K12 upgraded to Overweight By First Analysis

August 10, 2016 10:01 am

Writer: Camille Ainsworth

Posted In:

US Broker Ratings

In an analyst rating update on Wednesday shares of K12 (NYSE:LRN) had their rating upgraded by analysts at First Analysis.

The broker said it has now set a ‘Overweight’ rating on shares of K12 with a price target of 14. The price target according to the broker shows a possible increase of 23.35% from the current stock price of 11.35.

Over the last twelve months K12’s share price has decreased from 14.88 to 11.35, changing by -23.72%.

The companies 50 day moving average is 12.68 and its 200 day moving average is 11.16. The 52 week high K12’s shares have peaked at is 15 whilst the 52 week low for the company’s shares is 7.11.

K12 has 37,492,000 shares which are currently outstanding with a price of 11.35 calculating K12’s market capitalisation to 425.53M USD .

K12 Inc. (K12) is a technology-based education company. The Company offers curriculum, software systems and educational services designed to facilitate individualized learning for students in kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12). It provides a range of technology-based educational products and solutions to public school districts, public schools, virtual charter schools, private schools and families. The Company offers a set of products and services primarily to three lines of business, which include public school programs, which consists of managed programs and non-managed programs, Institutional Sales, which includes educational products and services sold to school districts, public schools and other educational institutions that it does not manage and international and private pay schools, which consists of private schools. The Company offers a range of learning applications, which include mobile learning, interactive games, virtual labs, e-book and digital book distribution.

K12 Inc. (LRN) Releases Quarterly Earnings Results

Posted by Andrew Walz on Aug 9th, 2016 // 0 Comments

K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN) announced its quarterly earnings results on Tuesday. The company reported $0.09 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, missing the consensus estimate of $0.13 by $0.04. The business earned $221.30 million during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $210.13 million. During the same period in the prior year, the business earned $0.18 EPS. K12’s quarterly revenue was down 6.1% on a year-over-year basis.

K12 (NYSE:LRN) opened at 12.83 on Tuesday. The company’s market capitalization is $481.02 million. The company’s 50 day moving average price is $12.70 and its 200-day moving average price is $11.13. K12 has a 12-month low of $7.11 and a 12-month high of $15.00.

Several equities research analysts have issued reports on LRN shares. Barrington Research restated a “market perform” rating on shares of K12 in a report on Friday, July 15th. TheStreet upgraded K12 from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a report on Friday, July 8th.

K12 Inc (K12) is a technology-based education company. The Company offers curriculum, software systems and educational services designed to facilitate individualized learning for students in kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12). It provides a range of technology-based educational products and solutions to public school districts, public schools, virtual charter schools, private schools and families.

Receive News & Ratings for K12 Inc. Daily – Enter your email address below to receive a concise daily summary of the latest news and analysts’ ratings for K12 Inc. and related companies with our FREE daily email newsletter.

Georgia’s largest online school paid millions, earns a D

Local Education

By Ty Tagami


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Updated: 3:04 p.m. Friday, July 22, 2016Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, July 23, 2016

Georgians spend tens of millions of dollars a year on one of the biggest online schools in the nation, yet nearly every measure indicates the high-tech, online education model has not worked for many of its more than 13,000 students.

Georgia Cyber Academy students log onto online classes from home, where they talk to and message with teachers and classmates and do assignments in a way that will “individualize their education, maximizing their ability to succeed,” according to an advertisement. But results show that most of them lag state performance on everything from standardized test scores to graduation rates.

The charter school’s leaders say they face unique challenges, with large numbers of students already behind when they enroll. They have plans to improve results but also claim the state’s grading methods are unfair and inaccurate. However, the state disagrees, and if the academy cannot show improvement soon, the commission that chartered the school could shut it down.

Since it opened with a couple thousand students in 2007, the academy has grown to become the state’s largest public school, with students from all 159 counties. In the 2015 fiscal year alone, it reported receiving $82 million in state and federal funding.

Parents such as Dione Ansah praise the academy as an attractive alternative to regular schools. The DeKalb County resident chose it for her two daughters after she lost her job and could no longer afford private school. The neighborhood middle school had a reputation for violence, she said, adding, “there was no way I was going to send my kids there.”

Families choose the academy for a variety of other reasons, such as a desire to learn at an individual pace, a medical condition that keeps kids at home or a need for a flexible schedule for work, such as a student with a budding acting career.

Evelyn Bailey, who graduated in May and will attend an Ivy League university this fall, said she was exposed to a diverse group of students through the classes and occasional organized field trips. Bailey thrived while attending class and doing homework on a computer screen in a windowless corner of her Douglasville basement.

“You have to be the kind of student that enjoys having more responsibility,” said Bailey, 18. “You have to be good at managing your time.”

Too few students apparently share her drive and temperament. The academy earned a “D” for 2015 from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The academy scored near the bottom in the state that year for “growth,” a measure of how each student did on standardized state tests compared to others with similar past performance.

The graduation rate of 66 percent lagged behind the state average by 13 percentage points. Reading ability in third grade, a key marker of future academic success, also lagged, with 47 percent of its students able to digest books on their grade level versus a state average of 52 percent.

The State Charter Schools Commission, established in 2013 as an alternative to going through a school district to start a charter school, authorized the academy in 2014-15. The commission requires its schools to meet annual academic, financial and operational goals in three of the first four years of operation. The academy, which had operated for seven years under the Odyssey Charter School in Coweta County before obtaining its own charter, did not perform as required in its first year as an independent school. It scored one out of a possible 100 points on the academic portion of its evaluation, which assesses performance, mainly on standardized tests, compared to traditional schools. The results for 2015-16 are still being calculated.

This scoring system was not in place when the academy board signed the charter, and the school has not yet agreed to use it. But Bonnie Holliday, the commission’s executive director, said the school isn’t meeting goals under the original scoring system either.

“In the event standards are not met in future years,” she said, “the school is at risk for non-renewal in 2019.”

The academy is beset by many of the same problems that bedevil traditional public schools, including a high and rising number of students from families with meager incomes. Sixty nine percent of the academy’s students in 2015-16 were considered low-income under the federal school meal program; that’s 7 percentage points higher than the state average but below some metro Atlanta districts.

The school also grapples with high turnover. One in four academy students leaves each year; and about a third of the students are new in any given year, said Matt Arkin, the school’s founding head. It takes a year or more to adapt to a classroom on the computer, he said, adding that the performance looks better when counting only those who’ve been there for several years. For instance, for the 42 percent of students who start and finish high school there, the graduation rate is 85 percent. That is 19 percentage points higher than the school’s overall rate.

Some parents and teachers say large class sizes make it difficult for teachers to deliver on the school’s premise of harnessing technology to tailor teaching to each child.

“That’s all a lie; maybe in the younger years, as long as the teacher doesn’t have 70 kids,” said Sherry Horton. Her son did fine there, but her two daughters struggled in high school and couldn’t get their teachers’ attention, Horton said. She withdrew them. “If you put your kids in that school, know that you need to be on top of it every day with the teachers,” she said.

Arkin said class sizes are larger than he’d like, averaging 50 students. He said staffing is limited by tax money the school gets: more than $5,000 per student versus about $9,000 on average for Georgia schools.

As a state charter school, the academy gets no local property tax dollars. And the commission gives it less money per student than its other charter schools with school buildings to maintain, buses to fuel and lunches to cook.

Another problem mentioned by former teachers: attendance.

Jennifer Phillips, who taught seventhgrade English at the Academy several years ago, said a small proportion of her students showed up regularly for her online classes.

“Attendance was definitely a problem,” said Phillips, who left after one year, disillusioned.

Students can watch recordings of the classes later.

Some also said students whose parents weren’t monitoring them could misbehave and be disruptive, doodling on a PowerPoint slide projected to the whole class instead of demonstrating how to solve the math problem on it.

Others said disciplinary problems were minor compared to brick-and-mortar schools. Kelly Brooks, a current teacher at the academy, left a traditional middle school job after tiring of misbehavior. “Boys and girls at that age, they’re just so distracted by each other,” she said. Now, when kids misbehave, she can turn off their ability to speak to or send messages to their classmates.

She said there are other advantages with the technology. Students feel emboldened to approach her because they can send her what they might think are dumb questions without embarrassing themselves in front of their peers.

“So as long as a student is interested, they’re going to get way more out of this than in a traditional classroom,” she said.

While some students exploit that opportunity, the school’s overall performance suggests most are like Keontavious Hankerson, a Burke County student who liked his teachers but felt uninspired by the online experience.

His mother, Mary Webb, enrolled him in the academy two years ago after county teachers “gave him real bad grades because he couldn’t focus.” His performance improved the first year, when his father’s work schedule allowed him to stay home during the day and push him. The next year his father’s schedule changed, and Keontavious was left home with only a slightly older relative. He floundered, Webb said. She was impressed that the school provided a computer, books and even printer ink, but said she will re-enroll him in the county this fall.

Keontavious, 15, said he missed being around other kids. “I didn’t like being at home,” he said. “It was hard for me to stay on the computer.”

School officials acknowledge the problem: Self-driven students or those with parents who can push them tend to do best while those with less support often struggle.

“We’re a school that really seeks to challenge high performers, and push them to new heights. At the same time we’re a dropout prevention and dropout recovery school,” Arkin said.

About four in five at the high school level and about half of the younger kids came to the academy after falling behind at their prior school, he said.

The school pays K12, a for-profit company, to provide technology and curriculum services, including $36.9 million in 2014-15.

Mary Gifford, a senior vice president at K12, said Georgia’s growth measure is inaccurate at grading schools with extremes of high- and low-performers and high student turnover.

The state disagrees, saying their school grading model uses test scores in a way that is “reflective” of those characteristics.

Ryan Mahoney, chairman of the academy’s nonprofit board, dismissed the likelihood of being closed. The first year’s results were based mainly on the 2015 Georgia Milestones tests, which, he noted, were waived for low-performing traditional schools since the tests were new. If the commission sticks to its rules, he said, most of the agency’s 15 schools that were around in 2014-15 would have to close.

“I’m sure that’s not what the commission intended,” he said. He wants the commission to change the way it grades schools. He also wants more money for the school.

Holliday, the commission’s executive director, said schools might get a reprieve if they meet standards by the fourth year of their contract, but added any underperforming school is at risk of closure “regardless of whether it’s one school or 10 schools … any school operating under the assumption that commissioners will give them a pass for poor performance is mistaken.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, who spoke at the academy’s graduation ceremony, is optimistic about the school, but said it must make do with current funding.

“They have a very efficient model for the delivery of education, and they should be maximizing that,” he said. “K12 as an institution needs to be less concerned about money and more concerned about student achievement.”

He said charter schools like the academy prod traditional schools to improve and that it has the potential to be a “disruptive” force for education in the way Uber is changing transportation. While the academy “clearly is not at the highest standard that we would like,” he said, it is serving “many students at a very, very high level.”

Online charter schools have drawn critical attention nationwide, even from charter advocates. In mid-June, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools called for change, citing research that found online charter schools had turned in “large-scale underperformance.”

Karega Rausch, vice president of research for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, which helped with the report, said virtual schools in Georgia and across the country are doing poorly on a host of measures. “There’s a whole lot of corroborating evidence to suggest there’s a problem,” he said. “A lot more authorizers need to close a lot more virtual schools. Period.”

Arkin said his turnaround plan includes more advisers to help new students adapt and a new data system in middle school to help teachers analyze student performance and adjust their teaching. And he said the school is getting better, noting that some of its scores on the state’s report card climbed closer to the state average in 2014-15 from the year before, when the academy operated under Odyssey.

Even parents who are critical said it would be a shame if the academy closed, since it provides an alternative in some parts of the state where there is no other.

Susan Rachel’s daughter spent a year in the academy. Now, Rachel, from the Augusta area, is complaining about class sizes, harried teachers, students slipping profanity onto the electronic blackboard and, ultimately, a model of education that didn’t seem to be all that different from traditional public school. She described it as “the factory model in your living room, spitting out kids as fast as you can enroll them.”

But don’t close the academy, she said. Parents need an alternative: “I mean, it’s better than nothing.”

Data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this article

Charter Groups Want More Regulations for Virtual Charter Schools

Posted

By David Safier

on at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge

  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin

Now this is an interesting development. Some prominent charter school organizations have published a report advocating stricter regulations to improve the performance of virtual charter schools, also known as on-line schools. This isn’t an entirely new development. Charter school organizations have been trying to weed out poorly performing schools from the charter ranks, and this is their latest effort. More at the end of the post about the positives and negatives of this push.

Three organizations, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, National Association of Charter School Organizers and 50CAN, joined together to publish A Call to Action To Improve the Quality of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools. The organizations support virtual charters, but they’ve read the reports about how poorly students at those schools perform compared to students at other public schools and believe the schools should be more carefully regulated.

The facts about the virtual schools in the report look to me to be accurate. A vital bit of information is that 70 percent of the schools are run by for-profit organizations, directly or indirectly, which means the profit motive is going to trump education whenever the two are in conflict. Some other facts: there are 135 full-time virtual schools in the country; 79 percent of their students are in virtual schools with more than a thousand students; virtual school serve more students in poverty and fewer English language learners than traditional public schools.

The report’s recommendations are specific and, if implemented, could doom one of the biggest players, K-12 Inc., a publicly traded corporation (Arizona Virtual Academy, or AZVA, in one of its schools) whose many sins I’ve written about over the years and whose failings are being subjected to increasing scrutiny. The proposal is that enrollment be limited to hundreds, not thousands of students, and if the schools want to grow, they need to meet performance goals. That would be a stake in the heart of K12 Inc. whose profits are based on continual growth and whose stockholders are growing increasingly skittish (its stock is currently trading at about 11, down from a 2011 high of 36). AZVA has over 4,000 students. Another branch, Ohio Virtual Academy, has over 10,000 students. The corporation would crumble if it had to cut its schools’ student populations dramatically.

The report also recommends that virtual schools be funded based on their real costs, another potentialstake in the heart of the for-profit model. Right now, most virtual schools get close to the same per-student state funding as brick-and-mortar schools even though they don’t have physical buildings to pay for and maintain, and their teachers often have twice the student load of teachers in other charters and school districts (A 50-to-1 student-teacher ratio is the standard at K12 Inc. schools). The report estimates that per student costs at virtual schools are 60 percent of the costs at brick-and-mortar schools. Take away their inflated public funding—remember, taxpayers pay for charter schools, just like we pay for school districts—and they lose their profit margins.

It’s good to see charter school organizations actively pursuing some of the bad actors in their midst, and I agree with almost everything I read in this report. However, there’s a bit of a caveat I need to add. When they go after poorly performing charters, their targets are almost always schools with students from low income families. It’s true, some of those schools are doing a lousy job, just like some district schools do a bad job with their low income students, but some charters serving those students do terrific work, even though their test scores are at the low end of the spectrum because of socioeconomic factors beyond the schools’ control. If charter organizations work together with state regulators to carve out the genuinely bad schools, that’s a good thing. However, their motives may not be that pure. Every time a charter with low test scores is closed, regardless of the reason, the average test scores for the remaining charter schools rise. Closing charters serving low income students for any reason, good or bad, can give the charter PR people the kind of undeserved bragging rights they love. “Look at our scores! We’re more successful than school districts,” they can say, even though their higher scores may be a result of serving a different population. The poster child for this type of self congratulation is the BASIS chain which has a variety of ways to screen out academically undesirable students, then brags about its students’ academic achievement. The “education reform”/privatization folks would love to be able to say the same kind of thing about charters as a whole, and the easiest way to do that is to close schools serving low income students.

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.

RELATED CONTENT

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.

[READ:
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.”

RELATED CONTENT

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.”

RELATED CONTENT

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.

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. 

K12 Inc. statement about investigation of California schools

Bay Area News Group

Posted:
 
04/18/2016 08:34:44 PM PDT Updated:   about a month ago

K12 Inc. released the following statement Monday in response to a Bay Area News Group investigation published Sunday and Monday into the Virginia company’s network of online charter schools in California.

HERNDON, Va., — This week, The San Jose Mercury News published two articles about K12 Inc. and the California Virtual Academies (CAVA) — eleven independent public charter schools — that are inaccurate, incompletely researched, and missing the balanced input of many parents whose children have attended and been served by these schools.

Most concerning, these stories cite several politically-driven claims about the CAVA schools that are substantially similar, and in some cases identical, to allegations made by the California Teachers Association (CTA) in their multi-year campaign to unionize the CAVA schools. These issues have been addressed and in many instances roundly refuted. The paper fails to disclose that the few teachers quoted in the article represent a small subset of CAVA teachers organizing on behalf of CTA. The union opposes charter schools, and has also lobbied for legislation aimed at shutting down CAVA schools and other similar public schools of choice.

Parents of children with a variety of educational needs choose CAVA schools: students with special needs who are not receiving the services they require at their local schools; children who struggle in traditional schools; students who are bullied; academically gifted children; and many more. We believe parents know their children best, and we respect the choices they make.

The Mercury News articles are inconsistent with the positive experiences of thousands of California parents who thoughtfully choose CAVA schools for their children. They ignore the experience of the majority of CAVA teachers and educators who are passionate about their work, committed to these schools, and who reject the self-serving goals of the CTA. And they fail to represent fairly the volunteers–many of whom are themselves parents of CAVA students–who serve on the independent, nonprofit CAVA schools’ boards. The Mercury News should have considered the input of a wider sample of parents and teachers.

K-12 public schools are highly regulated entities, and as a services provider to public schools across the U.S. we take compliance very seriously. Each CAVA school is governed by a separate and independent charter school board. Each school follows state and federal regulations, and operates under California’s Independent Study program designed for non-classroom-based educational programs. These schools are open, transparent, and accountable. They operate under multiple layers of oversight at the state and local levels, undergo annual independent financial and programmatic audits, and have strong records of compliance.

K12’s mission is to serve our school partners and to assist them in making student achievement the first goal. Where there are deficiencies, we make improvements. If mistakes are made, we correct them. We work constantly to enhance our products and academic services–and, in turn, to facilitate student success. K12 is an organization of educators, teachers, and professionals who are dedicated to providing quality services to the schools and students we are privileged to serve. Unfortunately, these articles do not fairly tell that side of the story.

K12 Inc. statement about investigation of California schools

Bay Area News Group

Posted:
 
04/18/2016 08:34:44 PM PDT Updated:   about a month ago

K12 Inc. released the following statement Monday in response to a Bay Area News Group investigation published Sunday and Monday into the Virginia company’s network of online charter schools in California.

HERNDON, Va., — This week, The San Jose Mercury News published two articles about K12 Inc. and the California Virtual Academies (CAVA) — eleven independent public charter schools — that are inaccurate, incompletely researched, and missing the balanced input of many parents whose children have attended and been served by these schools.

Most concerning, these stories cite several politically-driven claims about the CAVA schools that are substantially similar, and in some cases identical, to allegations made by the California Teachers Association (CTA) in their multi-year campaign to unionize the CAVA schools. These issues have been addressed and in many instances roundly refuted. The paper fails to disclose that the few teachers quoted in the article represent a small subset of CAVA teachers organizing on behalf of CTA. The union opposes charter schools, and has also lobbied for legislation aimed at shutting down CAVA schools and other similar public schools of choice.

Parents of children with a variety of educational needs choose CAVA schools: students with special needs who are not receiving the services they require at their local schools; children who struggle in traditional schools; students who are bullied; academically gifted children; and many more. We believe parents know their children best, and we respect the choices they make.

The Mercury News articles are inconsistent with the positive experiences of thousands of California parents who thoughtfully choose CAVA schools for their children. They ignore the experience of the majority of CAVA teachers and educators who are passionate about their work, committed to these schools, and who reject the self-serving goals of the CTA. And they fail to represent fairly the volunteers–many of whom are themselves parents of CAVA students–who serve on the independent, nonprofit CAVA schools’ boards. The Mercury News should have considered the input of a wider sample of parents and teachers.

K-12 public schools are highly regulated entities, and as a services provider to public schools across the U.S. we take compliance very seriously. Each CAVA school is governed by a separate and independent charter school board. Each school follows state and federal regulations, and operates under California’s Independent Study program designed for non-classroom-based educational programs. These schools are open, transparent, and accountable. They operate under multiple layers of oversight at the state and local levels, undergo annual independent financial and programmatic audits, and have strong records of compliance.

K12’s mission is to serve our school partners and to assist them in making student achievement the first goal. Where there are deficiencies, we make improvements. If mistakes are made, we correct them. We work constantly to enhance our products and academic services–and, in turn, to facilitate student success. K12 is an organization of educators, teachers, and professionals who are dedicated to providing quality services to the schools and students we are privileged to serve. Unfortunately, these articles do not fairly tell that side of the story.

Whitney Tilson, a key figure in the corporate reform movement, and I have continued an exchange about the teaching, charters, and the movement he represents. He was among the founders of Democrats for Education Reform and Teach for America; he is also involved in Bridge International Academies, which opens low-cost, for-profit schools in poor countries. Another in this series will appear soon. He posted this on his blog this morning. You can read it there to see my remarks are in blue; when I copied and pasted to my site, all the blue disappeared, and I didn’t have time to recolor them. My comments are marked DR, his are WT. I am engaging in this dialogue so that his readers can learn what their critics say, not filtered but straight.

 

 

 

From: Whitney Tilson
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2016 9:00 AM
Subject: Round 2 of my discussion with Diane Ravitch, on who’s the status quo, charter schools, and testing

 

If someone forwarded you this email and you would like to be added to my email list to receive emails like this one roughly once a week, please email Leila at leilajt2+edreform@gmail.com. You can also email her if you’d like to unsubscribe. Lastly, in between emails I send out links to articles of interest via Twitter (I’m #arightdenied) so, to get them, you must sign up to follow me at: https://twitter.com/arightdenied.
———————
STOP THE PRESSES AGAIN!!!

 

My new BFF, Diane Ravitch, and I have continued our conversation and it’s gotten even more interesting, as we’ve moved past the high-level principles we mostly agreed on in our first exchange of emails (sent a couple of weeks ago and posted on her blog here and my blog here) and started engaging on the many issues on which we disagree.

Our ongoing discussion covers many topics:
1) Whether reformers are now the status quo

2) Charter schools

3) Tests and how they should (and shouldn’t) be used

4) Who is the underdog in this battle

5) The tone of the debate and our shared desire to focus more on the issues and less on personal attacks

6) The details of the Vergara case – namely, a) the amount of time it takes teachers to earn tenure; b) how difficult it is for administrators to fire a tenured teacher; and c) whether layoffs should be done strictly by seniority
Because of its length, we’ve agreed to break it into two parts: Round 2 is below and will cover the first three topics. Tomorrow we’ll release Round 3, covering the remaining three.

My original email is in italics, Diane’s comments are in blue (beginning with “DR:”), and my responses are in black (beginning with “WT:”).

Enjoy!

Whitney

 
————————-

 
Hi Diane,

 

I really enjoyed our first exchange of ideas. Thank you for engaging.

 

Since you had the last word, the onus is on me to respond – which, frankly, makes me feel overwhelmed because we’ve already touched on so many enormously complex and difficult issues that we could spend weeks discussing just one of them.

 

So, I’m going to approach this following the old maxim, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I’m not going to try to respond to everything, but rather just a few things and hopefully we can build from there.
So let’s talk about two things, one high-level and one nitty-gritty: 1) tone, language and motivations; and 2) the Vergara case.

 

Tone, Language and Motivations
Here’s another thing we can surely agree on: we (and our allies) have far too often let our rhetoric get away from us, leading us to make ad hominem attacks rather than sticking to the issues. Randi throws kids under the bus on behalf of her members, you’re motivated by a personal vendetta against Joel Klein, I’m part of the hedge fund cabal that wants to privatize public education for our own profit, reformers are anti-teacher, etc.
Can we just stop? Please?

 

Let’s agree to disagree without being disagreeable. It diminishes all of us. It blinds us to the many things we agree on. And it makes it much harder to reach compromises, which are usually necessary.

 

No doubt there are some folks on “your side” who, for example, are more focused on more jobs, higher pay, better benefits and job security, etc. for union members than on the best interests of kids, just as there are people on “my side” who wrongly bash teachers and are more focused on earning higher profits (like the online charter school operators) or busting unions than on the best interests of kids.

 

But it’s been my experience and observation over 27 years (I know, I know, that makes me a rookie!) that the vast majority of people engaged in this debate are motivated not by self-interest, but by a deep passion for ensuring that all children in this country get a good education that gives them a fair shot in life.

 

So let’s stop the rhetoric about “defenders of the status quo” and “throwing kids under the bus” (from my side) and “the billionaire boys club that demonizes teachers and wants to privatize public education for their own profit” (from your side).

 

DR: Whitney, I have to stop you here, to clear the record. I know that “your side” refers to anyone who believes in public education as a “defender of the status quo,” which is frankly absurd. The “status quo” is your side. You and your compatriots have controlled the U.S. Department of Education for the past eight years (at least). You got your favorite ideas imposed on the nation via Race to the Top. You were able, through Race to the Top, to get almost every state to agree to hand off public schools to charter operators, some of whom-frankly–are incompetent and fast-buck entrepreneurs–and to agree to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students. You got whatever you wanted through Arne Duncan’s close association with your reform movement. So, yes, there is a status quo, and it consists of high-stakes testing (which American children and teachers have endured for 15 years) and privatization via charter. The charter movement has promoted free markets, competition, and consumer choice, which opens the door to vouchers, which are now found in some form in nearly half the states. Add this all up, and you have a disruptive status quo that is highly demoralizing to teachers, destroys unions, and rattles the foundations of education without improving it.

 

WT: I agree that we reformers were able to get some of our agenda implemented under Obama and Duncan, but completely disagree that we have become the status quo. (By the way, I know you object to the term “reformers”, but I don’t know what else to call us; if I use your preferred term, “status quo’ers”, all of our readers will be confused.) I looked it up and it’s defined as “the existing state of affairs, particularly with regards to social or political issues.”

 

How can the status quo be anything except the existing K-12 public educational system, which is the 2nd largest area of government spending (exceeding our military, trailing only healthcare) and by far the largest employer in the country at 7.2 million jobs (plus add 3.8 million more if you count higher ed) (per this data from the U.S. Department of Labor)?

 

I also disagree with your characterization of our agenda, for a variety of reasons.

 

DR: The existing public school system is saddled with high-stakes testing because of “your side.” It is saddled with policies like test-based evaluation of teachers because of Race to the Top (“your side”). Thousands of teachers and principals have been fired and thousands of community public schools have been closed and replaced by privately managed charters because of the policies of “your side.” Your side is in charge. Your side makes the rules and the laws. Your side demonizes teachers and public education.

 

WT: Charter Schools
I think high-quality charters are an important piece of the puzzle in improving our educational system. This is a topic on which I know we will forever disagree and it’s a big, complex one, so let’s agree to return to it in more depth in a future discussion – but in the meantime, if you (and our readers) would like to read my response to your critique of charters, I published an open letter to you on 12/3/10 that is posted here. Though I wrote it more than five years ago, I think it’s still quite timely.

 

Briefly, you always refer to them as part of an effort to privatize public education, which drives me crazy (I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear) because charter schools are public schools! They receive public funds, are often situated in public school buildings, aren’t allowed to have admissions criteria (unlike many public schools like Stuyvesant) (yes, some charters cheat; so do many regular public schools), students have to take the same state tests, etc. They are simply public schools that aren’t overseen by the central bureaucracy – rather, by a board of directors made up of private citizens – and aren’t subject to the centrally negotiated union contract. This makes them different – but they’re still public schools, ultimately accountable, directly or indirectly, to elected officials the city or state in which they’re located.

 

As for charters opening the door to vouchers, I think, if anything, they’re a substitute. But regardless, I generally favor both – but the devil is in the details. I share your opposition to awful for-profit online charter operators like K12, but think we should expand high-quality charters that, as I noted in our last exchange, are willing to play by the same rules as regular public schools (e.g., take their fair share of the most disadvantaged students, backfill, etc.).

 

DR: Charter schools are not public schools. They have private boards; they are not required to have open meetings. Their finances are opaque. They choose the students they want and push out those they don’t want. When hauled into court or before the NLRB, their defense is always the same: we are not public schools, we are not state actors, we are private corporations operating schools on a contract with government. I am convinced: they are not public schools, because they say so themselves. They are neither transparent nor accountable. They leave the neediest students to the public schools, even as they drain resources from the public schools. They weaken the public schools by cherrypicking the most motivated students, excluding the neediest students, and taking away the resources that public schools require to function well. Charter schools are harming the education of the great majority of students, who are enrolled in public schools. We had a dual school system before the Brown decision of 1954; we should not go back and recreate a new one.

 

It has to be a little disturbing to you to realize that your agenda for charters is shared by all the Republican governors, as well as a few Democrats like Obama, Cuomo, and Malloy. You are also allied with Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder, Mike Pence, Paul LePage, Jeb Bush, and the Tea Party of North Carolina. Every Republican legislature loves charter schools, as it is an opportunity to resegregate the schools. The far-right American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) loves charter schools and has model charter legislation which is shared with their members in every state, as well as model legislation to eliminate collective bargaining and standards for teachers.

 

WT: Testing
Regarding testing, we actually agree on more than I expected. I agree with your critique that we reformers haven’t implemented it very well – which has certainly helped the anti-testing crowd give us a political drubbing. I share your concerns about testing (from our last exchange a few days ago: “teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum, cheating”) and agree that “they favor those who come to school with advantages,” “that most testing should be designed by the classroom teachers, not by outside testing corporations,” and that standardized tests shouldn’t be given “more than once a year.”

 

Where we disagree, I think, is how the tests should be used. You wrote that “standardized testing should be used only diagnostically” and that it “should not figure into…the teachers’ evaluation.”

Regarding the former, I’m not 100% sure what you mean by “only diagnostically,” but I believe that we need to use the results of standardized tests as one important measure – though not the only measure! – of how teachers, schools, districts, states, and our entire country are doing in achieving our goal of ensuring that every child gets a good education.

 

DR: Tests are diagnostic when they show what students know and don’t know, so instruction can be adjusted to help them do better. Today’s standardized tests have no diagnostic value. They rank students without giving any information about what they do and don’t know. Imagine going to a doctor with a sharp pain in your side. Your doctor says to you, “This is bad. You scored a 2 on a scale of 1 to 4. You are in the 30th percentile. Goodbye.” What you really want is a diagnosis. You want to know what is wrong and you want medicine that will stop the pain. Tests today are pointless and useless. All teachers learn is where their students rank, not what they need more help with.

 

WT: When tests show that half of black and Latino 4th graders are “below basic” readers (at least one year below grade level, often far more), this is critical information about this national disgrace. Of course it’s a separate discussion about what to do about this, which is rooted in how much of this problem is due to ineffective schools vs. other factors like poverty, but it’s critical to do the testing every year so, as a nation, we are regularly reminded of the problem, can take steps to address it, and track progress.

 

DR: We don’t need to test every student every year to know that kids need smaller classes and intensive help. Their teachers know that. No high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year. Testing is a measure, not a treatment. If we keep pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into testing without changing conditions in the schools, we will get nowhere. Whatever we need to know about student performance can be learned from NAEP (the National Assessment of Educational Performance), which tests American students every two years in reading and math and reports on state results and disaggregates scores by race, language, gender, disability, etc. The current onerous tests—lasting eight to ten hours for little children—are unnecessary.

 

WT: For similar reasons, it’s critical to know if the vast majority of children in a particular district, school or, yes, even classroom are, for example, reading or doing math far below grade level. I agree that it’s not necessarily a high school’s fault if, say, 90% of students are below grade level and the graduation rate is only 50% – that’s what tends to happen when students enter 9th grade three years below grade level – so the test results must be used carefully (and I know sometimes they’re not), but that’s not a reason to eliminate standardized testing or limit its uses. If there is no learning going on in an entire school – and there are, sadly, a lot of them – then we really need to know that!

DR: Be aware that 50% of students are always below grade level. That is the nature of grade level; it is a median. In any district where 80-90% are below grade level, you can be certain that there is a high concentration of poverty and racial segregation. Why assume that the teachers are bad? The root causes of low test scores are the same everywhere: poverty and segregation. What can be done to reduce those two harmful conditions?

 

WT: As for classroom-level data, we surely agree that it may not be a teacher’s fault if every child in her class is reading below grade level – they likely entered the class that way. But if they spend a year in a teacher’s classroom and still can’t read or do math (or whatever the subject is) better than they could at the beginning of the year, then something is wrong and we (broadly defined: the department head, principal, superintendent, parents, taxpayers, etc.) need to know that so corrective action can be taken – so, again, while it’s important to use data and test results correctly, we need the data!

 

DR: Your faith in standardized testing is greater than mine. I served on the NAEP governing board for seven years, and I saw questions that had two right answers or no right answers. Children have talents and skills that are not measured on these tests. We have been testing everything that moves for 15 years and we have very little to show for it. It is time to think differently. We should give more thought to how to help students and teachers and less money to measuring them. The nature of standardized tests is that they are normed on a bell curve. Half will always be below the median. If we gave drivers’ licenses that way, half the population would never get one.

 

WT: Now let’s turn to the issue of using standardized tests as part of teachers’ evaluations, a hugely complex and contentious issue.

 

I think standardized test results should be used as part (and only a small – less than 50% – part) of a teacher’s evaluation – while simultaneously acknowledging the validity of your many objections to this. Good testing should be able to measure, at least to some degree, what really matters: growth. The concept is simple: if students start the school year at a certain level, they should be at a higher level by the end of the year, so let’s measure that.

 

Now, before you go off on me for saying this, I’m well aware that, in practice, it’s not simple at all: tests are imperfect and results are inconsistent year to year; many subjects (like art) areas don’t lend themselves to measurement by tests; sometimes a class has more than one teacher during the year; some students move between classes; etc. I also agree that reformers could have done a better job of implementing the process of tying student test scores to teacher evaluations.

 

But I view these problems as good reasons why test results shouldn’t be weighted too heavily, should be based on growth/learning, not static scores, and need to be balanced by comprehensive reviews by peers and administrators – but not as reasons to completely reject using test results in teacher evaluations.

 

DR: Test scores should not count at all in evaluating a teacher’s performance. As three major scholarly organizations (the American Educational Research Association, the National Academy of Education, and the American Statistical Association) have said, test scores say more about who is in the class than about teacher quality. Those who teach students with disabilities, English language learners, and gifted students will not get big score increases, may see flat scores, and may still be good teachers. Those who teach in affluent suburbs may look like superstars, even though they are no better than those teaching in the inner city schools. Value-added measurement, as it is called, has not worked anywhere. It is invalid, unstable, and unreliable. A teacher may get a high score one year, and a low score the next year. A teacher may register gains in math, yet no gains in reading; does she get a bonus or will she be fired?

 

I think you should know that 70% of teachers do not teach tested subjects. Only 30% teach reading or math in elementary and middle school. How do we evaluate the majority? They are evaluated based on the test scores of students they don’t know and subjects they don’t teach. That’s neither fair nor rational. So it may sound simple to say that teachers should be evaluated on whether scores go up or down, but it doesn’t work for the 70% who don’t teach tested subjects and it doesn’t work for the 30% who do because they are not teaching randomly assigned and comparable students. I urge you (and your readers) to read this article by a teacher who quit: http://ift.tt/1Wo53tj.

 

WT: It would be like evaluating basketball players without looking at points scored per game. Of course this one statistic needs to be placed in a broader context (how many shots the player takes; rebounds; assists; steals; defensive prowess; whether someone has a good attitude and enhances (or diminishes) team cohesion, etc.) – but you gotta look at it!

 

DR: The purpose of playing basketball is to score points and win games. The purpose of education is not to get high scores but to develop good citizens who can think and act wisely, work with other people respectfully, love learning and continue learning when school is finished. What matters most can’t be measured on a standardized test.

 

WT: In summary, I really fear that the anti-testing backlash will put us on the path back toward the bad old days when school systems could give poor and minority students the worst schools – and even good schools could put such students into the low-expectations classrooms with the least effective teachers – without anyone being the wiser.

 
DR: After fifteen years of high-stakes testing, the conditions you fear are still in place. Poor and minority students are still in the schools with the lowest test scores. The achievement gap remains stubbornly large. Testing hasn’t helped the neediest children, because their needs are not addressed by standardized tests. We keep learning the same things every year, but doing nothing to change the causes. The anti-testing backlash, led by angry parents, will continue and grow. They don’t want their children to be labeled failures in third grade. They don’t want them to spend most of their time preparing to take tests. They don’t want them sitting for tests that take longer than the law school exams. And they don’t want their teachers fired if their students don’t get high scores. Why must this be inflicted only on public schools? If private schools were required to take these unnecessary and pointless tests, the rebellion would be joined by their parents too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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