Motoko Rich writes in the New York Times about the terrible results obtained by online charter schools. She focuses on the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, whose founder has become very wealthy thanks to taxpayer money and the friendship of reformers such as Governor JohnKasich and the GOP legislators in Ohio. Founder William Lager has been very generous to his friends who hold elected office.

 

A terrific business. A lousy education.

 

Five years ago, the New York Times ran a superb expose of online charters, pointing out that they are very profitable but basically scams that rip off taxpayers.

 

In 2011, the Washington Post published an excellent expose of Michael Milken’s K12 Inc, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

 

 

For-profit virtual charter corporations are a cynical business that exploits children and does not have educate them. It demands full state tuition to provide home schooling plus a “teacher” on a monitor.

 

I wrote about the online charter fraud in my 2013 book “Reign of Error.”

 

Numerous studies have concluded that these schools have startlingly high attrition rates, large “class” sizes, low wages, high teacher turnover, and their students very little.

 

The latest study, by CREDO, found that students lost 180 days of instruction in math for every year of 180 days in a virtual charter.

 

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy wrote about today’s article in the Times and pointed out that ECOT has received nearly $1 billion in public funding since 2002.

 

Frankly, these fake schools should be investigated by authorities, monitored, and limited to students who are unable to attend school. They should exist only as public institutions, not profit-making corporations.

via Diane Ravitch’s blog

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Enrollment At Nation’s Largest For-Profit Charter Operator Still Growing Despite Lawsuits, Regulatory Problems

K12 Inc. is facing a litany of regulatory problems and a new shareholder lawsuit, but as long as new students are signing up, none of that matters to investors.

Molly Hensley-Clancy

BuzzFeed News Reporter

A K12 student does coursework in of the company’s virtual charter schools.

The problems plaguing K12 Inc., the country’s largest publicly traded virtual charter operator, are no secret. They’ve been hit with two shareholder lawsuits, subjected to state investigations, and weathered exposes in the New York Times and the Associated Press.

But in their quarterly earnings call today, K12 reported that enrollment has grown yet again, swelling to 125,000 students — an increase of more than 5% since March of last year. Their revenue, which topped $235 million, actually exceeded analysts’ estimates, as did their operating margins. Net income was $15.9 million.

Enrollment is what matters to the company and its shareholders: each student that signs up for K12’s online schools comes with public funding attached, and as long as enrollment grows, revenue likely will, too.

Though enrollment is growing, as many as 50% of K12’s students drop out within a year, according to Gary Miron, a researcher with the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado. Because funding is allocated on a yearly basis in most states, however, Miron says that doesn’t matter much to K12’s bottom line.

“It doesn’t really hurt them because if the student leaves, the money stays,” Miron said. “They can just enroll another student the next year.”

A representative for the company disputed Miron’s analysis, saying, “K12 is not paid for the students who are not there.”

In addition to high dropout rates, K12’s student outcomes are notoriously poor, with students performing worse than their counterparts in brick-and-mortar schools. As a result, just a quarter of their schools meet adequate yearly progress metrics. Just like for-profit giants University of Phoenix and Everest College, K12 attributes these outcomes to the higher numbers of poor and academically challenged students it enrolls, and the high turnover among its students.

After a 2011 article in the New York Times highlighted the company’s many problems with student performance, shareholders filed suit against K12, alleging that they had been misled about student outcomes and had boosted its enrollment and revenue by using “deceptive recruitment” practices. That lawsuit was eventually settled last year, although a portion of its claims were voluntarily dismissed. A second one is in the works, according to an announcement by law firm Levi & Korsinsky.

A K12 representative noted that the company has seen academic improvement “in some areas.”

Prominent hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson, of Kase Capital, has been one of K12’s biggest critics, announcing last year that the company was his biggest short position.

Though legislators and state education departments have started to go after K12 and its smaller counterparts, Miron said most attempts to close down or limit funding to underperforming virtual charter schools have been settled or dropped altogether.

On the company’s earnings call, executives assured investors that the latest attempt to scale back virtual schools, a Pennsylvania bill that targets online charter funding, would have minimal impact.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A history of controversy and complaints

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Office; A New Investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virtual school performance: A national problem

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

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

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

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

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

Are companies anticipating virtual classroom closures?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Peter Greene writes that Maryland’s new Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, wrote charter legislation to make more charters with minimal regulation, accountability or transparency.


 


His “bill would let charters hire and fire staff at will (Maryland’s charter teachers are actually employed by the local district). Teachers wouldn’t have to be certified. Charters would have more ability to pick and choose students. Charters would get more money per student and also get a shot at construction funding. Perhaps most importantly, charters would finally have a recourse if mean old local school boards turned them down; they would be able to appeal to the State Board of Education to override the decision of local elected officials.”


 


The Democratic-controlled legislature had qualms about unleashing free-market charters. It substantially watered down Hogan’s bill. The pro-privatization Center for Education Reform was very upset.


 


Even better, the legislature eliminated Hogan’s wish to authorize online charter schools in Maryland. This is a top priority for ALEC, as it allows for-profit corporations like K12 (which is active in ALEC) to make big money while producing poor results for students. Studies by CREDO in Pennsylvania (comparing public schools, charter schools, and virtual charter schools, of which the last was the worst) and by the National Education Policy Center, as well as investigations by the Bloomberg News, the New York Times and the Washington Post have found online charters to have terrible outcomes (low test scores, low graduation rates, high dropout rates). Yet every one of the privatization organizations quoted in this article bemoans the legislature’s failure to siphon money off to the for-profit, low-performing sector of virtual charters.


 


Score one for public education.
















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

Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch reports that the virtual charter corporation K12 is hoping to open an online school in North Carolina.


 


K12 was founded by Michael and Lloyd Milken and  has turned out to be a highly profitable corporation that is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.


 


It academic results are unimpressive, to say the least. Its students have a high dropout rate, low graduation rates, and low test scores. A study by the Walton-funded group at Stanford found that virtual charter schools in Pennsylvania, including K12, get worse results than either public schools or brick-and-mortar charter schools. A study by the National Education Policy Center criticized K12’s poor academic results and high administration costs; students at K12 actually fall behind real public schools. Stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post showed K12 to be one of the worst of all possible choices.


 


K12 makes a lot of money for investors. The schools it creates are not good schools, as judged by results.


 


Why would North Carolina want to siphon money away from its community public schools to pay off investors in a for-profit corporation?


 


Must be campaign contributions.  Or ideology. Or stupidity.
















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1s2eajZ

Tennessee Virtual Academy: Bad Results, No Accountability

In their rush to privatize public education in Tennessee, the Governor and the legislature enacted legislation in 2011 authorizing the Tennesee Virtual Academy, an online charter school run by K12 Inc.


K12 is a for-profit corporation started by Michael and Lloyd Milken. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It earns millions for its owners but has received bad reviews in the New York Times and the Washington Post. The National Education Policy Center wrote a devastating critique of its academic results, as did CREDO in a report about Pennsylvania. In that state, virtual charter schools do worse than either public schools or brick-and-mortar charter schools.


Nonetheless, Tennessee wanted to be in the vanguard of the privatization movement. K12 partnered with Union County public schools, which collect 4% of K12’s proceeds. K12 pockets the other 96%, which is drawn from public schools across the state. The K12 virtual school is one of the lowest performing schools in the state, but Commissioner Kevin Huffman lacks the grit to shut it down. Despite its poor results, enrollment continues to grow. The company uses public dollars for recruiting, marketing, and advertising, and parents are persuaded by the sales pitch and the free computer to try homeschooling. Unfortunately, students often lack the motivation to stick with the program, and many drop out and return to their local public school, minus the state tuition grant.


Instead of shutting the school down, after three years of poor results, Commissioner Huffman announced that he would not permit the next entering class of 626 students to enroll. If the TVA were a public school, it would have its doors nailed shut. But Huffman decided to give TVA more time and to ignore its dismal results.


In a pattern that is typical for virtual charter schools, the students at the TVA have low test scores and high attrition. When the students return to their public schools, they have low proficiency. Meanwhile, their home district loses money, and K12’s bottom line grows.


Meanwhile a Washington-based organization that advocates for school choice blasted Huffman. The Center for Educational Reform said:


“The Center for Education Reform strongly condemns the recent directive by the Tennessee Education Commissioner to un-enroll 626 students from the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA), denying them their school choice rights.


“It’s an outrage that these 626 legally enrolled students are now being forcefully turned away, just two weeks before the start of the school year,” said Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform. “This represents an unreasonable attempt by Commissioner Huffman to virtually block the schoolhouse door.”


To CER, school choice is far more important than school quality. No matter how low the test scores or the graduation rate, no matter how high the attrition rate, CER will fight for students’ right to choose low-quality schools. How this is supposed to improve U.S. education is a mystery.


Except for a small number of students with compelling reasons to stay home instead of going to school, virtual charter schools are a waste of public funds.

















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1kcQ97d

Tennessee Virtual Academy: Bad Results, No Accountability

In their rush to privatize public education in Tennessee, the Governor and the legislature enacted legislation in 2011 authorizing the Tennesee Virtual Academy, an online charter school run by K12 Inc.


K12 is a for-profit corporation started by Michael and Lloyd Milken. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. It earns millions for its owners but has received bad reviews in the New York Times and the Washington Post. The National Education Policy Center wrote a devastating critique of its academic results, as did CREDO in a report about Pennsylvania. In that state, virtual charter schools do worse than either public schools or brick-and-mortar charter schools.


Nonetheless, Tennessee wanted to be in the vanguard of the privatization movement. K12 partnered with Union County public schools, which collect 4% of K12’s proceeds. K12 pockets the other 96%, which is drawn from public schools across the state. The K12 virtual school is one of the lowest performing schools in the state, but Commissioner Kevin Huffman lacks the grit to shut it down. Despite its poor results, enrollment continues to grow. The company uses public dollars for recruiting, marketing, and advertising, and parents are persuaded by the sales pitch and the free computer to try homeschooling. Unfortunately, students often lack the motivation to stick with the program, and many drop out and return to their local public school, minus the state tuition grant.


Instead of shutting the school down, after three years of poor results, Commissioner Huffman announced that he would not permit the next entering class of 626 students to enroll. If the TVA were a public school, it would have its doors nailed shut. But Huffman decided to give TVA more time and to ignore its dismal results.


In a pattern that is typical for virtual charter schools, the students at the TVA have low test scores and high attrition. When the students return to their public schools, they have low proficiency. Meanwhile, their home district loses money, and K12’s bottom line grows.


Meanwhile a Washington-based organization that advocates for school choice blasted Huffman. The Center for Educational Reform said:


“The Center for Education Reform strongly condemns the recent directive by the Tennessee Education Commissioner to un-enroll 626 students from the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA), denying them their school choice rights.


“It’s an outrage that these 626 legally enrolled students are now being forcefully turned away, just two weeks before the start of the school year,” said Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform. “This represents an unreasonable attempt by Commissioner Huffman to virtually block the schoolhouse door.”


To CER, school choice is far more important than school quality. No matter how low the test scores or the graduation rate, no matter how high the attrition rate, CER will fight for students’ right to choose low-quality schools. How this is supposed to improve U.S. education is a mystery.


Except for a small number of students with compelling reasons to stay home instead of going to school, virtual charter schools are a waste of public funds.

















via Diane Ravitch’s blog http://ift.tt/1kcQ97d

Is This Legal Graft? | Diane Ravitch’s blog

Is This Legal Graft?

Diane Ravitch's blog[1]

A site to discuss better education for all

Motoko Rich of the New York Times has written a good article[2] about the Georgia charter referendum.

We already knew that big donors from out of state funded the pro-charter vote. What I learned from this article was that charter corporations also funded the Yes vote.

She writes:

“The roster of contributors in Georgia includes several companies that manage charter schools, including K12 Inc., Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies. In all, committees supporting the ballot measure have collected 15 times as much as groups opposing the measure, according to public filings.”

The charter corporations listed here operate for profit.

Somehow this seems unethical. Isn’t it like a payoff or a sort of legal graft to buy support for a measure that benefits the corporation?

Yes, I understand that it happens all the time. I understand that tobacco companies and oil companies spend money to win public support and contracts. I’m not naive.

But I never imagined that for-profit charter corporations would give money to candidates and ballot questions to get contracts. If the referendum passes, they make money.

It just smells bad. It stinks.

It’s not about education. It’s about greed.

Funniest Story of the Month | Diane Ravitch’s blog

Funniest Story of the Month

Diane Ravitch's blog[1]

A site to discuss better education for all

As I was doing some research about virtual charter schools, I came across an article that caused me to laugh out loud[2].

It appeared in the Star-Ledger, the main newspaper in New Jersey. It was titled “State Has Virtually No Reason to Not Give Online Charter Schools a Shot.”

It said the state should stop “dithering” and should promptly approve an online charter school. No delay, no moratorium, approve the online school now.

It was published on July 11, 2012, as the state’s Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf and the state board of education were mulling a decision to authorize the megacorporation K12 to open an online charter school in New Jersey.

The reason I laughed out loud was that the article appeared on the same day that the FBI raided the offices of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter[3]. See here too[4].

And it appeared several months after the New York Times published a withering expose of the terrible academic record [5]of K12.

And it appeared fourteen months after the CREDO study of virtual charters in Pennsylvania,[6] which showed they get awful results.

The invaluable New Jersey blogger Jersey Jazzman showed the fallaciousness of the claim [7]that the state should not wait for more research but should promptly approve a virtual charter school.

Truly, this is one of those laugh out loud moments. They are so few these days that we should enjoy them.

Morgan Smith of the Texas Tribune (published in thr New York Times) wrote about the secrecy that surrounds the finances of private corporations that manage schools and claim to be “public.”


They are “public” when it is time to get the money but their finances are private when asked to account for taxpayer money.


Basis, an Arizona charter chain, submitted an application to open a charter in San Antonio and this is what happened:


“On a recently approved Texas charter school application, blacked-out paragraphs appear on almost 100 of its 393 pages.


“Redactions on the publicly available online version of the application often extend for pages at a time. They include sections on the school’s plan to support students’ academic success, its extracurricular activities and the “extent to which any private entity, including any management company” will be involved in the school’s operation. The “shaded material,” according to footnotes, is confidential proprietary or financial information.”


Smith writes:


“In Texas, commercial entities cannot run public schools. But when a school’s management — including accounting, marketing and hiring decisions — is contracted out to a private company, the distinction can become artificial. Such an arrangement raises questions about how to ensure financial accountability when the boundary between public and private is blurred, and the rules of public disclosure governing expenditures of taxpayer money do not apply.”


Some of the most secretive companies run virtual schools, paid for with public money:


“When The Texas Tribune made an open-records request for employee salary records and marketing expenses at the state’s full-time virtual schools, it received responses from all but one of those connected with for-profit entities indicating either that the records were not available or were not subject to public information laws.


“The Huntsville Independent School District, which went into partnership with K12 Inc. to open a virtual academy this year, said the district did not have documents responding to the request at the virtual campus as “it contracts with a private company to handle all employment of personnel and staffing-related data.”


“In other instances, The Tribune was directed to make a request to the private company. A lawyer for Responsive Ed Solutions, a charter school that also contracts with K12 Inc., wrote that most employees of its virtual school were hired by the company and provided the email address of a K12 lawyer. A K12 Inc. spokesman then told The Tribune that “confidential information about K12’s employees” could not be disclosed.”
















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