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.


Team Soapbox
Anne Heavey, 206-528-2550

Odd commentary considering the writer is working for the company who screws up kids. 

An election year when school choice is ignored

By Nate Davis, contributor    

Getty Images

It’s bad enough that during two straight weeks of Republican and Democratic conventions, we never really grasped a true sense of what newly nominated presidential contenders would do to improve the uncertain state of K-12 education in America.

Worse — especially since then — is that we have yet to see a solid reform-driven or innovation-focused commitment from candidates as the solution to our education crisis. A sorely needed exchange on parental choice and access to creative online learning platforms is, perhaps, the most significant missing policy deep-dive since the presidential cycle began in earnest over a year ago. For the most part, presidential candidates have steered clear of any focus on choice in K-12 as a main prescription to constant problems plaguing our school systems and challenging our kids.

That’s unfortunate, since parents are voters, too.

It is rather mysterious considering the sheer size, cost and long-term destructive impact of the K-12 crisis. Yet, as candidates on the campaign trail bludgeoned each other over everything from salacious tweets, badly placed emails and hand sizes, little is said on how policymakers could intervene to save the nation’s struggling elementary, middle and high-school students. The intervention is clearly found in school districts embracing new, progressive education models that meet the needs of future societies and workforces — models such as blended experiential and online learning in and, yes, outside the conventional classroom. Models, such as charter schools, that offer parents the options they need to ensure their child’s success in an increasingly competitive global environment.

That battle is no more urgent for any group than it is for our nation’s most underserved and historically distressed: from black and Latino youth to low-income and struggling working-class communities already battered by the effects (and after-effects) of recession. The last thing already economically challenged black or brown students and their parents should worry about is the quality of their education.

Likewise, those high-achieving students, rural students, bullied students and others are desperate for choices that allow them to excel in their education. For example: I met a student from West Virginia last week who enrolled in online courses that she could not take in her local, excellent but small neighborhood school. She and her parents were told by the guidance counselor that the courses she wanted were unavailable. The eventual valedictorian for her class, she took additional courses from a for-profit online provider that allowed her to achieve higher SAT scores and take courses otherwise unavailable to her. There were even language courses available that she would otherwise only take in college. Without choice, this high-achieving student — like hundreds of thousands of others — would not continue to excel and would be limited in what local schools could offer.

Clearly, you can’t have a conversation about improving the quality of life for underserved, diverse populations or high-achieving students unless you pose workable ideas on education. You can’t pose workable ideas on education or expect the condition of underserved youth to improve if you refuse to put school choice and access to new modes of learning in the mix.

Major openings for the presidential candidates to discuss choice and online education as a primary learning tool are either conveniently dismissed, lost in political posturing or altogether forgotten. We clearly can’t rely on the articulation of a policy vision from the Republican nominee (for obvious reasons). But when we look to Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonEx-GM CEO: I’ve always voted Republican until now Election reveals Paul Ryan to be worst speaker in U.S. history Dem Senate candidate knocks Rubio for Trump support MORE for a thoughtful approach on issues such as parental choice, we find her either taking the side of unionized teachers (even if it contradicts earlier, steadfast support for charter schools) or completely missing those grand opportunities to present it as a viable long-term beacon of educational hope.

Nowhere was that unfortunate oversight on vivid display than at her recent appearance before a joint meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. When offered a few moments to lay out her policy vision for black and brown progress in America, Clinton left out school choice and relegated digital learning to merely PCs in the classroom.

Nor did the assemblage of esteemed African-American and Latino reporters, talk-show hosts, editors and producers ask her about it.

Unfortunately, online, radio and cable outlets are so focused on the latest campaign gaffe or doubled down faux pas that the plight of school children gets left behind in the political dust-up.

Still, campaigns refuse any raised or sustained debate on choice as a tangible way to address our ongoing K-12 crisis with any tangible solutions. Few want to take a firm position supporting parental preference in education, despite the vast number of voting parents who want (and need) it. Most seem oblivious to the need for expanded and innovative options for K-12 students, despite an abundance of evidence suggesting online learning, blended classrooms and access to multifaceted educational environments are exactly what’s essential for an increasingly diverse American landscape.

Yet, when examining many of the larger national polls, parents — especially black and Latino parents — are demanding more choice and creative, digital learning in and outside the classroom. In a National Alliance for Public Charter Schools poll released this year, 80 percent of parents supported some form of educational choice, including 63 percent of black parents and 55 percent of Hispanic parents. A Pathways/YouGov survey on school preferences found that black and Hispanic parents were "more likely" to consider "integrated use of technology" when education options were available.

For these population groups, education is perceived as the most effective pathway to upward socioeconomic mobility. The Pew Research Center shows that 66 percent of Americans identify education as a top 10 issue motivating choices this election cycle. In the most recent weekly YouGov/Economist survey, education still ranks among the top-five issues (out of 15), with more African-Americans and Latinos placing it as a "most important issue" than whites. For voters under 30, education is the top concern (partly out of struggles over student debt, and partly out of recent experiences with troubled school systems). That aligns with a recent GenForward joint poll where education was a top-three concern for voters ages 18 to 30, especially voters of color.

This is not much of a surprise. Education is a greater priority to individuals who find themselves historically disadvantaged or farther down the income ladder. To those faced with fewer resources and access to wealth, education is increasingly respected as the ultimate driver of future success — and choice is a chief path to that goal. Yet, presidential nominees and their parties have failed to promote a vision of what will make K-12 education better, even as the shifting demographic environment continues to demand such.

That school choice is not a headlining issue of our time rests not on the shoulders of voters. Elected officials, policymakers, pundits and those who constitute the rest of our active political and media class must aggressively tackle that discussion. We need a debate and movement where educational options are plentiful and innovation in (and outside) the classroom is the norm rather than the exception.

Davis is executive chairman of K12 Inc., a technology-based education company and leading provider of online learning programs to schools across the U.S.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Can Policymakers Fix What Ails Online Charter Schools?

By Dara Zeehandelaar and Michael J. Petrilli


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

Charter Groups Call Out Virtual Schools

In August 2014, there were 135 full-time virtual charter schools operating in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

A coalition of charter school advocates banded together Thursday to take a shot at some of their own – virtual charter schools – and urged state policymakers to tighten regulations on their lesser-known school-choice stepsisters, which have come under fire for poor student performance.

“When national groups that advocate for and champion charter schools question the impact of virtual charter schools on student achievement, policymakers should take note,” said Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education policy organization.


Propping Up the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The groups – the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers – published a set of sweeping recommendations for how states should overhaul their virtual charter schools, complete with calls for shuttering the poorest performers.

Among the many detailed recommendations, the groups called on states to set minimum academic performance standards for virtual charter schools whose charters are in the process of being renewed, and for enforcement mechanisms to ensure that all charter schools, including full-time virtual charter schools, meet those minimums.

In addition, the groups recommended that states create a method to hold charter authorizers accountable for results, and said an entity should be tasked with regularly monitoring those authorizers’ performance. States should also require charter authorizers to show via annual audits that they are using all of their oversight money for oversight functions.

“These provisions are tailored to the unique problems that have emerged among too many full-time virtual charter schools, which require states to enact significant policy changes,” said Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president for state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Best High Schools: Top Charter Schools]

Greg Richmond, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, urged those bodies also to work within existing state policy frameworks to close chronically low-performing virtual charter schools.

“Authorizers have a legal and a moral responsibility to close chronically low-performing charter schools of any kind, including full-time virtual charter schools,” he said. “In many cases, this would not require a change to state law.”


STEM Should Be Part of Every Pre-K Program

As of August 2014, there were 135 full-time virtual charter schools operating in 23 states and the District of Columbia – about twice as many as in 2008 – and serving approximately 180,000 students. A majority of the schools are run by for-profit organizations and serve large numbers of poor and white students.

The recommendations come on the heels of reports by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research that showed when compared with their classroom-based traditional public school counterparts, full-time virtual charter schools fail across multiple metrics.

For example, in math and reading in a given year, full-time virtual charter school students learn essentially no math compared with their peers in classroom-based traditional public schools, according to the Center for Research on Education Outcomes report. In fact, students in virtual charters, the report showed, experienced the equivalent of 180 fewer days of learning in math and 72 fewer days of learning in reading in comparison with traditional public school students.

Moreover, all subgroups of students enrolled in virtual schools – including when students are broken down by race, economic background and native language, as well as students in special education – reportedly perform worse in terms of academic growth than their classroom-based peers.

“If traditional public schools were producing such results, we would rightly be outraged,” the groups charged in their set of recommendation. “We should not feel any different just because these are charter schools.”


The View From a Testing Giant

The recommendations underscore that there is a place for virtual charter schools, especially for rural students seeking to avoid a lengthy bus ride, home- or hospital-bound youth who want to stay in school despite an illness, and high school students looking for an alternative to dropping out.

Still, the groups called on state policymakers to ensure the sector is more tightly monitored so students are not slipping through the cracks.

“A few states have opted to simply ban full-time virtual charter schools, but this solution risks limiting parental choice without giving otherwise high-performing virtual charter schools a chance to operate,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “This is why we need a better regulatory framework to govern full-time virtual charter schools.”

Eight states do not allow full-time virtual charter schools, according to the alliance report: Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia.

Currently, enrollment in full-time virtual charter schools is highly concentrated in three states – Ohio, Pennsylvania and California – which collectively enroll over half of full-time virtual charter school students nationwide, according to National Alliance research.

In Ohio alone, some schools enroll upward of 10,000 students.

“If Ohio leaders are serious about improving student outcomes for virtual-school students, they’d be wise to consider these recommendations,” Aldis said.

California Virtual Academies: Bill targeting for-profit operator K12 Inc. clears first committee vote

By Jessica Calefati, jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

06/30/2016 05:42:09 AM PDT

SACRAMENTO — A bill that would ban online charter schools from hiring for-profit firms to provide instructional services cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday on a party-line 6-2 vote after a divisive debate about the role private companies should play in public education.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla 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.

File photo:Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla 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.
(Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group archives)

The stories revealed that the company 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.

Lawmakers’ efforts a few years ago to crack down on for-profit colleges and universities sent several of the chains into bankruptcy, and if AB 1084 is passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor, it would effectively put companies like K12 out of business in the Golden State, too.

Bonilla, D-Concord, says that’s fine with her.

“What my bill says is ‘Let’s just agree they don’t belong here in California,’ ” because allowing online charter schools to contract with for-profit companies creates “a perverse incentive for schools to prioritize profits over students,” said Bonilla, who referenced the newspaper’s findings in her remarks to the committee.

But parents couldn’t disagree more about whether companies like K12 should be allowed to operate charter schools in California, and a lobbyist for K12 and two other firms insisted they’re being singled out unfairly.

Two mothers who support the legislation testified that the law is needed to force schools controlled by for-profit companies to re-evaluate their priorities and begin emphasizing student achievement above all else, including profit margins and shareholder whims.

“Help us transform California Virtual Academies from an enrollment factory that piles up the money into a place that supports teachers, parents and students,” said Stacey Preach, who lives in the Sacramento area. She worked for K12’s network of online schools and briefly enrolled her child in one of them.

Opponents of the measure, including Virginia Shemansky, who lives in Leona Valley, said signing the bill into law would force some schools to close, squash parental choice and limit the ability of schools that remain open to serve troubled students who need services only specialized for-profits can provide.

“Sacramento’s special interest groups are playing politics with our students,” said Shemansky, a member of California Parents for Public Virtual Education, which advocates for access to online schools managed by K12 and its leading competitor, Connections Academy. “Parents are demanding that the assault on parent choice stop.”

Several parents and teachers who watched the hearing stood up to endorse the bill, but no parents seated in the audience spoke against it.

Before being sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, the bill will have to be approved by the full Senate, the Assembly Education Committee and the full Assembly.

The committee’s vote comes a few days after state Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson commissioned state Controller Betty Yee to audit the K12-managed California Virtual Academies and several weeks after a bipartisan group of lawmakers called for the state auditor to do a separate probe of for-profit charter schools.

The company is also being investigated by Attorney General Kamala Harris, who launched an investigation of online charter schools last fall.

A spokesman for K12 couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the vote.

Branche Jones, a lobbyist for K12, testified at the hearing that the intense scrutiny the company is facing is unfair because statements made about its practices and track record by Bonilla and this newspaper are incorrect. The company, however, has never disputed the factual accuracy of the newspaper’s investigative series.

“There are low-performing schools across the whole state,” Jones said, adding that it’s not fair “to focus on one industry.”

Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said he voted against the bill because he doesn’t believe a “one-size-fits-all approach” is the right way to address a problem that may not apply to all online charters contracting with for-profit companies. Huff said he had visited a successful online charter school dedicated to helping dropouts earn enough credits to graduate and didn’t want to see it adversely affected by the bill.

Representatives of the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association — two powerful interest groups that oppose one another most of the time — said they agree that for-profit companies like K12 shouldn’t be allowed to run charter schools in this state. But Rand Martin, a lobbyist for the charter school group, testified that the association opposes the bill unless Bonilla adopts a more “surgical approach” to the problem and agrees to a series of amendments it has proposed.

Instead of broadly banning online charter schools from hiring for-profit companies for instructional services, the association wants to create a “firewall” between charter schools and for-profit vendors by prohibiting the companies from having any role in the selection, interview or appointment of a charter school’s board members; barring them from developing, proposing or approving a school’s annual budget or expenditures; and limiting the number of teachers the firm could employ directly.

Still, Martin said, the organization supports the spirit of the legislation.

“We actually agree with the objective of the author,” Martin said. “We should not have a for-profit operating a charter school.”

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

Take this article with a grain of salt.  It’s from K12 themselves.  Better put on your hip waders…

The three- volume Online Charter School Study (October 2015) prepared by Mathematica, the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) provides the country’s most in-depth and systemic look into full-time public virtual charter schools. The report is a starting point with respect to the need for more and better analysis of student performance in virtual charter schools. For instance, the study demonstrates a high mobility rate and the unique nature of students within this sector of public schools, however the student matching process did not take into account the length of enrollment, reason for enrollment, effect of mobility, or persistence over time. With additional relevant data, the study can inform the next round of research.

The study also makes conclusions that affirm what leaders in virtual schools have known for more than a decade. It confirms that virtual charter school students are eligible for free/reduced price lunch at a higher rate than traditional students (48 percent compared to 39 percent). The study also demonstrates that students in virtual charters had lower than average test scores prior to enrolling in the virtual school. In fact, one-third fewer virtual charter students are in the top-scoring decile than traditional students and there are 40 percent more virtual charter students in the bottom decile.

Decades of research show the effects of income on student performance, and there is an emerging body of research showing prior state assessment performance is a strong predictor of future performance. While these conclusions are sobering for those of us who got into education to positively impact student performance, they demonstrate that students are disproportionately academically at-risk prior to enrolling in virtual charter schools.  In fact, academic struggles are one of the main reasons why parents choose to transfer their children to these schools.

The policy volume of the study, written by CRPE, offers several recommendations that are somewhat disconnected from the other volumes of the report. For instance, the CREDO volume on student performance concludes that “network” virtual charter schools managed mostly by private “for-profit” providers do not perform worse, on average, than non-network schools, yet the recommendation is to further regulate these providers, absent evidence related to student outcomes.

Perhaps the biggest disconnect between the volumes of the study is on student engagement. The Mathematica volume discusses in great detail the importance and challenges of student engagement in the virtual charter school model. This is not news to teachers or leaders within these schools who have been developing instructional strategies, technological tools, and support structures to improve student engagement. We had hoped the volume would include constructive policy recommendations in this area. Instead, it proposes a more crude approach:  screening enrollments to ensure students are the right “fit” before allowing them access to public virtual charter schools.

A fundamental principle for public schools — especially for public schools of choice — is equal access and opportunity for all students. Virtual charter schools are public schools. They offer families access to a full public education option regardless of their geographic location. They bring the school to the student wherever she lives, meaning that for millions of families across the country, virtual schools represent the only public school option available. Take that away – or restrict equal access through some type of selection process – and virtual schools no longer become public schools. Further, it is hard to fathom what type of admissions criteria could both safeguard equal access and parent choice, while also “filtering out” students who are somehow pre-determined not to succeed. This would inevitably lead to the most difficult-to-educate students never having the chance to try virtual schools, even though they may have the potential to succeed. And they can succeed.  We’ve seen thousands of students deemed “at-risk” thrive and graduate from virtual charter schools.

The focus must be on student engagement. Rather than denying equal access and opportunity to students on the front end, policies should be designed to enable online and blended schools to move students out who are unable or unwilling to engage in their individualized learning program.  Currently, public virtual schools are forced to use traditional, often arcane, attendance and truancy regulations to remove students, which rely on traditional “seat time” attendance measures instead of engagement. 

While CRPE calls attention to a provision in the Arizona law that relates to student performance while enrolled in the virtual school, there is no recommendation to leverage this type of policy to include engagement. States should consider expanding the Arizona policy to include student engagement. A follow-up study examining the impact of engagement on performance for all types of students in virtual schools would be informative. While virtual charter schools are not the right fit for all, experience has shown us that any student, regardless of her circumstances, who engages in the online learning model can succeed.

Another disconnect is the recommendation to move public virtual schools out of the charter school sector entirely. Advocates have touted the increased transparency within charter schools since 1995.  These public schools are required to comply with all state reporting requirements while serving students entirely based on choice. Charter schools do not serve students zoned in by zip code. Charters must be open to all students, and parents have the freedom to make choices based on school-level information. There is no greater form of transparency in public education than within the charter sector.

On the other hand, there is a lack of transparency and information available on the performance of state-run and district-run virtual schools. In fact, several reports, including Keeping Pace with K-12 Digital Learning, have pointed out that it is difficult to get visibility into the true number of students enrolled in these school programs or their academic performance due to lax reporting requirements. Would anyone expect greater transparency for full-time public virtual schools by placing them within these structures?

A final point from the policy section at odds with the historical record is the description that education service providers have supported poor regulations, while simultaneously pointing out strong laws that were the recommendations made by these same providers.  The states CRPE cites as having good laws — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Oklahoma — have benefitted from the input provided by education service providers such as K12 Inc. In fact, traditional critics of charters and school choice have criticized the role that educators and practitioners from digital education service providers played in advocating for these policies.  Across many states, K12 has worked with policymakers to inform the process to ensure responsible, effective, and transparent policies are enacted. In every state cited by CRPE as a model, K12 has supported the specific policy provisions that are deemed worthy of replication. 

K12 continues to advocate for improved policies in digital learning. For example, K12 has proposed better and more reliable student-centered accountability frameworks for schools that experience higher rates of mobility through school choice.  Here are a few:

Reform Graduation Rates – Rather than 4-year cohort, create a value added approach to graduation rate by measuring student progress toward graduation requirements for the actual time the student is enrolled in a public school.

Full Academic year – The longer a student is enrolled in a school, the more the school should be held accountable for his or her performance. State accountability frameworks should therefore be weighted to measure student proficiency and growth based on number of full academic years students are enrolled in a school.

–      Less than 1 full year = 0

–      Two full years  = 1.0

–      Three full years = 2.0

–      Four or more full years = 3.0

Student Growth – Annual individual student academic growth measurements should carry more weight within a state’s accountability framework than static proficiency scores. Growth models should also be sufficiently sensitive to growth on the high and low ends of the spectrum.

Measure Student Engagement – No student should be denied equal access and opportunity to public schools of choice.  However, states can develop a definition of engagement for students enrolled in alternative public schools of choice (including online and blended schools).  Students who do not demonstrate sufficient and ongoing engagement may be dis-enrolled.

On funding, K12 has long advocated for models that fund schools based on students enrolled on a real-time or current-year basis. Schools should not receive funding for students they are no longer educating.  Funding models based on single student count dates, predominately advocated by traditional school systems, are incompatible in states where school choice is valued and multiple education options exist.  Funding should follow the child to their school of choice at any point during the year.

It is our hope the Online Charter School Study is the first of many analyses of public virtual charter schools. This report points out the need for additional studies based on the unique nature of these schools’ students and the quickly evolving online learning instructional model. K12 will continue to be transparent, share data, and seek opportunities to collaborate on research and policy.  Our goal is to constantly improve, raise outcomes, and help every student succeed.

Mary Gifford is Senior Vice President of Education Policy and External Affairs at K12 Inc.  Jeff Kwitowski is Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Communications. 

Idaho Technical Career Academy Relaunches to Help Meet State’s Job Growth Surge

Idaho’s only CTE-focused online public school provides technical and specialty trade job skills for high school students

06:00 ET
from Idaho Technical Career Academy

BOISE, Idaho, May 12, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Board members of the Idaho Career and College Readiness Academy, along with partner K12 Inc., (NYSE: LRN), the nation’s leading provider of online education programs for students in kindergarten through high school, today announced that they are changing the name of their online technical high school for students in Idaho. The school will now be known as Idaho Technical Career Academy (ITCA).

Idaho Technical Career Academy is an important education option for Idaho students, especially following recent reports from both the Department of Labor and federal Bureau of Labor Statistics that identify the state of Idaho as the state experiencing the fastest job growth in the past year. Employment in Idaho has increased 3.6 percent between March 2015 and March 2016.

The surge of job opportunities in Idaho will need to be met. ITCA is an online public charter school that provides opportunities for students to obtain technical and specialty trade skills by offering four years of occupational training in an industry pathway of their choice. Courses are delivered online and students earn can earn industry-recognized certifications and college credits to give them a post-graduation edge.  

The Idaho Technical Career Academy (ITCA) provides four programs option for students in key industries of growth in the state: Business Administration, Automated Manufacturing, Web Design, and Health Science. The intent of the school 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. 

“We want our students to graduate from ITCA with the skill set necessary to earn one of the many new jobs in our state, so we really prepare the whole package” said Monti Pittman, Head of School for Idaho Technical Academy. “It’s academics and training, but also the skills used in every career, like resume writing and interviewing techniques.”

“With the growing demand for skilled laborers, we are thrilled by the career and technical focus of ITCA,” said Kerry Wysocki, ITCA Board Chairman and general manager of Northwest Machining and Manufacturing, Inc. “We have such a need for qualified technical workers that we know these students will have a bright future ahead of them.”

ITCA’s digital learning expands the reach and opportunities for students – the online school will equip students with vital technical skills that will prepare them to succeed in the workplace regardless of where they reside in Idaho. Additionally, the online school provides a flexible learning environment that enables students the opportunity to partner with professionals and companies to apply the skills they are learning in a specific industry.

In addition to the industry-focused curriculum, ITCA offers students state-of-the-art academic coursework and content using K12’s nationally-acclaimed, award-winning curriculum and learning programs. K12’s personalized academic programs are designed to work for all types of students, from advanced learners to students with special needs. Certified teachers will provide instruction, guidance and support, and will interact regularly with students using innovative technology and web-based classrooms. 

To help families learn more about the program, ITCA will host information sessions and community events around the state, as well as several online information sessions. For details, visit the school website: http://itca.k12.com/

About Idaho Technical Academy
Idaho Technical 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/.    

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SOURCE Idaho Technical Career Academy

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Snyder signs legislation expanding educational opportunities

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

LANSING, Mich. ‒ Gov. Rick Snyder today signed legislation expanding educational opportunities and choices for students and families by increasing the number of cyber charter schools and broadening eligibility for dual enrollment programs.

The reforms help students to best meet their needs while complementing Michigan’s already outstanding traditional public schools.

Michigan students can now achieve a quality education without boundaries,” Snyder said. “Empowering more parents and students with the option to enroll in cyber charter schools and attend college level courses increases not only their educational opportunities, but also their potential for success.”

Senate Bill 619, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Colbeck, lifts the cap on the number of cyber charter schools, and sets an enrollment limit of 2 percent of student population. It also removes the requirement of cyber school students having been previously enrolled in a public school.

Any applicant for a cyber school contract must demonstrate experience delivering a quality education program that improves student academic achievement, and offer any configuration of grades K-12 or all of those grades. Students will be issued a computing device by the school and the school will be responsible for subsidizing the cost of Internet access.

SB 619 is now Public Act 129 of 2012.

“One of the most innovative educational opportunities we can offer our children is the inclusion of cyber charter school options for our public school students,” Colbeck said. “These schools provide a free, public education to students that can be tailored to address each child’s strengths and weaknesses while providing increased one-on-one communication with a teacher.

“Providing more choice in public education empowers parents and gives them greater input in determining the best learning environment for their children. Cyber charter schools are a unique way to broaden that choice for many of Michigan’s families.”

Also signed as part of the package were:

SB 621, sponsored by Sen. Goeff Hansen, removes restrictions preventing public schools from receiving state aid funds to reimburse costs spent on some home and private schooled students who take classes at the public school, and allows any school in the student’s ISD or adjacent ISD to make a claim of reimbursement. SB 621 is now PA 130 of 2012.

SBs 622, 623, 709 and 710, sponsored by Sen. Judy Emmons, expand the eligibility for high school students to participate in dual enrollment programs at community colleges or universities, or at career and technical preparation programs by removing a requirement that a student be a junior. The measures also allow home and private schooled students to enroll. The bills are now PAs 131-134 of 2012.

Visit www.legislature.mi.gov for more information on the bills.


2016-17 School Year Enrollment Now Open for Oregon Virtual Academy

School Offers Unique “Blended Learning” Setting, Providing Both Online and In-Person Instruction

Mar 23, 2016, 06:00 ET
from Oregon Virtual Academy

NORTH BEND, Ore., March 23, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Enrollment in the full-time, tuition-free, online public school, Oregon Virtual Academy (ORVA), is now open for the 2016-17 school year. ORVA serves students in grades K-12 who reside in Oregon.  The public school option uses the engaging, award-winning K12 curriculum. Students who enroll in ORVA receive an individualized education experience designed to their learning style and needs.

“The teachers, parents, curriculum and school community all come together at Oregon Virtual Academy to create a truly well-rounded educational experience for each child,” says Head of School Brandy Osborn. “More than being unique because of our flexible virtual school setting, ORVA stands out because of our focus on individualized learning.”

ORVA’s focus on individualized learning is designed to allow students discover their own learning style. ORVA gives advanced learners the ability to progress faster in subjects in which they excel, including opportunities for advancement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and the ability to earn college credits while in high school.

Now in its 9th year, ORVA hosts in-person information sessions around the state each month, online information sessions, and upcoming community events. Interested families are encouraged to visit the school’s website for details on these upcoming events, as well as more about ORVA and how to enroll.

For more information on ORVA, its unique individualized learning focus and the enrollment process, please visit http://www.orva.k12.com 

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.  

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SOURCE Oregon Virtual Academy

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Walker County Public Schools Turns Around Student Achievement with Personalized Learning from Fuel Education

The Anywhere Learning System tailors digital instruction and assessments to students’ individual strengths and weaknesses

February 08, 2016 —

HERNDON, Va., Feb.8, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In 2011, Walker County Public Schools in Jasper, Alabama, had many obstacles standing in its way for both educators and students, including high percentages of students who qualified for free and reduced lunch, high dropout rates, and low graduation rates. Seeing this as an opportunity to better support students academically, Walker County Public Schools partnered with Fuel Education (FuelEd) to provide students with access to the Anywhere Learning System for a more personalized learning experience.

“For some of our students, this has been a life-changing experience,” said Connie Shubert, Director of Federal Programs at Walker County Public Schools. “Some of them would not have been able to finish high school, and now they have a diploma and a chance at employment and a better life.”

FuelEd’s Anywhere Learning System is digital learning courseware for students in grades 1-12 with pre-tests that provide customized learning paths based on those results for struggling students who need remediation, as well as for advanced learners who need accelerated coursework. Walker County Public Schools uses the Anywhere Learning System in a variety of online and blended models across the district, including with younger students in blended learning centers, for credit recovery and grade repair with older students, and to continue instruction if a teacher is out for the day. In addition, the system is central to the district’s alterative school program, its summer school program, and its two at-risk and credit-deficient programs known as the Hope Academy and the Twilight Knight School.

Mary Slaughter, coordinator of assessment and accountability and director of guidance and counseling for Walker County Public Schools, said, “One of the best things is the Anywhere Learning System program offers flexibility and gives students choices; they don’t all fit in the same box.”

Since it started using the Anywhere Learning System, the district’s graduation rate has risen from 73 percent to 87 percent and the dropout rate has dropped from 14 percent to 3 percent. The district has also seen significant improvement in student attendance, grades, and the number of students being promoted to the next grade.

“The Anywhere Learning System empowers students to take charge of their education,” said Gregg Levin, General Manager of Fuel Education. “The learn-at-your-own-pace style of instruction helps struggling students catch up or recover credits and also provides gifted students with more content on a topic of their choice. Walker County Public Schools’ multifaceted implementation of FuelEd’s system is helping students succeed.”

The Anywhere Learning System has more than 160 courses, 5,600 lessons, 200,000 content pages, and 130,000 test items that are Common Core- and state objective-aligned. The content is presented to students using sequenced direct-instruction aids such as study guides, quizzes, mastery tests, and essays. Its built-in assessment and reporting tools help track and analyze all aspects of individual and class performance in order to benchmark progress and refine curriculum plans.

For more information about how Walker County Public Schools used the Anywhere Learning System for increased student achievement, read the case study here.

AboutFuel Education
Fuel Education partners with school districts to fuel personalized learning and transform the education experience inside and outside the classroom. The company provides innovative solutions for pre-K through 12thgrade that empower districts to implement successful online and blended learning programs. Its open, easy-to-use Personalized Learning Platform, PEAK, enables teachers to customize courses using their own content, FuelEd courses and titles, third-party content, and open educational resources. Fuel Education offers the industry’s largest catalog of digital curriculum, certified instruction, professional development, and educational services. FuelEd has helped 2,000 school districts to improve student outcomes and better serve diverse student populations. To learn more, visitgetfueled.comandTwitter.

2016 Fuel Education LLC. All rights reserved.Fuel Education and FuelEd are trademarks of Fuel Education LLC or its affiliates. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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SOURCE Fuel Education LLC

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