Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio’s Virtual Charter Schools

August 02, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big, Big Payouts to Execs at Taxpayer Expense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Millions in K12 Ads at Taxpayer Expense Too

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

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

Plus Taxpayer Money Helps K12 Pay to Play with ALEC Politicians

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

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

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

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

As CMD’s SourceWatch has documented:

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

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

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

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

Making "Friends" Everywhere K12 Goes….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

k12inc 2.pdf

K12 education company settles case with Calif.

Local Education

By Ty Tagami


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Updated: 5:08 p.m. Thursday, July 28, 2016Posted: 2:47 p.m. Thursday, July 28, 2016

A company that is paid tens of millions of dollars to provide educational services in Georgia has settled a legal case in California after a state investigation into allegations of improper billing there.

There’ve been no public allegations of impropriety in Georgia, where the company, K12 helps operate Georgia Cyber Academy. The academy has come in for criticism over student results: in 2015, the school earned a D for its academic performance with more than 13,000 Georgia students, as reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia academy is among the five biggest schools managed by K12, officials said. The company educates about as many students at a collection of 14 schools in California called the California Virtual Academies, or CAVA.

K12 was the target of a civil investigation by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, whose office alleged that K12 exploited weak charter school oversight in her state to excessively bill CAVA schools by pressuring teachers to sign “doctored” attendance records. Her office also accused the school of telling people it thought were prospective parents that classes were smaller than they really were.

On July 8, K12 agreed to settle for millions of dollars, without admitting to the alleged facts or to wrongdoing. Harris issued a statement saying the company had agreed to a settlement of $168.5 million, which K12 CEO Stuart Udell characterized as “shameless and categorically incorrect” in a conference call afterward with financial analysts.

The company did agree to pay $2.5 million to the state and $6 million to the attorney general’s office. But K12 objects to the way Harris described the other $160 million.

She called it “debt relief to the non-profit schools it manages.” Udell called it “the difference between K12’s contractual price and what the schools can afford to pay” based on their state funding.

“While K12 has a contractual right to recover these balanced budget credits, in all the years that K12 has worked with the CAVA boards we have never sought to recover those amounts,” Udell said on that conference call, according to a transcript provided by K12.

The final judgment in the case describes the $160 million agreement this way: an expungement of a decade’s worth of “credits against amounts otherwise due under managed school contracts.”

Neither the conference call nor the attorney general’s news release addressed another payment: $80,000 to a former CAVA teacher turned whistleblower. She alleged she was fired because she complained about the way K12 changed the attendance records she had submitted. The attorney general intervened in her case and K12 agreed to give her $50,000 to settle her employment-related claims and $30,000 for her legal fees.

Udell told the analysts that the company settled with the attorney general to avoid a “multiyear distraction” and litigation costs that would have been many times what it agreed to pay. He also said the company plans to fight legislation in California that would prohibit charter schools from using for-profit companies like his. And he said K12, which runs some 80 schools in 33 states, has plans to expand, going statewide in Alabama and Virginia and adding schools in other states, including Indiana, Michigan, Nevada and Maine.

K12 education company settles case with Calif.

5:08 p.m. Thursday, July 28, 2016

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A company that is paid tens of millions of dollars to provide educational services in Georgia has settled a legal case in California after a state investigation into allegations of improper billing there.

There’ve been no public allegations of impropriety in Georgia, where the company, K12 helps operate Georgia Cyber Academy. The academy has come in for criticism over student results: in 2015, the school earned a D for its academic performance with more than 13,000 Georgia students, as reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia academy is among the five biggest schools managed by K12, officials said. The company educates about as many students at a collection of 14 schools in California called the California Virtual Academies, or CAVA.

John Amis

Graduate of Georgia Cyber Academy Brycen Walker of Savannah throws up his hands in jubilation as he follows Tyriq Wade of Columbus to the stage during commencement, Saturday, May 21, 2016, held at Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta. The statewide charter school educates more than 13,000 students a year, as young as 5 years old, all online and at about half the cost of traditional public schools. (Photo/John Amis)

K12 was the target of a civil investigation by California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, whose office alleged that K12 exploited weak charter school oversight in her state to excessively bill CAVA schools by pressuring teachers to sign “doctored” attendance records. Her office also accused the school of telling people it thought were prospective parents that classes were smaller than they really were.

On July 8, K12 agreed to settle for millions of dollars, without admitting to the alleged facts or to wrongdoing. Harris issued a statement saying the company had agreed to a settlement of $168.5 million, which K12 CEO Stuart Udell characterized as “shameless and categorically incorrect” in a conference call afterward with financial analysts.

The company did agree to pay $2.5 million to the state and $6 million to the attorney general’s office. But K12 objects to the way Harris described the other $160 million.

She called it “debt relief to the non-profit schools it manages.” Udell called it “the difference between K12’s contractual price and what the schools can afford to pay” based on their state funding.

“While K12 has a contractual right to recover these balanced budget credits, in all the years that K12 has worked with the CAVA boards we have never sought to recover those amounts,” Udell said on that conference call, according to a transcript provided by K12.

The final judgment in the case describes the $160 million agreement this way: an expungement of a decade’s worth of “credits against amounts otherwise due under managed school contracts.”

Neither the conference call nor the attorney general’s news release addressed another payment: $80,000 to a former CAVA teacher turned whistleblower. She alleged she was fired because she complained about the way K12 changed the attendance records she had submitted. The attorney general intervened in her case and K12 agreed to give her $50,000 to settle her employment-related claims and $30,000 for her legal fees.

Udell told the analysts that the company settled with the attorney general to avoid a “multiyear distraction” and litigation costs that would have been many times what it agreed to pay. He also said the company plans to fight legislation in California that would prohibit charter schools from using for-profit companies like his. And he said K12, which runs some 80 schools in 33 states, has plans to expand, going statewide in Alabama and Virginia and adding schools in other states, including Indiana, Michigan, Nevada and Maine.

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

Robbins Arroyo LLP: K12, Inc. (LRN) Misled Shareholders According to a Recently Filed Class Action

July 22, 2016 07:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time

SAN DIEGO & HERNDON, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Shareholder rights law firm Robbins Arroyo LLP announces
that a class action complaint was filed against K12, Inc. (NYSE: LRN) in
the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The
complaint is brought on behalf of all purchasers of K12 securities
between November 7, 2013 and October 27, 2015, for alleged violations of
the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by K12’s officers and directors. K12
Inc., a technology-based education company, offers proprietary
curriculum, software systems, and educational services to facilitate
individualized learning for students primarily in kindergarten through
12th grade.

“In the Matter of the Investigation of:
For-Profit Virtual Schools.”

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View this information on the law firm’s Shareholder Rights Blog: www.robbinsarroyo.com/shareholders-rights-blog/k12-inc-july-2016

K12 Accused of Lying About The Success Rate of Its Students

According to the complaint, throughout the class period, K12 filed
several press releases and submitted multiple filings with the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission touting the company’s business
prospects. The company issued a press release on February 4, 2014,
stating, “Our Managed Schools are now…using many of the new educational
programs we put in place this year which we believe will improve
educational outcomes for all engaged families.” The company further
emphasized that improving academic outcomes is its number one priority
and that it would invest in new systems to drive further improvements
for its students. However, the complaint alleges that K12 officials
failed to disclose that: (1) K12 was publishing misleading
advertisements about students’ academic progress, parent satisfaction,
their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California
State University admission, class sizes, the individualized and flexible
nature of K12’s instruction, hidden costs, and the quality of the
materials provided to students; (2) K12 submitted inflated student
attendance numbers to the California Department of Education in order to
collect additional funding; (3) as a result, K12 was open to potential
civil and criminal liability; and (4) the company would likely be forced
to end these practices, which would have a negative impact on K12’s
operations and prospects.

On October 27, 2015, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education
Outcomes published a study and a related press release about online
charter schools, including K12, stating, “Innovative new research
suggests that students of online charter schools had significantly
weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their
counterparts in conventional schools.” On the same day, K12 reported
disappointing first quarter 2016 financial results compared to the same
quarter in fiscal year 2015, including revenues of $221.2 million
compared to $236.7 million, Earnings Before Interest, Taxes,
Depreciation and Amortization of negative $3.9 million compared to $3.7
million, and an operating loss of $20.5 million compared to an operating
loss of $13.2 million. On October 27, 2015, K12 disclosed in its Form
10-Q that it received a subpoena from the Attorney General of the State
of California, Bureau of Children’s Justice in connection with an
investigation known as “In the Matter of the Investigation of:
For-Profit Virtual Schools.” On this news, K12 stock fell over 20% to
close at $9.71 per share on October 30, 2015.

K12 Shareholders Have Legal Options

Concerned shareholders who would like more information about their
rights and potential remedies can contact attorney Darnell R. Donahue at
(800) 350-6003, DDonahue@robbinsarroyo.com,
or via the shareholder
information form
on the firm’s website.

Robbins Arroyo LLP is a nationally recognized leader in shareholder
rights law. The firm represents individual and institutional investors
in shareholder derivative and securities class action lawsuits, and has
helped its clients realize more than $1 billion of value for themselves
and the companies in which they have invested.

Attorney Advertising. Past results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Contacts

Robbins Arroyo LLPDarnell R. Donahue619-525-3990 or Toll
Free 800-350-6003DDonahue@robbinsarroyo.comwww.robbinsarroyo.com

Latest Editorial Proves The Wall Street Journal Will Defend Almost Any For-Profit Education Company

The Wall Street Journal continued its streak of defending for-profit schools with track records of questionable practices and “abysmal results,” this time shifting its focus away from fraudulent for-profit colleges to attempt to sugarcoat the failing online charter company K12 Inc.

The virtual charter school company K12 Inc. recently reached a $168.5 million settlement with the state of California following an investigation into the company’s marketing and management practices. At the same time, the state’s Education Department has announced an audit of a California virtual charter network managed by K12. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board was, once again, ready to dismiss facts and defend the for-profit education company against what the board views as a politically motivated attack, baselessly claiming that recently substantiated allegations against K12 are “trumped up.”

The California state investigation into K12, launched by state Attorney General Kamala Harris, alleged that the company had engaged in a number of misleading advertising practices about the quality of its online schools, pushed unfair contracts on public charter partners, and inflated student attendance numbers in order to receive more state funding. It was spurred, at least in part, by a whistleblower report and complaints from educators formerly employed by a California charter network managed by K12. Educators at the K12-managed network moved to unionize in 2014, citing excessive workloads and inability to “effectively advocate for students without the threat of retaliation or job loss.”

An investigative series at the San Jose Mercury News earlier this year concluded that K12’s network of schools “is failing key tests used to measure educational success,” that K12-affiliated “teachers have been asked to inflate attendance and enrollment records used to determine taxpayer funding,” and that the companyexploits charter [and] charity laws for money.” An online education expert explained to The Mercury News that K12 “has shown an inordinate level of failure, yet it’s continually given lifelines by policymakers who have irresponsibly ignored what’s going on.”

Yet the Journal contended that another audit of K12’s management practices “looks trumped up” in a July 17 editorial. Complaining about K12’s settlement with the state of California, the editorial board characterized the investigation of K12 as part of a larger “coordinated assault” on for-profit colleges and education companies and claimed that “Democrats are ambushing” the virtual charter school company. According to the editorial board, the further audit of K12 means “Thuggish government marches on.”

The disastrous results of K12’s schooling model have also been well-documented in media investigations and in research from left-leaning and right-leaning organizations. A New York Times investigation raised red flags about K12’s practices as early as 2011, concluding about the company:

A look at the company’s operations, based on interviews and a review of school finances and performance records, raises serious questions about whether K12 schools — and full-time online schools in general — benefit children or taxpayers, particularly as state education budgets are being slashed.

Instead, a portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.

A 2011 Washington Post report singled out K12’s early lobbying efforts and political contributions, pointing to limited data on the effectiveness of virtual charter schools even as the company successfully opened up state markets for its products through political involvement. In 2012, PolitiFact concluded that a Tennessee politician’s assertion that K12’s results were “the bottom of the bottom” was true.

The most recent reports from Mathematica Policy Research, Stanford University’s Center for Research in Education Outcomes, and the Center on Reinventing Public Education concluded that “students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools.” BuzzFeed News’ coverage of the reports concluded that “Both Sides Of The Education Debate Are United In Scorn” for online charters like K12 due to “abysmal results” for students.

But K12 has the corporate and conservative credentials to warrant a healthy defense from The Wall Street Journal.

K12 Inc., until recently, called itself a “proud” member of the corporate-driven bill mill American Legislative Education Council (ALEC), which has pushed virtual schools legislation that would create greater demand for products like those produced by K12. K12 has also contributed financially to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a pro-privatization think tank founded by Jeb Bush that also frequently touts digital learning tools in its policy recommendations. The majority of K12’s executives hail from the corporate world or from other for-profit education companies, and the head of K12’s “curriculum and products organization” previously spearheaded product development at Pearson Publishing.

The Journal has a long history of defending the sometimes indefensible when it comes to for-profit educational companies, often relying on violent analogies to make its point.

The paper stood by shuttered for-profit college chain Corinthian Colleges, even as the company faced multiple state and federal investigations related to its allegedly fraudulent marketing practices and its efforts to facilitate predatory private lending. In fact, the Journal’s editorial board characterized the numerous investigations, launched because of consumer complaints, as “political revenge” by “California job killer” Kamala Harris and a “drive-by shooting” and “contract hit” by the Obama administration. In April 2015, as the company closed its last remaining campuses, The Wall Street Journal wrote a “last rites” editorial lamenting that “the feds and Kamala Harris put 16,000 students on the street.” The now-defunct company has been held legally responsible for its practices, with several investigations and legal actions concluding that Corinthian had, indeed, misled its students about job placement rates and private loan terms, and that former students were owed debt relief.

The Journal has also repeatedly characterized efforts to address these types of fraudulent practices at other for-profit institutions as “regulatory assault,” a “ploy to win over millennials,” a “contract hit” (again), and a political “stealth attack” akin to “drone strikes,” dismissing evidence that these types of schools have taken advantage of veterans and servicemembers, as well as other innocent students, on the taxpayers’ dime.

Ohio ignores online school F’s as it evaluates charter school overseers

Online schools like Ohio Virtual Academy, ECOT and OHDELA with poor state report card grades won’t be counted in this year’s reviews of charter school oversight agencies.

(LANCE MURPHEY)

By

The Plain Dealer
Email the author | Follow on Twitter

on June 14, 2015 at 8:00 AM, updated

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It turns out that Ohio’s grand plan to stop the national ridicule of its charter school system is giving overseers of many of the lowest-performing schools a pass from taking heat for some of their worst problems.

Gov. John Kasich and both houses of the state legislature are banking on a roundabout plan to improve a $1 billion charter school industry that, on average, fails to teach kids across the state as much as the traditional schools right in their own neighborhoods.

But The Plain Dealer has learned that this plan of making charters better by rating their oversight agencies, known as sponsors or authorizers, is pulling its punches and letting sponsors off the hook for years of not holding some schools to high standards.

The state this year has slammed two sponsors/authorizers with “ineffective” ratings so far. But it has given three others the top rating of “exemplary” by overlooking significant drawbacks for two of them and mixed results for the third.

The state’s not penalizing sponsors, we found, for poor graduation rates at dropout recovery schools, portfolios of charter schools that have more bad grades than good ones and, most surprising, failing grades for online schools. 

Online school F grades aren’t counted

We found that the state isn’t counting the performance of online charter schools — one of the most-controversial and lowest-performing charter sectors —  in the calculations in this first year of ratings.

That means that many F-rated charter schools that serve thousands of students won’t be included when their oversight agencies are rated this year.

The Department of Education says recent drops in grades for online schools are “inexplicable” and that it has to develop a way to grade these “unique” schools. 

The omission caught some of the state’s major charter supporters by surprise. The Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which says that a strong ratings plan is key to improving charters, was certain until recently that online schools would be a factor in the ratings.

Consider the Ohio Council of Community Schools, which collects about $1.5 million in sponsor fees a year from the more than 14,000 students attending Ohio Virtual Academy and OHDELA, the online school run by White Hat Management.

The F grades that the state gave those schools last year for failing to teach kids enough material over the school year didn’t count against the council when it was rated early this year. The result? A perfect academic rating of 100 percent and an overall rating of “exemplary,” the highest available.

This year’s ranking also leaves out dropout recovery schools, another controversial group of 90 charter schools, because separate report cards for those schools aren’t complete.

Mostly “ineffective,” but still “exemplary”

Even without the online schools, the rating system doesn’t set a high standard for the schools a sponsor oversees. Instead of setting a high bar and challenging staff and overseers to meet it, The Plain Dealer’s review shows that the Department of Education set a low standard that’s met much more easily.

In fact, a sponsor can oversee more students in schools that are “ineffective” than are “effective” and still be lauded as “exemplary” this year and next year. Sponsors only have to have 41 percent of students in “effective” schools to meet the state’s goal this year.

Those standards will increase over time, with an eventual goal of 66 percent of a sponsor’s students in “effective” schools. But even by the 2016-17 school year, the state will only require 55 percent.

So the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, which sponsors 52 schools, wasn’t hammered in its rating this year despite having only 38 percent of students in “effective” schools. 

Since 38 percent is so close to the 41 percent standard, the foundation only lost a few points in its rating and snagged an “exemplary” mark.

Department of Education spokesman John Charlton said online and dropout recovery schools will be included in ratings next year, and that the target for having effective schools will increase over time.

“Keep in mind this is the first year of the evaluation process, and we expect to make improvements to the system,” Charlton said.

Ratings have high stakes

Why do these ratings matter? Because supporters of the charter school concept have portrayed them as a way to put pressure on sponsors to make Ohio’s charter schools something to be proud of, not viewed as a drag on the state’s education system.

Kasich and the legislature are considering tying some incentives and sanctions to the ratings in bills that could be passed by the end of this month. An easy path to the top rating of “exemplary” won’t separate strong oversight from mediocre when cash and other benefits are handed out.

For example, Kasich proposed early this year setting aside $25 million in the state budget for charter schools to spend on new school buildings, but he wants the money to be available to schools with “exemplary” sponsors. His plan passed in the Ohio House,

The Senate may change that plan in the next few days, making the money  available only to highly rated schools, not sponsors.

Kasich and the House have proposed letting schools run by exemplary sponsors seek tax levies from voters, if the local school district agrees. That’s allowed only in Cleveland now.

And Kasich and the House have proposed allowing schools run by exemplary sponsors to offer kindergarten and collect state tax dollars for each kindergarten student.

As a penalty, Kasich and the House have proposed adding a lower rating of “poor” in the ranking, giving these sponsors one year to improve or be shut down.

And though the standards will increase over time, the ratings completed this year will last for three years. Sponsors won’t face any effects from dropout schools, online schools or needing to have more “effective” schools until 2018.

They won’t be rated under higher standards until after the state passes a new two-year budget in 2017 that could offer even more perks and penalties.

Where do these ratings come from?

The state legislature voted to start rating sponsors in 2012 and set up a basic structure in House Bill 555.

Charter school supporters nationally look at sponsor/authorizers as fundamental to making charter schools run well. These agencies are usually local school districts that create one or two charter schools in their cities, but can be statewide charter boards, county Educational Service Centers or, in a national rarity, other nonprofit organizations.

As we reported last year, observers in other states view Ohio as the “wild, wild west” of charter operations because it has so many sponsors and so few rules governing them. The new evaluation system in Ohio was viewed as a way to compel improvement in sponsor quality and, in turn, make schools better.

As ordered in HB 555, academic performance makes up just a third of a sponsor’s rating. The other two components are compliance with all state and federal codes governing sponsors and how well they meet industry standards.

As a result, one third of each sponsor/authorizer rating is based on the quality practices suggested by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

How the academic portion would be handled was left up to the Department of Education.

Not counting online schools is a surprise

The state agency decided to drop online schools that serve 40,000 students across the state from the evaluations. In letters to sponsor/authorizers announcing the results of their reviews, David Hansen, executive director of the department’s  Office of Quality School Choice, said that the 2013-14 online school test results will simply be the “base year” to evaluate future performance.

“I wasn’t aware that they (online schools) were not counted in the evaluation,” said Lenny Schafer, executive director of the Ohio Council of Community Schools.

Chad Aldis, vice president of Ohio policy and advocacy of the Fordham Institute, the other charter sponsor that has already received an exemplary rating, said he was unaware of that too. Even though Fordham has been rated, it does have the academic scoring rubric used by the state.

And Darlene Chambers, president and CEO of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said Thursday that she was sure online schools are being counted. She has told people for months, often in formal PowerPoint presentations, that Performance Index scores the state calculates for all of a sponsor’s schools were part of the evaluation.

Performance Index combines test scores across multiple grades and subjects and is the state’s main measure of how much kids know. The sponsor PI scores include online schools.

“E-school outcomes are not being ignored,” Chambers said. “It is captured in that now.”

But when told that the state created a new academic measure that excludes online schools, Chambers said: “If it exists, I’ve not seen it. This is the first time I’ve heard of it.”

Charlton said the Department of Education decided to use the value-added ratings of schools — a measure of student academic progress — instead of the Performance Index in the evaluations.

And the department also chose to set aside value-added results for e-schools, he said, because of concerns over how those scores are calculated.

Concern over scores for online schools

Shafer said a change for the 2011-12 school year about which first-year students in online schools were counted in state report card results caused a dramatic lowering of scores for online schools. Data provided by him shows online schools mostly met or exceeded value-added targets for student growth before the change, but most failed to meet them after the switch.

Charlton said the Department of Education dropped the online schools because of this concern.

“Because the change in the system for measuring performance has had a significant and inexplicable impact on the e-school data, the department decided to take a year to look at those results, identify what caused the significant changes and address those causes by creating a more accurate performance evaluation system,” he said.

It is unclear if there is a calculation “glitch,” as Schafer calls it, or if online schools saw lower grades because report cards started counting under-served kids that should have been counted all along.

Dropout recovery ratings are incomplete

Unlike the online schools, the state planned for a few years to exclude dropout recovery schools — charter schools that serve kids returning to school or at risk of leaving. The legislature decided in 2012 to keep them out because separate report cards for these schools would not be finished in time.

These 90 schools don’t appear on regular state report cards because they serve a different type of student and the state has different expectations for them.

Charlton said these schools will become part of sponsor evaluations next year, once measures of student academic growth there kick in.

“There will be a learning gains measure available starting next year for dropout recovery,” Charlton said. “DOPR (Drop Out Prevention and Recovery) schools are being graded as soon as the grading system is in place.”

For now, sponsors like the Ohio Council of Community Schools face no consequences for overseeing schools like the Life Skills Center of Toledo, that meets no graduation standards. The school graduates only 2.2 percent of students on time.

A tough new growth standard

Instead of using Performance Index as most expected, the Department of Education is using the value-added calculation of how much learning kids accomplish over a school year.

The Department of Education has not published its academic rating criteria. Repeated requests to a link for it went unanswered.

But Charlton said here’s what the department used in the sponsor evaluations:

Charter schools with an A or B grade in value-added — scores that are above average — are counted as “effective” schools.

Schools with a C in value-added — the average grade meant to show that a school met learning expectations — need to have an A, B, or C in Performance Index to be considered “effective.”

If you have a D or F in value-added — grades that reflect kids making less than a year’s progress over a school year — your school is ineffective, regardless of performance score.

That’s a strong departure from the state’s traditional focus on Performance Index, a measure of academic achievement.

We have asked the department to explain why it made this choice, but have not heard back.

To evaluate a sponsor/authorizer of multiple schools, the state counts the number of students in schools that meet the “effective” criteria vs. those in schools that are “ineffective.”

It then looks at the ratio of “effective” school “seats” to “ineffective” ones.

More “ineffective” than “effective”

This first year, the state is asking sponsors’ to have a 0.7 to 1 ratio of effective to ineffective seats — less than one effective for every ineffective one — in their portfolios. As a percentage basis, that’s the 41 percent effective mentioned earlier.

If a sponsor meets that target, it receives all 100 points for academic performance in its evaluation.

That means that the Fordham Institute that had an almost equal number of ineffective seats to effective ones at the 10 schools it sponsors, met the state’s bar by 141 percent and earned a perfect academic score.

That came despite overseeing schools with value-added F grades, like Sciotoville Community School in Portsmouth and Cleveland’s Village Prep, normally a well-regarded school for student growth that had abysmal results last year.

And the low bar gave Buckeye Community Hope Foundation only a small penalty for having a ratio of 0.6 effective seats to each effective one.

The target percentages are supposed to rise each year, Charlton said.

Here are the expected ratios:

2013-14: 0.7 to 1.

2014-15: 0.85 to 1.

2015-16: 1.05 to 1.

2016-17: 1.25 to 1.

Eventual goal: 2 to 1.

Though sponsors have known that their academic performance would be evaluated since 2012, Charlton said the state agency is phasing in the standards because of the contracts that sponsors have with individual schools.

Those contracts, which can last five years, spell out academic goals. Sponsors can’t change the expectations midway through, Charlton said.

To follow education news from Cleveland and affecting all of Ohio, follow this reporter on Facebook as @PatrickODonnellReporter

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

In-Depth Analysis of Blended and Online Learning Programs Identify Key Characteristics for Success

Evergreen Education Group details academic outcomes of nine different programs using Fuel Education™

08:30 ET
from Fuel Education LLC

HERNDON, Va., May 24, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Over the past year, digital learning policy research and advisory firm Evergreen Education Group conducted in-depth analyses of nine schools that use online curriculum and platforms from Fuel Education™ (FuelEd™) as the instructional foundation of their programs. After observing and interviewing groups of students, faculty, staff, and school leadership at each of the nine schools, Evergreen Education Group identified certain key characteristics make blended and online learning programs successful, including student relationships, online curriculum as the primary source of instruction, and a variety of instructional support.

As a result, the Evergreen Education Group, in cooperation with FuelEd, has published an executive summary and nine full case studies titled, “Outcomes of Blended and Online Learning Programs in Schools Using Fuel Education Curriculum.” The purpose of the report is to further the understanding and potential benefits of blended and online learning programs among schools demonstrating strong academic results, and to highlight the commonalities in instructional models, practices, measurements of success, and outcomes. To download the executive summary and the case studies, visit: getfueled.com/OnlineBlendedOutcomes.

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Evergreen Education Group Report on Nine Successful Online and Blended Programs

getfueled.com

Of the nine online or blended learning programs, five were whole school programs and four were credit recovery and remedial programs. While all differed in size, demographics, community types, location, and status of program development, the research team found important similarities. Each program reported improved student outcomes despite serving a broad spectrum of students–from failing and struggling students to mainstream and advanced students seeking a personalized educational experience. In addition, the programs used different measures of success, such as scores on year-end tests, graduation rates, and college attendance rates.

Teachers, administrators, and students attributed the success of their programs to several factors:

  • Better relationships with students—All schools felt establishing deep and meaningful teacher-student relationships was an essential component to success and thus made it a priority. When teachers had a better understanding of both a student’s academic capability and his or her personal and family situations, they were better able to tailor their teaching and counseling activities to fit that student’s individual needs. Students agreed and felt that their teachers genuinely cared about them and would help them succeed.
  • Online curriculum as primary source of instruction—Using the FuelEd curriculum allowed teachers to work more directly with students in both one-on-one and small group formats. Many students felt they received more personal attention from teachers in these programs than in traditional schools. Schools cited one of the benefits of the FuelEd curriculum was its comprehensive catalog of content for kindergarten through 12th grade, including core courses, electives, advanced courses, credit recovery, and remediation. Teachers from all schools reported that the online courses were appropriately rigorous and provided a highly engaging learning experience for students. Students worked on these courses at their own pace, and most reported this flexibility as one of the major reasons for their success.
  • In-person and virtual instructional support—Most students interacted with their teachers frequently each day, whether the interaction was in-person or virtual.  Many students reported that they received more personal attention from their teachers in these programs than in a traditional school setting.

In the report, the Evergreen Education Group noted, “Overall, the research team was struck by the upbeat, positive attitudes of students, teachers, and staff, and by the different but impressive results within each program. The most noted keys to success were the strong relationships between individual teachers and individual students supported by the comprehensive and flexible online curriculum provided by FuelEd.”

“These nine programs are excellent examples of how schools are successfully using blended and online learning to meet the unique needs of their students and to improve academic outcomes,” said Gregg Levin, General Manager of Fuel Education. “We are pleased to team with Evergreen Education Group to document these different implementation approaches and best practices to share with other schools and districts looking for innovative ways to better engage students, empower their teachers, and boost achievement.”

About Fuel Education

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

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

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SOURCE Fuel Education LLC