schools were created to give parents and students an alternative to how public schools were delivering instruction,” Beall said Monday. “But it has never been the state’s intent to permit online for-profit charter schools to fail students or gouge taxpayers. Students must not be viewed as cash cows.”

However, the company, a top administrator for the online school network and the board of directors for one of the academies serving Bay Area students all released similarly worded statements Monday, blasting the newspaper’s investigation.

Together, members of the California Virtual Academy at San Mateo’s board of directors called allegations that they have “any other interest except for our children” and their families both “wrong and insulting.”

The statement said the network of online schools has for years endured similar attacks on its track record from charter opponents and the California Teachers Association, which is attempting to unionize employees at the schools.

“Parents want choice in education,” the statement said. “Students deserve options because one size does not fit all. We love our school.”

The board insisted in its statement that each of the K12-partner schools are “governed independently by their nonprofit school boards made up of California residents including parents, educators, and local community leaders.”

The newspaper’s investigation revealed that two of the four board members at the San Mateo County school — board president Don Burbulys and member Stephen Warren — are related to top academy administrators who are hand-picked by K12.

Burbulys, who is married to Dean of Students Laura Terrazas, lives in Soquel in Santa Cruz County, and Warren, who is the brother-in-law of April Warren, lives in Riverside County.

Defending her brother-in-law’s oversight of her work, April Warren wrote in her letter to teachers that “relatives are permitted to serve on a California nonprofit board” and that “several school districts have people who sit on their boards that are either parents, employees or are related to employees of the district that they serve.”

The California Charter Schools Association and California Teachers Association on Monday said the Legislature should take a hard look at whether for-profit companies like K12 should be operating schools in California and whether the state can do more to ensure charter schools are overseen properly.

“When taxpayer money is used to fund education, those dollars should go to help kids,” said California Teachers Association President Eric Heins. “In this case, we have no idea how the company is spending our tax dollars and it’s not right. This is pretty basic stuff.”

Online charter schools only work with a fraction of the kids enrolled in California’s roughly 1,200 charters, but that doesn’t mean they should be held to a lower standard of accountability, said Emily Bertelli, a spokeswoman for the California Charter Schools Association, which publicly called for the closure of a K12-run school in 2011 only to see the school reopened with a new name under the same authorizer.

Former Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said in an interview Monday that none of the newspaper’s findings surprised him. He said he’d seen many of the same issues unfold in his state, where he tried, and failed to shut down K12’s Tennessee Virtual Academy because of poor performance.

“This company’s efforts to grow bear no relationship whatsoever to the quality of their results in California and across the country,” Huffman said.

“You would hope that an online virtual school — especially one run by a for-profit company — would only have the opportunity to grow with really high-quality results,” Huffman said. “K12 isn’t coming close to meeting a high bar in terms of quality.”

One Redwood City parent who contacted this newspaper, saying the investigative series “hit close to home,” said his son, who is now a sophomore in college, took K12’s advanced courses, earned A’s and B’s and finished at the top of his class when he was a student at one of the company-run California schools. But when his son applied to a local community college, he was stunned to learn he had to take remedial math and English courses because he was so far behind.

Other parents, however, contacted the newspaper to defend the schools, saying the online learning model was vital to their sons’ and daughters’ academic success.

Maureen Behlen said her son thrived in K12’s school because she “put everything into it,” spending several hours a day teaching him and guiding him through his coursework. She said an online school isn’t the right fit for families who can’t devote as much time to the program as she did.

“Would you send a bunch of kids into a classroom with no teachers? Of course not,” said Behlen, who lives in the foothills in East San Jose. “There has to be an adult responsible for overseeing what they’re learning, and if there isn’t, you’re setting them up to fail.”

Contact Jessica Calefati at 916-441-2101. Follow her at Twitter.com/Calefati.

Enrollment open for online school, California Virtual Academy @ San Diego

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 courtesy Education 0 comments

Education

Enrollment for San Diego area students in grades K-12 is now open for the full-time, tuition-free, online public school, California Virtual Academy @ San Diego (CAVA@ San Diego). The public school option uses the engaging, award-winning K12 curriculum. Students who enroll in CAVA@ San Diego receive an individualized education experience designed to their learning style and needs.

CAVA@ San Diego is part of a network of 11 schools in California that use the K¹² online curriculum to offer students in grades K–12 an exceptional learning experience. Families enroll in CAVA@ San Diego for a wide variety of reasons. Some students are advanced learners, motivated to increase their knowledge beyond the basic course offerings, while others are athletes or performers looking to balance a full schedule. Innovative technology combined with a strong partnership between families and teachers makes it possible to focus on each student’s unique academic needs, and gives a growing number of San Diego students a powerful educational option to reach their true potential.

“The teachers, parents, curriculum and school community all come together at CAVA@ San Diego to create a truly well-rounded educational experience for each child,” Katrina Abston, Senior Head of Schools for California Virtual Academies. “More than being unique because of our flexible virtual school setting, CAVA@ San Diego stands out because of our focus on individualized learning.”

Students who enroll at CAVA@ San Diego receive an individualized learning program that includes web-based lessons along with age-appropriate instructional materials – books, videos, CDs and other hands-on tools and resources.

Teachers for CAVA@ San Diego are California-credentialed and provide instruction, guidance and support, and regularly interact with students and parents via email, web-based classrooms, online discussions, phone and face-to-face meetings.

In addition to the academic focus, CAVA@ San Diego provides several social engagement opportunities for students. The school year is filled with numerous field trips, school activities, community service opportunities and weekly face-to-face meet-up for students.

CAVA@ San Diego is accepting enrollment of students for the 2016-2017 school year. For a complete list of information sessions or to learn more about enrolling, visit http://cava.k12.com or call 866-339-6787.

About California Virtual Academy@ San Diego
California Virtual Academy@ San Diego is a tuition-free, online public school serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade who are residents of Imperial, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties. California-credentialed teachers deliver lessons in an online classroom platform provided by K12 Inc. (NYSE: LRN) with a combination of engaging online and offline coursework—including a wide variety of books, CDs, videos, and hands-on materials that make learning come alive. CAVA @ San Diego provides opportunities for advanced learners, and prepares students to be college and career ready at graduation. Learn more at http://cava.k12.com.

This article is a courtesy release.

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This author is used when OC Breeze publishes news releases from other organizations.

Can California AG’s new bureau clean up for-profit virtual schools?

A K12 Inc subpoena revealed in an SEC filing reveals wider investigation of virtual charters

Inside a carefully decorated home, a young girl in a navy sweater and a plaid scarf sits in front of a roaring fire place. Two framed photographs of her sit in the background, perched on a granite mantel. This is Emma. She’s in sixth grade.

“I used to go to traditional schools, and I’d get left behind,” she says. “There’s 30 students in my class and there’s only one teacher, and she can’t always get to each student.”

Emma stars in a promotional video on the website for California Virtual Academies, a chain of online virtual schools run by the online school management company K12 Inc.

Yet it’s online students like Emma who are now reportedly getting left behind — one issue, among many, that may have helped spark a new state investigation of the virtual schools industry.

On September 24, 2015, K12 Inc. was subpoenaed by the California Bureau of Children’s Justice, a new arm of the California Attorney General’s Office. A K12 SEC filing revealed that the subpoena was related to an industry-wide investigation of for-profit online charter schools.

“At this early stage, the Company is not aware of any material adverse effect this industry-wide investigation would have on the results of its operation and financial condition,” the filing stated.

A history of controversy and complaints

This isn’t the first time that K12’s California branch has come under scrutiny .

Earlier this year, a searing report from In The Public Interest , a DC-based research and policy institute, found that California Virtual Academies (CAVA), a chain of 11 virtual charter schools in California, was “a failing system that consistently produces more dropouts than graduates.”

The report called CAVA’s San Diego branch, which serves around 3,000 students, a “low-quality education in a poorly sourced educational setting.” It also noted that CAVA only graduated around 58% of its students, as opposed to approximately 80% in California overall.

That’s a problem, in part, because high school dropouts cost the state a reported $46 billion dollars in decreased revenue annually.

Before the release of the report lambasting CAVA, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) included a CAVA school, CAVA Kern in Simi Valley, in its  recommendations of 10 schools to close due to academic underperformance and a failure to meet the association’s Minimum Criteria for Renewal.

The other nine charters on CCSA’s list included Los Angeles County Online High , run by Olin Virtual Academy, currently still in operation.

A total of 31 charters ranked “Below CCSA’s Minimum Criteria for Renewal.”

Thirty-six online charters operate in California, according to the National Education Policy Center.

California teachers have also spoken out against CAVA, banding together to stage protests complete with props like empty school chairs meant to represent CAVA’s low graduation rates.

“We need local school districts to hold CAVA administrators accountable, so our students can thrive,” CAVA Los Angeles teacher Stacie Bailey told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune .

A New Office; A New Investigation

Last February, California Attorney General Kamala Harris opened a new office within the California Department of Justice: the Bureau of Children’s Justice. Two of the new bureau’s five core priority areas include tackling the state’s “elementary school truancy crisis” and “discrimination and inequities in education.”

Within seven months, at least one subpoena had already been filed in relation to an industry-wide investigation into for-profit online charters in the state.

Kristin Ford, a press secretary at the California Department of Justice, declined to comment “in order to protect the integrity of our investigations.”

A 2013-14 report by the National Education Policy Center, ” Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2014 ,” agreed, finding that 30% of online charters hadn’t received state accountability or performance ratings.

“Of the 231 schools with ratings,” the report says, “only 33.76% had academically acceptable ratings. On average, virtual schools’ Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results were 22 percentage points lower than those of brick-and-mortar schools.”

And in California, only 5 out of 36 virtual schools met AYP targets.

Virtual school performance: A national problem

Around the country, virtual charters have been scrutinized in Maine , Florida , Oklahoma , Ohio , and Massachusetts.

Overall, graduation rates for virtual schools are around half the national average, the NEPC report says .

And a recent 2015 report of 158 virtual charter schools from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that the schools have an “overwhelming negative impact” on student learning as compared to traditional schools.

K12 Inc. has also long been the subject of intense media scrutiny. Last year, Bloomberg reported that the company had “lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year.”

And in 2011, the New York Times investigated the company, noting that “a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.” High-profile investors began  shorting K12 stock .

Are companies anticipating virtual classroom closures?

With ongoing controversy around transparency, student performance, and financial clarity, K12 has expressed interest in turning its focus to ed-tech and curriculum development instead.

A recent Buzzfeed article noted that the company’s CEO, Nathaniel Davis, said “… Most growth opportunities exist in the small slice of K12’s business devoted to selling content and curriculum,” reporting that the company planned to focus on “an increasing amount of energy and investment on selling its curriculum, called FuelEd , as well as software and other individual services …”

Education Week also reported the  pending transition , calling it a “rebranding move.”

New legislation proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Roger Hernandez that would prohibit all for-profit corporations from operating charter schools, online or not, in the state was successfully adopted by the California legislature earlier this year, in February. Yet the bill won’t go into effect until 2017.

For now, California Virtual Academies remain in expansion mode, with a self-reported total enrollment of around 16,000 students.

It’s unclear whether the new state investigation into the for-profit virtual school industry by the Attorney General’s office will change that.

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Governor Brown has until October 11 to sign or veto legislation that would ban for-profit charter schools in California. it is outrageous to squander taxpayer dollars on profits for investors and outrageous executive salaries. This bill should be a slam dunk for Governor Brown, a man with a keen sense of justice. Now I hope the legislature tightens oversight of nonprofit charter schools and reviews their executive salaries to be sure that they really are nonprofit. And while they are at it, they should ban charter schools in affluent communities, which violate the spirit if the charter movement, which wassupposedto help the neediest kids, not to enable rich parents to create a publicly-funded private school for their children.

Here is the legislation awaiting Governor Brown’s signature:

“For-profit charter schools: Charter schools run by for-profit corporations would not be allowed in California under the terms of AB 787, authored by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, which passed the Legislature. Six for-profit charter schools operate in the state, and California Virtual Academies, managed by the for-profit K12 Inc., is the largest. The bill’s author noted that K12 paid its top six executives a total of nearly $11 million in 2011-12, while the average California Virtual Academies teacher’s salary was $36,150, about half of the average teacher pay in the state. The author raised the question of whether a for-profit corporation would try to limit services to students to increase profits.”

via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1PNH93t