What a crock of shit.  The survey asked the parents.  Didn’t bother to check the test scores of the kids.  Of course the parents think their kids did great.  They got A’s when they used to get D’s and F’s.  People are such idiots.

ORVA (K12) Students:  Voted most likely to live off their parents for the rest of their lives.

94% of Oregon Virtual Academy Students Benefitted Academically From Curriculum in 2015-2016

August 31, 2016

(Graphic: Business Wire) Multimedia Gallery URL

PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

Students at Oregon Virtual Academy (ORVA), an accredited, full-time, online public charter school, will begin their 2016-2017 school year on September 6, as the program marks its ninth year of operation in the state. According to a spring 2016 survey conducted by Edge Research, 94% of the families with students enrolled in the school during the 2015-2016 school year felt that their child had benefitted academically from the curriculum.

This Smart News Release features multimedia. View the full release here: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160831006588/en/

ORVA is open to all students in grades K through 12 who reside in Oregon. The rigorous and engaging curriculum offered by the school includes courses in language arts/English, math, science, history, world languages, art and music, as well as elective and Advanced Placement® courses for high school students. State-certified teachers provide instruction, guidance and support, and interact with students and parents via email, web-based classrooms, online discussions, phone and face-to-face meetings. As a public school option, there is no tuition.

ORVA students receive a well-rounded education and one that prepares them for successes after high school,” said Brandy Osborn, Head of School of Oregon Virtual Academy. “We at ORVA are proud of our school, our teachers, staff, and students. ORVA is a great choice for families who are interested in being actively involved in their children’s education.”

Flexibility is a key benefit for ORVA students. The online school setting enables advanced learners to progress faster in subjects at which they excel, while students who need more time to grasp a concept can get that opportunity. Additionally, teachers develop a personalized learning plan for each student that is mapped to their individual educational goals.

ORVA is still accepting enrollments for this fall. For more information, visit the school’s website at www.k12.com/orva.

About Oregon Virtual Academy

Oregon Virtual Academy (ORVA) is an online public charter school authorized by the North Bend School District and open to students in grades K through 12. As part of the Oregon public school system, ORVA is tuition-free, giving parents and families the choice to access the award-winning curriculum and tools provided by K12 Inc. (LRN), the nation’s largest provider of proprietary curriculum and online education programs. For more information about ORVA, visit www.k12.com/orva.

View source version on businesswire.com: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160831006588/en/

MULTIMEDIA AVAILABLE:http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160831006588/en/

What a crock of shit.  The survey asked the parents.  Didn’t bother to check the test scores of the kids.  Of course the parents think their kids did great.  They got A’s when they used to get D’s and F’s.  People are such idiots.

94% of Oregon Virtual Academy Students Benefitted Academically From Curriculum in 2015-2016

<i–< Students return to online public school September 6 —

August 31, 2016 07:28 PM Eastern Daylight Time

PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Students at Oregon Virtual Academy (ORVA),an accredited, full-time, online public charter school, will begin their 2016-2017 school year on September 6, as the program marks its ninth year of operation in the state. According to a spring 2016 survey conducted by Edge Research, 94% of the families with students enrolled in the school during the 2015-2016 school year felt that their child had benefitted academically from the curriculum.

ORVA students head back to school on Sept. 6!

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ORVA is open to all students in grades K through 12 who reside in Oregon. The rigorous and engaging curriculum offered by the school includes courses in language arts/English, math, science, history, world languages, art and music, as well as elective and Advanced Placement® courses for high school students. State-certified teachers provide instruction, guidance and support, and interact with students and parents via email, web-based classrooms, online discussions, phone and face-to-face meetings. As a public school option, there is no tuition.

“ORVA students receive a well-rounded education and one that prepares them for successes after high school,” said Brandy Osborn, Head of School of Oregon Virtual Academy. “We at ORVA are proud of our school, our teachers, staff, and students. ORVA is a great choice for families who are interested in being actively involved in their children’s education.”

Flexibility is a key benefit for ORVA students. The online school setting enables advanced learners to progress faster in subjects at which they excel, while students who need more time to grasp a concept can get that opportunity. Additionally, teachers develop a personalized learning plan for each student that is mapped to their individual educational goals.

ORVA is still accepting enrollments for this fall. For more information, visit the school’s website at www.k12.com/orva.

About Oregon Virtual Academy

Oregon Virtual Academy (ORVA) is an online public charter school authorized by the North Bend School District and open to students in grades K through 12. As part of the Oregon public school system, ORVA is tuition-free, giving parents and families the choice to access the award-winning curriculum and tools provided by K12 Inc. (NYSE: LRN), the nation’s largest provider of proprietary curriculum and online education programs. For more information about ORVA, visit www.k12.com/orva.

Contacts

Team Soapbox
Anne Heavey, 206-528-2550
anne@teamsoapbox.com

Online School Students’ First Day of School is at Home

<i–< Idaho Technical Career Academy students return to online public
school September 6 —

August 30, 2016 05:50 PM Eastern Daylight Time

MERIDIAN, Idaho–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Students across the state of Idaho in grades K-12 will be returning to
school this fall in the comfort of their own home, having chosen to
attend the full-time, tuition-free, online public school, Idaho
Technical Career Academy (ITCA). ITCA has been operating in Idaho since
2014.

First day of school for ITCA students is September 6!

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ITCA is the state’s only career-technical education online public
charter school serving students in grades 9 through 12. Students have
the opportunity to explore four program options in key industries of
growth in the state: Business Administration, Automated Manufacturing,
Web Design, and Healthcare. The goal of ITCA is to develop a sequence of
instruction that teaches students occupational skills while ultimately
providing a pathway to job opportunities or to a technical college
program upon graduation.

The online school setting enables students in any geographic area of the
state to utilize this unique curriculum. Furthermore, the flexible
learning environment enables students to partner with professionals and
companies to apply the skills they are learning in a specific industry.

ITCA uses the award-winning K12 online curriculum to offer students in
grades K–12 an exceptional learning experience. The innovative
curriculum and technology, combined with a strong partnership between
families and teachers, creates an opportunity for teachers to focus on
each student’s academic needs, and gives a growing number of students a
powerful educational option to reach their true potential.

“ITCA is a new and exciting school option for kids in Idaho,” said Monti
Pittman, Head of School for ITCA. “The focus on career and technical
skill sets – combined with the commitment and passion of our staff –
provides our students with an amazing learning experience.”

Teachers for ITCA are Idaho-credentialed and provide instruction,
guidance and support, and interact with students and parents via email,
web-based classrooms, online discussions, phone and face-to-face
meetings.

ITCA is accepting enrollments for this fall. To learn more about
enrollment requirements visit http://itca.k12.com/.

About Idaho Technical Career Academy

Idaho Technical Career Academy (ITCA) is a full-time online public
school program that serves students in grades 9 through 12 statewide. As
part of the Idaho public school system, ITCA is tuition-free, giving
parents and families the choice to access the award-winning curriculum
and tools provided by K12 Inc. (NYSE: LRN),
the nation’s largest provider of proprietary curriculum and online
education programs. For more information about ITCA, visit http://itca.k12.com/.

Contacts

Team SoapboxAnne Heavey, 206-528-2550anne@teamsoapbox.com

Online schools: Susan Bonilla shelves bill after interest groups water it down

Former California Virtual Academies student Elizabeth Novak-Galloway, 12, plays a video game on her laptop in her home in San Francisco on.
Dai Sugano — Bay Area News Group

By Jessica Calefati, Bay Area News Group

Posted:
08/30/16, 8:09 PM PDT

Updated: 4 hrs ago

0 Comments

California Virtual Academies teacher Julianne Knapp teaches her students during her online class on at a public library in San Jose.
Dai Sugano — Bay Area News Group

SACRAMENTO >> Legislation that originally sought to ban online charter schools from hiring for-profit firms to provide management or instructional services stalled Wednesday in the state Senate almost two weeks after the author substantially amended and watered down the measure.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Concord Democrat, introduced Assembly Bill 1084 in response to the Mercury News’ investigation of K12 Inc., the publicly traded Virginia company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies serving about 15,000 students across the state.

The legislation cleared the Senate Education Committee in June on a party line 6-2 vote after a spirited debate about the role private companies should play in public education.

But substantial opposition from the company whose operations she sought to rein in and disagreement between the state’s largest teachers union and an influential charter schools advocacy group about the bill’s goals forced Bonilla to modify its language, removing all references to rules for online schools.

In an interview Tuesday, Bonilla said she carried the bill to ensure that public money for schools is used to educate students, not to enrich corporate shareholders. She said she also had hoped the legislation would boost online schools’ accountability. In the end, however, even the stripped-down version drew unexpected opposition from a school employees union and Republican lawmakers and had to be shelved.

“The bill started out targeting online charter schools because that is where we have witnessed this problem most,” said Bonilla, who is leaving the Legislature this year because of term limits. But “as we delved deeper into the details, it became apparent that because of the complex structures of these organizations, getting to the bad actors would be challenging.”

The newspaper’s stories revealed that K12 reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding while graduating fewer than half of its high school students and that kids who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto K12’s software may be counted as “present” in records used to calculate the amount of funding the schools get from the state.

The two-part series also showed that the online schools are not really independent from K12, as the company claims. The academies’ contracts, tax records and other financial information suggest that K12 calls the shots, operating the schools to make money by taking advantage of laws governing charter schools and nonprofit organizations.

In the months since the newspaper published its findings, state Controller Betty Yee launched an audit of the K12-managed California Virtual Academies. And following a probe by the state Attorney General’s Office, K12 agreed to a $168.5 million settlement with the state over claims it manipulated attendance records and overstated its students’ success.

A spokesman for K12 could not be reached for comment on Bonilla’s decision to shelve AB 1084. But an analysis of the legislation prepared by Senate staff members shows the company didn’t oppose the latest version of the measure, which would have required all charter schools to operate as nonprofits.

The reason is that since K12 is technically a “vendor” of the schools it controls, its operations in California wouldn’t have been impacted by the measure at all.

In the weeks since the Senate Education Committee’s hearing on the bill, Bonilla had been working closely with the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association to craft bill language that satisfied both powerful interest groups. And although the groups agree that for-profit companies like K12 shouldn’t be allowed to run charter schools in this state, they disagreed on strategy.

“We tried for weeks to negotiate something with Ms. Bonilla,” said Jed Wallace, the charter group’s executive director. “What we were trying to do was related, but different.”

The union wanted to keep Bonilla’s original concept of a broad ban. But the charter group supported a more “surgical approach” that would have prohibited companies from having any role in the selection, interview or appointment of a charter school’s board members; barred them from developing, proposing or approving a school’s annual budget or expenditures; and limited the number of teachers the firm could employ or manage directly.

The version of the legislation Bonilla abandoned Wednesday was the result of “compromise” between the two groups, she said, adding that she hopes another lawmaker committed to charter school accountability picks up next year where she left off.

“(My work) sets a firm baseline from which to pursue further legislative fixes in the future,” Bonilla said.

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Online schools: Bay Area Assemblywoman shelves bill after interest groups water it down

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

Posted:
 
08/31/2016 04:29:04 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO — Legislation that originally sought to ban online charter schools from hiring for-profit firms to provide management or instructional services stalled Wednesday in the state Senate almost two weeks after the author substantially amended and watered down the measure.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Concord Democrat, introduced Assembly Bill 1084 in response to this newspaper’s investigation of K12 Inc., the publicly traded Virginia company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies serving about 15,000 students across the state.

The legislation cleared the Senate Education Committee in June on a party line 6-2 vote after a spirited debate about the role private companies should play in public education.

File photo: Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Concord Democrat, introduced Assembly Bill 1084 in response to this newspaper’s investigation of K12 Inc. (Bay Area News Group archives)

But substantial opposition from the company whose operations she sought to rein in and disagreement between the state’s largest teachers union and an influential charter schools advocacy group about the bill’s goals forced Bonilla to modify its language, removing all references to rules for online schools.

In an interview Tuesday, Bonilla said she carried the bill to ensure that public money for schools is used to educate students, not to enrich corporate shareholders. She said she also had hoped the legislation would boost online schools’ accountability. In the end, however, even the stripped-down version drew unexpected opposition from a school employees union and Republican lawmakers and had to be shelved.

“The bill started out targeting online charter schools because that is where we have witnessed this problem most,” said Bonilla, who is leaving the Legislature this year because of term limits. But “as we delved deeper into the details, it became apparent that because of the complex structures of these organizations, getting to the bad actors would be challenging.”

The newspaper’s stories revealed that K12 reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding while graduating fewer than half of its high school students and that kids who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged onto K12’s software may be counted as “present” in records used to calculate the amount of funding the schools get from the state.

The two-part series also showed that the online schools are not really independent from K12, as the company claims. The academies’ contracts, tax records and other financial information suggest that K12 calls the shots, operating the schools to make money by taking advantage of laws governing charter schools and nonprofit organizations.

In the months since the newspaper published its findings, state Controller Betty Yee launched an audit of the K12-managed California Virtual Academies. And following a probe by the state attorney general’s office, K12 agreed to a $168.5 million settlement with the state over claims it manipulated attendance records and overstated its students’ success.

A spokesman for K12 could not be reached for comment on Bonilla’s decision to shelve AB 1084. But an analysis of the legislation prepared by Senate staff shows the company didn’t oppose the latest version of the measure, which would have required all charter schools to operate as nonprofits.

The reason is that since K12 is technically a “vendor” of the schools it controls, its operations in California wouldn’t have been impacted by the measure at all.

In the weeks since the Senate Education Committee’s hearing on the bill, Bonilla had been working closely with the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association to craft bill language that satisfied both powerful interest groups. And although the groups agree that for-profit companies like K12 shouldn’t be allowed to run charter schools in this state, they disagreed on strategy.

“We tried for weeks to negotiate something with Ms. Bonilla,” said Jed Wallace, the charter group’s executive director. “What we were trying to do was related but different.”

The union wanted to keep Bonilla’s original concept of a broad ban. But the charter group supported a more “surgical approach” that would have prohibited companies from having any role in the selection, interview or appointment of a charter school’s board members; barred them from developing, proposing or approving a school’s annual budget or expenditures; and limited the number of teachers the firm could employ or manage directly.

The version of the legislation Bonilla abandoned Wednesday was the result of “compromise” between the two groups, she said, adding that she hopes another lawmaker committed to charter school accountability picks up next year where she left off.

“(My work) sets a firm baseline from which to pursue further legislative fixes in the future,” Bonilla said.

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

Students Head Back to School by Staying Home

<i–< School begins August 29 for online public school students

August 25, 2016 04:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time

SIMI VALLEY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Local students in the areas of Kern, Inyo, Santa Barbara and San
Bernardino will begin their first day of the 2016-17 school year on
August 29 from the comfort of their own homes, choosing to attend the
full-time, tuition-free, online public charter school California Virtual
Academy @ Maricopa (CAVA @ Maricopa).

CAVA @ Maricopa is one of 10 independent charter schools in California
that uses the K12
online curriculum
 to offer students in grades K–12 a unique learning
experience. The virtual school setting allows both advanced learners and
those students who need additional assistance the support to find the
individualized learning experience they seek. The K12 online
curriculum enables teachers, parents and the students to build an
individualized learning plan, and provides support and flexibility in
the structure of the school setting.

“The students that enroll in California Virtual Academy @ Maricopa seek
a personalized learning experience that enables them to excel and
explore their own learning style,” said Kimberly Odom, Director of
Special Education. “Each student receives quality instruction and
support in a one-on-one setting as they grow throughout the year.”

Additionally, the schools offer a unique program called Community Day
that combines the best of online learning with weekly face-to-face
interaction. During Community Days students receive instruction from
teachers in math and language arts and participate in various other
educational activities, such as PE and science fairs, while parents
receive support and network with other parents.

CAVA @ Maricopa is still accepting enrollment of students for the
2016-2017 school year. In-person and online information sessions are
being held throughout the month.

For a complete list of back to school events and information sessions or
to learn more about enrolling, visit http://cava.k12.com
or call (866) 339-6787.

California Virtual Academy @ Maricopa

California Virtual Academy @ Maricopa is a tuition-free, online public
schools serving students in K-12 who are residents of Kern, Inyo, Santa
Barbara and San Bernardino 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 are delivered to the student and make learning come
alive. Common household items and office supplies such as printer ink
and paper are not provided. California Virtual Academy @ Maricopa
provides opportunities for advanced learners, and prepares students to
be college and career ready at graduation. Learn more at http://cava.k12.com.

Contacts

Team SoapboxAnne Heavey, 206-528-2550anne@teamsoapbox.com

Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio’s Virtual Charter Schools

August 02, 2016

Vertical Tabs

Fordham’s latest study, conducted by learning technology researcher June Ahn from NYU, dives into one of the most promising—and contentious—issues in education today: virtual schools. What type of students choose them? Which online courses do students take? Do virtual schools lead to improved outcomes for kids?

With over thirty-five thousand students enrolled in its fully online charter schools (“e-schools”), Ohio boasts one of the country’s largest populations of full-time virtual students. The sector has also grown tremendously, with a 60 percent increase in enrollment over the past four years—more than any other type of public school. Using four years of comprehensive student-level data to examine Ohio’s e-schools, the study finds: 

  • E-school students are mostly similar in race and ethnicity to students in brick-and-mortar district schools. But e-school students are lower-achieving (and more likely to have repeated the prior grade), more likely to participate in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, and less likely to participate in gifted education.
  • Students taking online math courses are more likely to enroll in basic classes relative to students taking face-to-face courses. Almost no students take advanced math courses (like AP Statistics, Calculus, or Algebra II) online, especially compared to students who take face-to-face classes.
  • Across all grades and subjects, students who attend e-schools perform worse on state tests than otherwise-similar students who attend brick-and-mortar district schools, even accounting for prior achievement. In contrast, students in grades 4–8 who attend brick-and-mortar charter schools perform slightly better than their district school counterparts in both reading and math. Results are mixed but modest for students in grade ten.
  • Findings also suggest that e-schools drag down the performance of the entire charter sector.

Online schools offer an efficient way to diversify—and even democratize—education in a connected world. Yet they have received negative, but well-deserved, attention concerning their poor academic performance, attrition rates, and ill capacity to educate the types of students who enroll in them. This is especially true in Ohio, where virtual schools have failed (as yet) to realize their potential.

Using a slightly different analytical approach than CREDO’s Online Charter School Study (2015), Dr. Ahn’s results corroborate the disappointing findings on Ohio’s online schools. Bold changes in policy and practice are needed to ensure that these schools better serve their students. For advocates of online learning and educational choice, the work has just begun.

Can Policymakers Fix What Ails Online Charter Schools?

By Dara Zeehandelaar and Michael J. Petrilli

08/08/2016

A major development of recent years has been the explosive growth of online learning in K–12 education. Sometimes it takes the form of “blended learning,” with students receiving a mix of online and face-to-face instruction. Students may also learn via web-based resources like the Khan Academy, or by enrolling in distance-learning “independent study” courses. In addition, an increasing number of pupils are taking the plunge into fully online schools: In 2015, an estimated 275,000 students enrolled in full-time virtual charter schools across twenty-five states.

The Internet has obviously opened a new frontier of instructional possibilities. Much less certain is whether such opportunities are actually improving achievement, especially for the types of students who enroll in virtual schools. In Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio’s Virtual Charter Schools, we at Fordham examined this issue using data from our home state of Ohio, where online charter schools (“e-schools”) are a rapidly growing segment of K–12 education. Today they enroll more than thirty-five thousand students, one of the country’s largest populations of full-time online students. Ohio e-school enrollment has grown 60 percent over the last four years, a rate greater than any other type of public school. But even since they launched, e-schools have received negative press for their poor academic performance, high attrition rates, and questionable capacity to educate the types of students who choose them. It’s clearly a sector that needs attention.

Our study focuses on the demographics, course-taking patterns, and academic results of pupils attending Ohio’s e-schools. It was authored by Dr. June Ahn, an associate professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. He’s an expert in how technology can enhance how education is delivered and how students learn.

Using student-level data from 2009–10 through 2012–13, Dr. Ahn reports that e-schools serve a unique population. Compared to students in brick-and-mortar district schools, e-school students are initially lower-achieving (and more likely to have repeated the prior grade), more likely to participate in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, and less likely to participate in gifted education. (Brick-and-mortar charters attract even lower-performing students.)

The analysis also finds that, controlling for demographics and prior achievement, e-school students perform worse than students who attend brick-and-mortar district schools. Put another way, on average, Ohio’s e-school students start the school year academically behind and lose even more ground (relative to their peers) during the year. That finding corroborates the disappointing results from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) 2015 analysis of virtual charter schools nationwide, which used a slightly different analytical approach.

Importantly, this study considers e-school students separately from those in other charters. It finds that brick-and-mortar charter students in grades 4–8 outperform their peers in district schools in both reading and math. In high school, brick-and-mortar charter students perform better in science, no better or worse in math, and slightly worse in reading and writing compared to students in district schools. This confirms what some Ohioans have long suspected: E-schools weigh down the overall impact of the Buckeye State’s charter sector. Separate out the e-school results and Ohio’s brick-and-mortar charters look a lot better than when the entire sector is treated as a whole.

The consistent, negative findings for e-school students are troubling, to say the least. One obvious remedy is to pull the plug—literally and figuratively—but we think that would be a mistake. Surely it’s possible, especially as technology and online pedagogy improve, to create virtual schools that serve students well. The challenge now is to boost outcomes for online learners, not to eliminate the online option. We therefore offer three recommendations for policy makers and advocates in states that, like Ohio, are wrestling to turn the rapid development of online schools into a net plus for their pupils.

First, policy makers should adopt performance-based funding for e-schools. When students complete courses successfully and demonstrate that they have mastered the expected competencies, e-schools would get paid. This creates incentives for e-schools to focus on what matters most—academic progress—while tempering their appetite for enrollment growth and the dollars tied to it. It would also encourage them to recruit students likely to succeed in an online environment—a form of “cream-skimming” that is not only defensible but, in this case, preferable. At the very least, proficiency-based funding is one way for e-schools to demonstrate that they are successfully delivering the promised instruction to students. That should be appealing to them given the difficulty in defining, tracking, and reporting “attendance” and “class time” at an online school.

Second, policy makers should seek ways to improve the fit between students and e-schools. Based on the demographics we report, it seems that students selecting Ohio’s e-schools may be those least likely to succeed in a school format that requires independent learning, self-motivation, and self-regulation. Lawmakers could explore rules that exempt e-schools from policies requiring all charters, virtual ones included, to accept every student who applies and instead allow e-schools to operate more like magnet schools with admissions procedures and priorities. E-schools would be able to admit students best situated to take advantage of the unique elements of virtual schooling: flexible hours and pacing, a safe and familiar location for learning, a chance for individuals with social or behavioral problems to focus on academics, greater engagement from students who are able to choose electives based on their own interests, and the chance to develop high-level virtual communication skills. E-schools should also consider targeting certain students through advertising and outreach, especially if they can’t be selective. At the very least, states with fully online schools should adopt a policy like the one in Ohio, which requires such schools to offer an orientation course—the perfect occasion to set high expectations for students as they enter and let them know what would help them thrive in an online learning environment (e.g., a quiet place to study, a dedicated amount of time to devote to academics).

Third, policy makers should support online course choice (also called “course access”), so that students interested in web-based learning can avail themselves of online options without enrolling full-time. Ohio currently confronts students with a daunting decision: either transfer to a full-time e-school or stay in their traditional school and potentially be denied the chance to take tuition-free, credit-bearing virtual courses aligned to state standards. Instead of forcing an all-or-nothing choice, policy makers should ensure that a menu of course options is available to students, including courses delivered online. To safeguard quality and public dollars, policy makers should also create oversight to vet online options (and veto shoddy or questionable ones). Financing arrangements may need to change, too, perhaps in ways that more directly link funding to actual course providers. If it were done right, however, course choice would not only open more possibilities for students, but also ratchet up the competition that online schools face—and perhaps compel them to improve the quality of their own services.

Innovation is usually an iterative process. Many of us remember the earliest personal computers—splendid products for playing Oregon Trail, but now artifacts of the past. Fortunately, innovators and engineers kept pushing the envelope for faster, nimbler, smarter devices. Today, we are blessed as customers with easy-to-use laptops, tablets, and more. But proximity to technology, no matter how advanced, isn’t enough. E-schools and their kin should facilitate understanding of how best to utilize online curricula and non-traditional learning environments, especially for underserved learners. From this evidence base, providers should then be held to high standards of practice. Though the age of online learning has dawned, there is much room for improvement in online schooling—and nowhere more than in Ohio. For advocates of online learning, and educational choice, the work has just begun.

—Dara Zeehandelaar and Mike Petrilli

This post originally appeared on Flypaper

How can we improve the performance and accountability of Pennsylvania cyber charters?

If it sometimes seems like “tuition-free” cyber charter ads are running non-stop, consider that in just one year your tax dollars paid for 19,298 local TV commercials for Agora Cyber Charter, just one of Pennsylvania’s 13 cyber charters.  And far from being tuition-free, total cyber tuition paid by Pennsylvania taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively.

Those commercials were very effective, especially if you were an executive at K12, Inc., a for-profit company contracted to manage the cyberschool.  According to Agora’s 2013 IRS filing, it paid $69.5 million that year to K12, Inc.  According to Morningstar, total executive compensation at K12 in 2013 was $21.37 million.

Not so effective for kids or taxpayers, though.  What the ads don’t tell you is that they are paid for using your school tax dollars instead of those funds being spent in classrooms, and that academic performance at every one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has been consistently dismal.  While the PA Dept. of Education considers a score of 70 to be passing, Agora’s PA School Performance Profile (SPP) scores for 2013, 2014 and 2015 were 48.3, 42.4 and 46.4.

In fact, not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has achieved a passing SPP score of 70 in any of the three years that the SPP has been in effect.  Additionally, most PA cybers never made adequate yearly progress during all the years (2005-2012) that the federal No Child Left Behind law was in effect.  While cybers may be a great fit for some kids, overall they have been an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars drawn from all 500 school districts without any authorization by those districts.  Unlike brick and mortar charter schools which must be authorized by their local school district, cyber charters were authorized, and are ostensibly overseen by the state Dept. of Education.

Even if the cyber’s SPP score is 50 points less than a school district school, locally elected school boards have virtually no discretion when it comes to paying cyber tuition bills.  If they don’t pay the cyber school the Department of Education will draft their account.

These poor results are reflected in national studies.  Stanford University reported that online schools have an “overwhelming negative impact,” showing severe shortfalls in reading and math achievement.  The shortfall for most cyber students, they said, was equal to losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days in math during the typical 180-day school year.  In math it is as if they did not go to school at all.  The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a charter advocacy group based in Washington, said the findings were so troubling that the report should be “a call to action for authorizers and policymakers.”

What can Pennsylvania policymakers do to improve the performance and accountability of our cyber charters?  Here are some possibilities for our legislators to consider as they return from summer break.

Consider cyber charter reform separately from brick and mortar charter school reform legislation.  Charter reform has proven to be a very tough nut to crack.  There seems to be increasing agreement that cyber education as presently configured is not working for most of our students or our taxpayers.

Consider closing some of the most persistently underperforming cybers with scores in the 20s, 30s and 40s and have their students transfer to one of the better performing schools.  One of the tenets of school choice is supposed to be that failing schools would be closed.

Consider funding cyber education via a separate dedicated budget line instead of tuition payments from school districts.  These schools are already authorized by the state department of ed, not by school boards.

Consider providing PDE with the staffing and resources needed to effectively oversee the cyber charters that they have authorized.

Consider the recommendations of the PA Auditor General’s June 2012 special report on Charter and Cyber Charter Education Funding Reform. http://www.paauditor.gov/Media/Default/Reports/CyberCharterSpecialReport201206.pdf

Consider the recommendations of the PA Special Education Funding Commission’s December 2013 report that calls for using three funding categories based upon the intensity of services required to meet special education students’ needs.

In 2014-15 cyber charters reportedly received over $100 million more in special education tuition payments than they actually spent on special education services.

http://www.elc-pa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/SpecialEducationFundingCommissionReport_12_11_13.pdf

Consider requiring all ads for cyber charters to clearly state that the ads are paid for using school tax dollars and to clearly state the cyber charter’s SPP score and the fact that a score of 70 is considered passing.

Consider creating a centralized marketing website at PDE instead of having cyber charters spend tax dollars on ads.  This site would link to the websites for each of the state’s cyber schools.

A blog posting entitled “Can-policymakers-fix-what-ails-online-charter-schools? by Dara Zeehandelaar and Michael J. Petrilli recommended three strategies for improving online schools:

(1) Consider adopting performance-based funding for e-schools.  When students complete courses successfully and demonstrate that they have mastered the expected competencies, cybers schools would get paid. This creates incentives for cybers to focus on what matters most—academic progress—while tempering their appetite for enrollment growth and the dollars tied to it. It would also encourage them to recruit students likely to succeed in an online environment.

(2) Policy makers should seek ways to improve the fit between students and e-schools. It seems that students selecting cyber schools may be those least likely to succeed in a school format that requires independent learning, self-motivation, and self-regulation.  Lawmakers could explore rules that exempt cyber schools from policies requiring all charters, virtual ones included, to accept every student who applies and instead allow cybers to operate more like magnet schools with admissions procedures and priorities.

(3) Policy makers should support online course choice, so that students interested in web-based learning can avail themselves of online options without enrolling full-time in a cyber charter. This might include encouraging students to use their own school districts’ programs if their school district or intermediate unit offers cyber education.

Cyber charters were intended to be a better alternative to traditional schools that were deemed as failing.  Over 10 years later that has consistently proven not to be the case.  We have spent over $1 billion in tax dollars on cyber tuition in Pennsylvania in just the past three years.  Our students and taxpayers deserve better.

Lawrence A. Feinberg of Ardmore is serving in his 17th year as a school director in Haverford Township.  He is the founder and a co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition.

K12 Inc. Tries to Pivot from Virtual School Failures to Profit from "Non-Managed" Schools

Submitted by Dustin Beilke on January 7, 2016 – 9:01am

If you were a public school and Wall Street didn’t like you that might not seem like such a big deal. What do financiers know about educating children? It’s a big deal, however, if you are K12, Inc., and enticing investors to buy into your low-cost, high yield "cyber school" idea is key to your bottom line.

At K12, Inc.’s stockholder meeting in December, its own investors criticized the schools’ lamentable academic performance and voted down its executives’ proposed salary increases. This is just the latest piece of bad news, which has been coming in rafts for K12 since 2013.

As K12’s executives were being rebuffed by stockholders inside the law offices of Latham & Watkins, in Washington, D.C., outside K12 was picketed by members of the California Teachers Association for more or less the same list of educational shortcomings, as Diane Ravitch noted.

Some editorial boards crow when they receive criticism from two opposing sides of a controversial issue. "If both sides are unhappy we must be doing something right" is the familiar refrain, as if there are only ever two sides to an issue or the sides have equal merit.

In the case of K12, however, it is hard not to wonder how much longer the company can withstand this loud unanimity of animus–even a firm Wall Street insiders like convicted fraudster Michael Milken helped launch, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) detailed in "From Junk Bonds to Junk Schools: Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers with Phantom Students and Failing Grades."

No major supporters have yet publicly called for pulling the plug, but anti-public education zealots like the billionaire Walton family and the Koch brothers have plenty of other places to invest in to try to bring down "government schools."

Big, Big Payouts to Execs at Taxpayer Expense

In its recommendation that shareholders vote against the pay proposal, the advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co. said K12 exemplifies a "substantial disconnect between compensation and performance results." Glass Lewis gave the company an "F" for how it paid its executives compared to peers.

In 2015, K12 CEO Nathaniel Davis was making $5.3 million and CFO James Rhyu was making $3.6 million. Their base salaries were $700,000 and $478,500, respectively, which were dwarfed by additional pay and stock for their "performance." (See more details on their total compensation in the pdf uploaded below.)

In all, K12’s five highest paid executives received a total of more than $12 million in compensation last year. That’s one of the reasons CMD has called K12 Inc.’s former CEO, Ron Packard, the highest paid elementary and secondary school educator in the nation.

Nearly 90% of K12’s revenues–and thus its huge pay for executives</a–<comes from Americans' state or federal tax dollars.

K12 Inc. also pays each member of its Board of Directors between $155,000 and $216,000 annually for a few hours of work each year—far more than local school board members make for much more time spent in general. (See uploaded K12 proxy filings below for the details.)

While K12’s promoters love to mention that it is a publicly traded company, it is also trading at its lowest stock price since 2010, down 75 percent from its September 2013 peak.

Meanwhile, a new report from Stanford University’s Center for Research of Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that online charters do a very poor job of educating children. In general, students in online charters lose 42 days of reading in a year, and 180 days of instruction in math. And there are only 180 days of instruction in most public school years.

Enrollment has also dropped almost 5 percent from its peak. No less a business authority than Bloomberg Business investigative reporter John Hechinger presented grim prospects for K12 as of late 2014, and no one has revised them upward.

Millions in K12 Ads at Taxpayer Expense Too

This decrease in business has come despite massive advertising and marketing expenditures by the virtual schools industry. K12 has spent untold millions in public funds on ads—a luxury budget item that traditional public schools are not permitted even when competing with K12 for students.

It spent at least $20 million on ads in 2012 alone, but it has not publicly disclosed ad spending in recent years even as its ads have become more ubiquitous in markets like Wisconsin and Arizona, for example. K12 does not disclose its ad budget in its public annual report.

Plus Taxpayer Money Helps K12 Pay to Play with ALEC Politicians

K12 also spends taxpayer money lobbying state and federal officials. It recently got a seat, for example, on the corporate board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where for years it has also paid for a seat and vote on ALEC’s "Education and Workforce Development" Task Force, which advances a "cash for kids" lobbying agenda.

ALEC corporations spend tens of thousands of dollars each year for such access to lawmakers, and K12 has also paid many thousands of dollars to underwrite some of ALEC’s docket of events for legislators and lobbyists.

Through the ALEC Task Force, K12 has actually had an equal vote with state legislators on so-called "model" bills to divert taxpayer funds away from traditional public schools toward the objectives of ALEC’s private sector funders, to help their bottom-lines and/or legislative agenda.

ALEC’s "Virtual Public Schools Act," for example, even allows virtual schools to be paid the same amount per pupil as traditional public schools even though operations like K12 have no bricks and mortar school house or desks or air-conditioning or gyms, etc., to maintain.

As CMD’s SourceWatch has documented:

"In 2004 when the ‘model’ bill was drafted and approved, both K12 Inc. and Connections Academy were part of the ‘School Choice Subcommittee of ALEC’s Education Task Force, according to an archived version of ALEC’s website from February 2005. The subcommittee recommended six bills for adoption, including the ‘Virtual Public Schools Act.’ According to ALEC, the bill was drafted by Bryan Flood of K12 along with Mickey Revenaugh of Connections Academy, then-Colorado Representative Don Lee (now a lobbyist for K12, see [below]), ‘and the rest of the Subcommittee.’" (Connections is now part of Pearson PLC, a British mega-corporation headquartered in London.)

K12’s reps at ALEC Education Task Force meetings have been its Senior VP for Government Affairs (lobbying), Bryan Flood, along with its VP for Government Affairs, Don Lee, and its Senior Director of Government Affairs, Bob Fairbank.

ALEC’s Education Task Force is co-chaired by Utah state Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-11). Through the ALEC corporate bill mill, Stephenson has even done a roadshow with K12’s Don Lee to drive more business to K12 through legislation. Given his advocacy of efforts to divert tax dollars from traditional public schools to charters and virtual schools, some press in Utah have questioned whether Stephenson is a public servant or a lobbyist for outside interests. (There is no way to independently verify whether Stephenson has actually ever invested in K12 or Pearson, or not.)

Notably, Lee and Fairbank are both former Colorado state legislators who took the revolving door out of public service into well-paid gigs, like peddling what K12 is selling to legislatures across the country. And, the head of their lobbying shop, Flood, is the former flack for then-Gov. John Engler of Michigan, who is now pulling down big bucks for sitting on K12’s Board of Directors: $55,000 in cash plus $100,000 in K12 stock for a few hours of his time last year.

Making "Friends" Everywhere K12 Goes….

Utah, Arizona, and Wisconsin are not the only states where K12 is active and facing criticism. The "Ohio Virtual Academy," for example, which accounted for 10 percent of K12’s revenue in 2014, received failing grades on a state report card for student test-score progress and graduation rates. A state analysis found that only 37 percent of K12’s Ohio ninth graders earned diplomas within four years.

K12’s operations in California have produced similar results, as In the Public Interest (ITPI) has documented, despite K12’s efforts to blame the state. (CMD has partnered with ITPI on research previously.)

Several online charters have cancelled their contracts with K12, and in Tennessee, education commissioner Kevin Huffman called for shuttering the Tennessee Virtual Academy because it had test results "in the bottom of the bottom tier" and is an "abject failure."

Altogether, K12 has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also ruled last April that prospective students from 24 K12 Inc. high schools can no longer count credits toward athletic scholarships.

A pro-union decision by the California Public Employment Relations Board no doubt came as more bad news for K12’s brass. The board ruled that the California Teachers Association (CTA) is the exclusive bargaining agent of the more than 750 teachers at the Simi Valley-based California Virtual Academies (CAVA). Teachers have been seeking a stronger voice in improving working conditions and student learning for CAVA’s 15,000 students.

CAVA teachers had been calling for improvements for years. In March 2015 a study of CAVA by ITPI called for better oversight. In June 2015, CTA filed complaints with school districts that authorized CAVA charters throughout California.

K12 Hoping "Non-Managed" Schools Will Save It?

While no one is publicly calling for K12 to shut down, K12 itself is "diversifying its portfolio" in an apparent effort to ease out of the online charter school business.

K12 has built its brand by operating "managed schools" in which K12 runs and profits from all of the programs at a particular K12 school. In a managed school, the company does all of the teaching, curriculum, assessment for the customers—er, students—who choose it over attending a public school or participating in a traditional home-schooling arrangement.

The new revenue stream K12 is pioneering is in what it is now calling "non-managed schools" in which K12 sells the digital content and platform for a school for some other company or entity to run (and be responsible for the results). Non-managed programs have been growing by leaps and bounds as managed virtual schools have fallen on hard times.

The only problem with this model is that managed schools still bring in much more money than the non-managed kind. Some managed schools, for example, bring in $1,849 per student while non-managed schools bring in only $462 per pupil on average.

But, getting some revenue without being responsible for results may be the way for the future of K12: an analysis of K12 figures comparing September 2015 to the prior year showed that enrollment at "managed" virtual schools was declining 12 percent while it is increasing 34.5 percent at "non-managed" schools.

Non-management could take profiting from taking money out of traditional public schools without real accountability to a new level for K12.

CMD’s Executive Director Lisa Graves contributed research to this report.

k12inc 2.pdf