California Attorney General Kamala Harris reached a settlement of $168.6 million with mega-virtual charter K12 Inc. This settlement reflects the good investigative reporting of Jessica Calefati of the San Jose Mercury News, whose investigative reporting led to Harris’ review of K12’s finances and practices.

There are two more investigations underway: one by the California State Department of Education and the other by the State Controller. Now that virtual charters have been discredited by studies and thrown under the bus by the rest of the charter industry, this aspect of the industry may finally be on the skids.

“California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Friday the state Department of Justice has reached a $168.5 million settlement with for-profit online charter school operator K12 Inc. over an array of alleged violations of false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.

“The settlement comes almost three months after the Bay Area News Group published a two-part investigative series on the publicly-traded Virginia company, which runs a network of profitable but low-performing online charter schools serving about 15,000 students across the state.

“Harris’ office found that K12 and the “virtual” academies it operates across the state used deceptive advertising to mislead parents about students’ academic progress, parent satisfaction and their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California State University admission.

“The Attorney General’s office also found that K12 and its affiliated schools collected more state funding from the California Department of Education than they were entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data and that the company improperly coerced the non-profit schools it operates to sign unfavorable contracts that put them in a deep financial hole.”

Politico reports that K12 Inc. disagrees with the characterization of the settlement:

– Speaking of charter schools, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Friday that virtual charter school operator K12 Inc. will pay $168.5 million to settle [] alleged violations of the state’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws: . But K12 pushed back on the settlement amount – preferring not to include $160 million in financial relief that Harris’ office says will be provided to certain schools that K12 manages. Instead, K12 CEO Stuart Udell said the company will only pay $2.5 million to settle the case, and another $6 million for Harris’ investigative costs. Udell said his company admitted no wrongdoing. “The Attorney General’s claim of $168.5 million in today’s announcement is flat wrong,” Udell said. “Despite our full cooperation throughout the process, the Office of the Attorney General grossly mischaracterized the value of the settlement, just as it did with regard to the issues it investigated.”

– The settlement is another black eye for the virtual charter industry, which just last month had three reform-minded groups calling for it to be improved, or else problems such as low graduation rates will “overshadow the positive impacts this model currently has on some students.” [] More from Kimberly Hefling:

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

Gene V. Glass, distinguished researcher of education at Arizona State University, surveys the amazing spread of school choice in Arizona and asks what are the results of the spread of choice. You have heard the stories about how vouchers and charters will “save poor kids from failing schools,” will create competition to improve public schools, will work wonders for everyone. It turns out that Arizona is the choice capital of the world but is still waiting for that miraculous success that its advocates promised and still promise.


Professor Glass shows how dramatically choice has spread across Arizona, with the urging of choice advocates in the government and the private sector.


Glass writes:


Now Arizona is the school choice capital of the world: 1) 500 charter schools – soon to be closer to 600 if New Schools for Phoenix has its way, and they will; 2) huge virtual academies run by out-of-state companies like K12 Inc.; 3) open enrollment laws; 4) tuition tax credits subsidizing families sending their kids to religious schools; and 5) a history of active homeschooling. In fact, the number of students whose parents have “chosen” is staggering. There are 1,100,000 students of K-12 school age in Arizona. Of that number, 180,000 attend charter schools, 200,000 have exercised their right to switch school districts under open enrollment laws, and about 80,000 attend private (mostly religious)schools or are homeschooled. That amounts to more than 400,000 “choice students” in Arizona out of a population of a little more than one million for a choice ratio of about 40% plus.


With nearly half of all students enjoying the benefit of choice – with its effects on driving incompetent teachers out of work, shutting down bad schools, stimulating private and public schools to reach higher levels of effort and innovation – the condition of K-12 education in Arizona must be nothing short of fantastic!


But, to hear the state’s politicians and business leaders speak of it, Arizona’s school systems are terrible. Below average; lagging behind other nations; a threat to the economy of the entire state; not preparing students for college or careers; in need of major reforms; bring on the Common Core. Arizona’s education system is the paragon of choice, and yet it is a mess. Somebody needs to get their stories straight.

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

Larry Lee started his own blog, which is a good thing, because he understands Alabama politics and cares deeply about improving public education.

In this post, he follows the money that preceded the legislature’s approval of charter schools.

He writes:

Even an amateur swami with a cloudy crystal ball could have told us how the recent vote to approve charter schools in Alabama would play out. In fact, he didn’t even have to look at his ball, they could have looked at 2014 campaign financial disclosures instead.

There they would have found a trail of contributions of thousands and thousands of dollars from charter supporters to friendly legislators.

This bill passed the Senate 22-12 the first time it was voted on. One senator did not vote, eight Democrats voted against it, as did the one Independent and three Republicans. All yes votes were Republican.

Interesting that in the deep South, the Democrats know what “school choice” will lead to. Segregation.

Where did the money come from?

The “Big Three” donors supporting charters last year were Bob Riley’s Alabama 2014 PAC, the Business Council of Alabama’s Progress PAC (run by Billy Canary) and Speaker Mike Hubbard’s Storm PAC. (These three have also been strong supporters of the Alabama Accountability Act.)

Together, they spent $5.1 million dollars in 2014 in hopes of having friendly politicians in place. Obviously their plan worked well. This money came from an assortment of sources. While BCA depends on their Alabama members for support, the Riley and Hubbard PACs cast a wider net and got checks from across the country. Companies such a Pfizer, General Electric, Anheuser Busch, Cemex and International Paper donated. As did pay day lenders and charter supporters like StudentsFirst and K12….

Let’s take a closer look at how the pot was split in the Senate.

None of the eight Democrats or the lone Independent who voted against charters got a penny from Riley, Hubbard or BCA. The Republican who did not vote got $1,000 and the three Republicans who voted “nay” got a total of $77,000, mostly from BCA.

Of the 22 Republican “yea” votes, one who few thought would win, got nothing. Of the remaining 21, six had either no opposition or token opposition. They only received $8,000 total. The remaining 15 got $987,815 in all, an average of $65,854 each. However, some were more equal than others as five got more than $100,000 each.

In addition to contributions from the “Big Three,” StudentsFirst, a Sacramento, CA group with 10 lobbyists in Alabama, spent $61,958. And the Alabama Federation for Children, which was solely supported by checks from millionaires in California, Michigan and Arkansas spent $101,748. Evidently “Alabama values” include California millionaires.

In all, the 15 senators who had substantial challenges got $1,142,522 from the charter supporters just mentioned for an average of $76,168.

Follow the money. It’s rightwing money to privatize public education.

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

Three Families Sue to Keep Tennessee Virtual Academy Open

Three families of children with disabilities sued to prevent the state from closing down the Tennessee Virtual Academy.TVA is one of the lowest performing schools in the state. The virtual charter school is operated by K12 Inc. the for-profit corporation founded by Michael and Lloyd Milken and listed on the New York Stock Exchange.Under state law Tennessees education commissioner has the authority to close the school if it ranks among the worst performers for three consecutive years. The school has consistently been ranked 1 on a 5-point scale with 1 being the worst and 5 the best since it opened in 2011. Critics have called it a failure and said the for-profit corporation that provides the curriculum is more interested in making money than educating children.It would be interesting to learn who is paying the legal fees for these families. via Diane Ravitch’s blog

Gene V. Glass, distinguished professor emeritus at Arizona State University, made a stunning discovery: the President of the State Board of Education is CEO of a charter school, which pays him and his family handsomely. The state of Arizona does not care about conflicts of interest, especially where charter schools are involved.


He writes:


A few years back, Arizonans saw the Chairperson of the State Charter School Board award a charter to a non-profit foundation (which was really K12 Inc., the online school provider), then be hired by the foundation to head the Arizona Virtual Academy, and then be hired by K12 Inc. as a vice-president for something-or-other. She continues to occupy the latter two posts.


Arizona simply doesn’t recognize things called conflicts of interest. I could list dozens concerning public education. A staff member the Board of Regents once told me that in Arizona if you declare your connections, then you can no longer be accused of having a conflict of interest. Perhaps this qualifies as some minimal level of ethical behavior.


A new flagrant conflict of interest has just become apparent to me. A man named Greg Miller is president of the Arizona State Board of Education. There is also a man named Greg Miller who is CEO of Challenge Charter School in Glendale, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix. Matching up photos of the Board president and the charter CEO leaves no doubt that these two individuals are one in the same Greg Miller. Mr. Miller, a civil engineer for 25 years, founded Challenge Charter School in the late 1990s and for a while served as principal. His current title is CEO. Mrs. Pam Miller, his wife, once served on a school board; the Challenge Charter Schools website lists no current duties for Mrs. Miller. But daughter Wendy Miller was appointed Principal of Challenge Charter School the same year in which she earned her MBA.


Glass posts the IRS form 990 for the charter school. Remember, the head of the Miller family is the president of the Arizona State Board of Education.


Greg Miller, the CEO of a school “system” with about 650 students, is being compensated to the tune of $145,000 annually. His wife receives the same salary, though her duties are never enumerated at the website and her position is only described as “Executive Director/Vice-PR,” whatever Vice-PR is. The Miller’s daughter Wendy, who has degrees in Public Administration and Business, receives a salary of more than $120,000 for acting as Principal/Secretary. Basically, the Miller family, while working assiduously 60 hours a week each as reported on their IRS form, is taking about $425,000 a year out of the coffers for salary.


Glass observes:



Crony capitalism, conflicts of interest, charter schools lining the pockets of amateur entrepreneurs, “quasi-private” schools being operated at public expense, an increasingly segregated state school system … it’s just education reform Arizona style.



[P.S. Please do not confuse this family with one of my favorite movies, “We Are the Millers,” which is hilarious, involves criminal activity, and does not involve conflicts of interest.]






via Diane Ravitch’s blog

Does the Onion have secret sources inside the U.S. Department of Education? its stories are typically a week ahead of the real news. Some things are impossible to satirize.

“WASHINGTON—Citing the need to measure student achievement as its top priority, the U.S. Department of Education launched a new initiative Thursday to replace the nation’s entire K-12 curriculum with a single standardized test.

“According to government officials, the four-hour-long Universal Education Assessment will be used in every public school across the country, will contain identical questions for every student based on material appropriate for kindergarten through 12th grade, and will permanently take the place of more traditional methods such as classroom instruction and homework assignments.”

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

Mark Neal, superintendent of the Tri-Valley Local Schools in Ohio, wrote a sharply worded statement about parents’ right to opt their child out of testing.


When parents asked if they had the right to opt out, he responded with this advice:


While I am not (and never have been) an advocate of the PARCC Testing, Ohio got into this testing debacle with little to no input from local school officials. Therefore, I feel no responsibility to stick my neck out for the Department of Education by defending their decisions. What’s happening now, in my opinion, is that parents have figured out what is being forced upon their children, and the proverbial rubber… is beginning to meet the road. However, it is not our goal to discourage nor undermine the laws of our governing body.


Therefore, our position as a school district is that we do not discourage nor encourage a parent’s decision to opt out their child. We must respect parental rights at all costs. This is the very reason I advocate for local control. Our own Tri-Valley Board of Education is in a much better position to make sound decisions for the families of our school district, than are the bureaucrats in Columbus and Washington. I say that with no disrespect toward our own legislators, whom have worked diligently behind the scenes to address the over-testing issue. The unfortunate reality is that the parents who have contacted the school district up to this point, are the parents of high achieving students who undoubtedly would do well on these assessments. We will effectively be rating school districts and individual teachers based on test scores that do not include many of their highest achieving students….


I am quite confident that reason will ultimately prevail. In the meantime, we will respect the rights of our parents to make the best decisions for their children while simultaneously following the laws and policies of the Ohio Department of Education.


For defending common sense and speaking plainly to his community, I place Mark Neal on the honor roll of the blog as a champion of American public education.

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

This is the weekly update from FairTest about the movement against high-stakes testing. FairTest has been leading the figh against the misuse and overuse of standardized testing since 1985.


Bob Schaeffer writes:



The “spin” on today’s first story may be a bit ahead of the curve. But the testing resistance and reform movement is making significant progress, as this week’s clips from half of the nation’s 50 states clearly demonstrate. To win even more tangible victories, we have to ratchet up the pressure on policymakers at the federal, state and local levels to significantly reduce testing overuse and end high-stakes standardized exams.


Boycotters Might Be Winning Battle Over Standardized Testing


No Child Left Behind Has Failed


Scholarly Support for Assessment Reform

500+ Researchers Sign Letter to Congress: Stop Test-Driven “Reforms”


Send a Message to Congress Today — Real NCLB Reform = Less Testing + No High-Stakes


San Diego California School Board Unanimously Supports End of Annual Federal Testing Mandate

Test Scoring of Schools Being Dismantled in California


Colorado Teachers Protest New Standardized Testing


Parents Should Refuse Connecticut’s Smarter Balanced Exams


Florida Educators and Parents Demonstrate Against Toxic Testing

More Florida Families Seek Test Opt Outs


Georgia House Approves Bill to Retroactively Cancel Graduation Test Diploma Requirement


Hawaiian Teachers Story: My Two Kids


Illinois Superintendent Questions Value of New State Assessment


Indiana Testing Turmoil Likely to Boost Opt Out Movement

New Computerized Assessments Freeze Up During Indiana Stress Test


Massive Testing Opt Out Looms Over Louisiana Schools

Don’t Rely on Test Scores to Evaluate Louisiana Teachers


Maryland Testing is Killing the Joy of Learning and Teaching


High Stakes Testing Narrows Michigan Education


Mississippi House Votes to Eliminate Graduation Testing Requirement


New Hampshire Takes Aim at Testing Overkill


New Jersey Parents Revolt Against New PARCC Test

New Jersey Voters Want More School Accountability With Less Testing


More Than 300 Albuquerque Students Opt Out of New Mexico State Test . . . So Far

New Mexico Teachers Challenge “Error-Ridden” Test-Based Evaluation System


New York Education “Reforms” Miss Mark

Tally of 60,000+ New York Opt Outs in 2014 is Accurate


North Carolina State Task Force Recommends Testing Overhaul

North Carolina School Grades Spark Criticism


Growing Numbers of Ohio Families Opt Out of Common Core Tests


Activists Urge Parents to Opt Out of Oregon’s New Smarter Balanced Test

Oregon Testing Debate Moves From Schools to Capitol


Opt Out Numbers Soar in Pennsylvania

The Limits of Standardized Testing in Pennsylvania Schools


High-Stakes Testing Decimates Classroom Teaching in Rhode Island


Texas Testing Is Like Using a Bathroom Scale to Measure Height

Texas Refuses Fed’s Demand for Test-Based Teacher Evaluation


Utah May Cancel Test After First Year


Tacoma, Washington Parents Take Case Against High-Stakes Testing to School Board

Washington State Teachers Rally Against “Toxic Testing”


West Virginia School Board Supports Testing Reduction, Postponing Consequences


Wisconsin State Testing is a Mess


How to Tell Parents That They are “Wrong” About Testing


Uncle Sam is Not Good at Providing “Cover” for School “Reform”


Bad Apples: Pearson’s Stranglehold on American Education


Malcolm X and the Problem of High-Stakes Testing



Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director

FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779

mobile- (239) 699-0468


via Diane Ravitch’s blog

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reviewed the performance of the state’s charter schools and concluded that most were not meeting their academic targets and not closing achievement gaps.


Minnesota was the home of the charter movement, which began with high expectations as a progressive experiment but has turned into a favorite mechanism in many states to promote privatization of public education and to generate profits for charter corporations like Imagine, Charter Schools USA, and K12. Today, charter advocates claim that their privately managed charters will “save low-income students from failing public schools,” but the Minnesota experience suggests that charters face the same challenges as public schools, which is magnified by high teacher turnover in charter schools.



The Star-Tribune article by reporter Kim McGuire begins:



Students in most Minnesota charter schools are failing to hit learning targets and are not achieving adequate academic growth, according to a Star Tribune analysis of school performance data.

The analysis of 128 of the state’s 157 charter schools show that the gulf between the academic success of its white and minority students widened at nearly two-thirds of those schools last year. Slightly more than half of charter schools students were proficient in reading, dramatically worse than traditional public schools, where 72 percent were proficient.


Between 2011 and 2014, 20 charter schools failed every year to meet the state’s expectations for academic growth each year, signaling that some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable students had stagnated academically.

A top official with the Minnesota Department of Education says she is troubled by the data, which runs counter to “the public narrative” that charter schools are generally superior to public schools.


“We hear, as we should, about the highfliers and the schools that are beating the odds, but I think we need to pay even more attention to the schools that are persistently failing to meet expectations,” said Charlene Briner, the Minnesota Department of Education’s chief of staff. Charter school advocates strongly defend their performance. They say the vast majority of schools that aren’t showing enough improvement serve at-risk populations, students who are poor, homeless, with limited English proficiency, or are in danger of dropping out.

“Our students, they’re coming from different environments, both home and school, where they’ve never had the chance to be successful,” said April Harrison, executive director of LoveWorks Academy, a Minneapolis charter school that has the state’s lowest rating. “No one has ever taken the time to say, ‘What’s going on with you? How can I help you?’ That’s what we do.”


Minnesota is the birthplace of the charter school movement and a handful of schools have received national acclaim for their accomplishments, particularly when it comes to making strong academic gains with low-income students of color. But the new information is fueling critics who say the charter school experiment has failed to deliver on teaching innovation.

“Schools promised they were going to help turn around things for these very challenging student populations,” said Kyle Serrette, director of education for the New York City-based Center for Popular Democracy. “Now, here we are 20 years later and they’re realizing that they have the same troubles of public schools systems.”

More than half of schools analyzed from 2011 to 2014 were also failing to meet the department’s expectations for academic growth, the gains made from year to year in reading and math.

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

This is the regular report from Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, which has been promoting test reform for many years.



Happy Holidays to assessment reformers around the nation from everyone at FairTest, and best wishes for a New Year filled with victories rolling back test misuse and overuse.


You can help strengthen the movement for 2015 by making an online contribution at: http:/ or mailing a check to P.O. Box 300204, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.


Thanks for all you do!


Delaware Selective School Entrance Exams Under Fire


Florida State Government Will Investigate School Testing Concerns


Atlanta, Georgia Test Cheating Trial May Last Until Spring


Maryland Teachers Call for Suspension of Kindergarten Readiness Test


New Jersey Teens’ Testimony Leads Board to Evaluate Testing Requirement

Parents Cheer 10-Year-Old Student’s Dissection of New Jersey Common Core Test

12 Reasons Why New Jersey Activists Oppose PARCC Testing


New Mexico Legislation Would Limit Testing Days


New York Advocates Blast Gov. Cuomo’s Teacher Testing Scheme


Over-Testing Tea Party for North Dakota Students


Purpose of Texas Schools Should Not Be Generating More Testing Data


Utah Grades the Wrong Things in Education

Teacher Defense Association Seeks Reinstatement of Educator Fired for Refusing to Administer Tests


Common Core Tests Steal Joy Out of Reading


More States Drop Out of PARCC Testing Consortium


Arne Duncan’s World of Denial


Duncan and Other “Reformers” Should Apologize


Teachers Cal for 360-Degree Accountability


One Public School Teacher’s Open Letter to America–2


Pushing Back Against High-Stakes for Students with Disabilities


Bad Assed Teachers Push Sec. Duncan on Test Misuse for Students with Disabilities


Pearson and the Assessment Problem




Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director

FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779

mobile- (239) 699-0468


via Diane Ravitch’s blog