Good News: Illinois Enacts Moratorium on Virtual Charters

Diane Ravitch’s blog

A site to discuss better education for all

Thank you, Governor Pat Quinn!

And congratulations to the 18 suburban districts that protected their students.

Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that enacts a one-year moratorium on virtual charters, allowing time to study their performance. Any impartial study will reveal that online charters get poor results. They have high student dropouts every year, students get low grades and have a poor graduation rate. The beneficiaries of online charters are the corporations that own them. They make huge profits.

Eighteen suburban districts had previously banned the virtual schools, which allegedly wanted to target at-risk students. Online charters have no record of success serving at-risk students. These are the students most in need of human contact with caring teachers.

City school system wants public feedback

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City Schools Superintendent Paul McKendrick is seen at the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education building. The Tuscaloosa City Schools system emailed a survey to its employees and parents of children in the system seeking their opinions about such things as academic preparation, student support, parental engagement, diversity, school operations and the accessibility of school leaders.

File photo | The Tuscaloosa News

By Jamon Smith
Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 at 8:40 p.m.

TUSCALOOSA | The Tuscaloosa City Schools system wants public feedback on the performance of its schools.

Last week, the system emailed a survey to its employees and parents of children in the system seeking their opinions about such things as academic preparation, student support, parental engagement, diversity, school operations and the accessibility of school leaders.

The 15-to-20 minute survey is being conducted by K12 Insight, an independent research and communication firm.

“Partnering with K12 Insight furthers our strategic plan goal of improving communications within the school system and with all stakeholders,” said Superintendent Paul McKendrick. “Engaging and collaborating with each other allows us to foster a culture of innovation that is necessary to improve our schools.

The identity of those who take the survey will remain confidential. But once the survey closes on June 17, the system will release the collective results along with an explanation about how the information will be used to improve the schools.

The survey can be found on the front page of the system’s website at www.tuscaloosacityschools.com or can be accessed directly at http://research.zarca.com/survey.aspx?k=RQ.QQSWsVsPsPsP&lang=0&data= .

“The success of our strategic plan requires everyone to be informed about district activities and engaged in district decisions,” McKendrick said. “Only by building trust and working together can we provide our students with the education they need to ensure their future success.

Reach Jamon Smith at jamon.smith@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0204.

State bans new online charter schools for 1 year

New law follows rejection by several school districts in western suburbs of nonprofit’s proposal for online program

May 27, 2013|By Melissa Jenco, Chicago Tribune reporter

(Tribune illustration)

Illinois has put a one-year moratorium on new online charter schools outside Chicago at the urging of a handful of west suburban school districts.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation Friday. It also directs a state commission to study issues such as student performance and costs associated with virtual charter schools.

“This legislation will allow the state more time to better evaluate and understand the impact of virtual charter schools in Illinois,” Quinn’s office said in a statement.

Earlier this year, nonprofit Virtual Learning Solutions proposed starting the Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley in the western suburbs. The online school would serve students in kindergarten through high school and would be managed by K12 Inc., a for-profit company that runs similar schools around the country, including in Chicago.

Proponents have said the virtual school would give families a choice and an individualized education, but each of the 18 districts that would have been affected, including those in Naperville, Aurora, St. Charles, Geneva and Elgin, turned down the proposal. They cited concerns about curriculum standards, funding, support for students, accountability and teacher quality.

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, proposed the one-year moratorium that passed in the House last month with an 80-36-1 vote and the Senate this month with a vote of 46-7-2.

“It’s a great opportunity for our state to take a look at the charter language and charter regulations,” said Dan Bridges, Naperville Community Unit School District 203’s superintendent. “Certainly when it was originally written it wasn’t anticipating any sort of virtual schooling, so this is an opportunity for us to really take a good look at the regulations appropriate for such proposals as we just experienced.

Virtual Learning Solutions President Sharnell Jackson said the group will keep pushing to open the school.

“If that’s what it takes, a one-year moratorium, for people to understand online learning and choice, options for students, then so be it,” she said.

The Illinois State Charter School Commission had previously scheduled appeal hearings for June. In the wake of the moratorium becoming law Friday, Executive Director Jeanne Nowaczewski said the commission’s legal counsel is looking at how to proceed and will make a statement this week.

“I think 18 local school boards have spoken very loudly in the fact they are not in support of this virtual charter, and I appreciate the governor’s support of the legislature in putting a halt to that at this time until they have a process and regulations in place around a 100 percent virtual charter,” said Kathy Birkett, superintendent of Aurora-based Indian Prairie School District 204.

mjenco@tribune.com

K12 Inc. : Kansas Virtual Academy Goes Online Next School Year

OLATHE, Kan., May 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – Kansas families now have access to a new and innovative public school option with the announcement of the Kansas Virtual Academy (KSVA). Offered by the Spring Hill School District, the online public school will serve students statewide in grades K-6 beginning next year.

“Spring Hill School District is proud to offer the Kansas Virtual Academy to families across the state. We now offer a seamless virtual education program from kindergarten through 12th grade with the addition of KSVA to our existing 7-12 program, Insight School of Kansas,” said Dr. Bart Goering, Superintendent of Spring Hill School District. “We believe that this new school option will expand opportunities for students and provide a high-quality and accountable educational experience.

KSVA offers flexible and personalized learning programs that work for all types of learners. KSVA will use curriculum, technology and academic services provided by K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN), the nation’s leading provider of online learning programs for students in kindergarten through high school.

“We are excited that KSVA is now fully approved to open next school year to serve Kansas students and families,” said KSVA Head of School, Sarah Berger.KSVA will use engaging curriculum and excellent teachers to deliver a personalized education to students. We look forward to building our school community and helping students achieve success.

At KSVA, students attend school by accessing high-quality online curriculum and participating in teacher-led classes over the Internet. Teachers will engage students through real-time online classes and one-on-one sessions. Students will receive daily face-to-face support from Learning Coaches – parents or legal guardians – who assist students as they progress through their individualized education plans. KSVA will also offer opportunities for student collaboration in both curricular and extracurricular activities.

Using innovative technology, KSVA will provide students access to multiple core and elective courses, assessments and instruction from Kansas-licensed teachers and follow all state accountability standards.

Online schools offer students a public school alternative and a highly personalized and flexible learning experience. With a high level of engagement, many types of students can succeed in online schools, including students with special needs, athletes and artists, advanced learning, children struggling in traditional schools, and many others.

Families interested in enrolling in KSVA for the 2013-2014 school year can apply now. More on KSVA, including enrollment details and a schedule of school information sessions for interested families can be found at www.k12.com/ksva

SOURCE Kansas Virtual Academy

Virginia’s first statewide virtual school likely to close

The Carroll County School Board plans to end its partnership with the contractor that operates Virginia’s largest full-time statewide virtual school , effectively shutting down a program that serves more than 350 students.

The decision to close what was also the state’s first online school deals a blow to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s goal of expanding virtual education options . It also leaves hundreds of families, including many in Northern Virginia, in the lurch for the coming school year.

Carroll County has definitely pulled the rug out from [under] everyone,” said Cherie Nielsen, a parent leader of the Virginia chapter of Public School Options, an advocate for nontraditional public schools. “We are scrambling.

The School Board in the southern Virginia county voted in mid-April to discontinue the contract, citing administrative and liability concerns. But families around the state did not find out about the change until late last week, when they received an e-mail from the Virginia Virtual Academy.

Jeff Kwitowski, a spokesman for K12 Inc., the Herndon-based company that operates the school, said the decision also came as a surprise to the company. “We are aggressively looking for a new partnership” to keep the school open, he said.

Taxpayer-supported, privately operated virtual schools have been receiving increased public scrutiny, including criticism of their performance and their funding arrangements.

Last year, a K12 shareholder filed a class-action suit alleging that the company had made false statements about students’ academic performance . The company agreed to a $6.75 million settlement this spring.

About 275,000 students nationwide are enrolled in full-time, publicly funded virtual schools, and enrollment has been growing about 30 percent a year, according to Susan Patrick of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a trade association.

Virginia offers online courses through the state’s Department of Education, and many districts, including the Fairfax County school system , are creating virtual schools available to their own students.

But the Virginia Virtual Academy, which opened in 2009, was the first attempt to offer a full-time program to students statewide. A second statewide program opened in 2012 and serves about 130 students through a partnership between K12 and King and Queen County. Another statewide school was briefly available through the school system in Buena Vista City, near Lynchburg, but the contract was not continued.

Developing such programs often proves difficult as online communities of students and teachers try to take root in school systems that have long operated brick-and-mortar schools at local taxpayer expense and with local school board control.

Some states have created statewide school districts to oversee virtual schools, but Virginia’s constitution gives local governments jurisdiction over public education. So K12 must offer its online curriculum through local school districts.

The partnership with rural Carroll County had a distinct financial advantage for the for-profit company. Carroll County receives more in per-pupil state aid than most districts, because of a formula that favors poorer districts, and all of the virtual academy’s students are counted as Carroll students, regardless of where they live.

Tough times for K12, Inc.

The virtual charter school company that launched an unsuccessful bid to open up an online-based school in North Carolina has been having a rough time in other states.

Cyber (also called online or virtual) schools allow students to take their entire school caseload through their home computer, and the for-profit K12, Inc. has a large chunk of the national market.

K12 officials made reference to their recent troubles this in an earnings call it had today with investors. (K12, Inc . is publicly traded on Wall Street, NYSE: LRN .)

“As the industry leader, K12 often takes the brunt of assaults for online education as our integrity and our effectiveness is sometimes questioned,” said Nathanial Alonzo Roberts, a chairman of the board’s audit committee. “This is to be expected.”

The company also settled an investors lawsuit for $6.75 million that accused company officials of making misleading statements about the academic successes of the schools.

( A transcript of today’s earning call is available here from SeekingAlpha, an investors’ website.)

In Virginia, home to K12′s headquarters, the small school district that hosted the statewide online school plans to drop its affiliation with K12, Inc., according to the Washington Post .

The split would effectively shut down the statewide cyber school, the oldest virtual school in the state that enrolls an estimated 350 students. The school board in Carroll County, a rural area on North Carolina’s border near Mt. Airy, voted to end its affiliation with K12 in mid-April, in part because the oversight was burdensome for a small school district that only had five students in Carroll County enrolled in the program.

Why did K12 go in business with the small county to begin with?

The Post offers this explanation:

The partnership with rural Carroll County had a distinct financial advantage for the for-profit company. Carroll County receives more in per-pupil state aid than most districts, because of a formula that favors poorer districts, and all of the virtual academy’s students are counted as Carroll students, regardless of where they live.

In Florida, the much-awaited results of an investigation by the state education department found that K12 used three teachers that were not certified to teach certain subjects, though they did have general certifications to teach. The probe, which looked at the K12 program in a single school district, was launched after the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) published a report where teachers said they were told to cover-up the non-certification. K12 then refunded the school district $12,800 for courses taught by the teachers, according to FCIR .

That investigation appears to have rattled education leaders in Maine, who are debating whether to allow K12 to open up a virtual charter school in that state, according to this report from a Maine public radio station. Lawmakers there are debating legislation of whether to put a moratorium on virtual public schools, just two years after the legislature gave the schools a green light to enter the state.

Here in North Carolina, K12 had tried to open up a statewide charter school by approaching the Cabarrus County Schools to back their application. The N.C. State Board of Education ultimately declined to grant the online school a charter, and the matter is still pending in appeals court.

The company did not submit any applications to open in the current back of charter school hopefuls being examined by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

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State Review Finds K12 Certification Problems

Published on April 24, 2013. Tags: Florida Department of Education , John O’Connor , K12 , Seminole County Public Schools , StateImpact Florida , Trevor Aaronson

By John O’Connor and Trevor Aaronson
StateImpact Florida/Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

An inquiry by the Florida Department of Education’s Inspector General found that online educator K12 Inc. employed three teachers in Florida who lacked proper certification to teach some subjects, according to a draft report.

About This Story

This story is the result of a collaboration between the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and StateImpact Florida.

Related

Coverage of K12 by FCIR and StateImpact Florida.

http://thetruthaboutk12.com//wp-content/uploads/2015/09/

A state inquiry found that online educator K12 Inc. employed three teachers in Florida who lacked proper certification to teach some subjects.

Virginia-based K12 is the nation’s largest operator of online schools. K12 operates in 43 Florida school districts, including in Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, Orange and Duval counties. The company teaches everything from art to algebra to students in kindergarten through high school.

Last year, StateImpact Florida and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting reported that K12 used teachers in Seminole County who lacked the required certification and asked some teachers to help cover up the practice. K12 officials asked teachers with proper subject certification to sign class rosters including students they had not taught, according to company emails and other internal documents.

According to Florida law, teachers must pass three exams to earn state certification as well as be certified for the subject and grades they teach. The state investigation, sparked by a complaint from the Seminole County School District, found at least three middle-school K12 teachers in Seminole County who did not have proper subject certification. The investigation, however, did not find teachers without general certification, which was among the allegations in the original complaint from Seminole County.

In Florida, school districts must notify parents if a teacher is not subject-certified. Teachers then have three years to earn certification before the school district is penalized. Seminole County schools said they had no evidence that parents of K12 students were notified that the teachers did not have subject certification.

K12 has refunded the Seminole County school district the $12,800 cost for the 16 courses taught by teachers without subject certification.

The state investigation is not yet complete. Both K12 and Seminole County schools are challenging some of the draft report’s conclusions.

In its response to the Florida Department of Education, K12 said the state investigation confirms the conclusions of an earlier internal review, which found only “minor mistakes” with subject and grade certifications.

“It is troubling that SCPS officials engaged the [Office of Inspector General] before raising these serious allegations directly with its vendor,” K12 attorney Kenneth Sukhia wrote in the response. Taking the matter up with K12 first, Sukhia wrote, “could have likely avoided or minimized this costly investigative process and the unjustifiable damage it has done to K12.

The Seminole County School District said in its response that state investigators did not follow up on evidence the company was using teachers who lacked Florida certification. The district cited one teacher who lost her state license but continued to teach until the end of the 2010-11 school year, according to K12 records. State investigators also limited their review to Seminole County, and only to a portion of one school year.

“If a statewide provider was utilizing a certain staffing practice, it is reasonable to expect that evidence of that practice may be found in other counties where that provider operates,” Seminole County School District attorney Ned Julian wrote.

Seminole County school officials and a K12 spokesman declined to answer questions about the state investigation.

The state report recommended a handful of changes to improve K12’s record keeping, including ensuring that only teachers with direct contact with students sign class rolls, distinguishing between homeroom teachers and subject instructors, and maintaining records for at least three years, as required by Florida law.

K12 said in its response that the company has already made these changes. The inspector general will consider the responses and could make changes to the report’s conclusions or recommendations. The agency said there is no schedule for when the report will be finished.

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Virginia’s first statewide virtual school likely to close

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By Michael Alison Chandler, Published: May 1

The Carroll County School Board plans to end its partnership with the contractor that operates Virginia’s largest full-time statewide virtual school, effectively shutting down a program that serves more than 350 students.

The decision to close what was also the state’s first online school deals a blow to Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s goal of expanding virtual education options. It also leaves hundreds of families, including many in Northern Virginia, in the lurch for the coming school year.

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EdX turns 1. Now what?

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.

Carroll County has definitely pulled the rug out from [under] everyone,” said Cherie Nielsen, a parent leader of the Virginia chapter of Public School Options, an advocate for nontraditional public schools. “We are scrambling.”

The School Board in the southern Virginia county voted in mid-April to discontinue the contract, citing administrative and liability concerns. But families around the state did not find out about the change until late last week, when they received an e-mail from the Virginia Virtual Academy.

Jeff Kwitowski, a spokesman for K12 Inc., the Herndon-based company that operates the school, said the decision also came as a surprise to the company. “We are aggressively looking for a new partnership” to keep the school open, he said.

Taxpayer-supported, privately operated virtual schools have been receiving increased public scrutiny, including criticism of their performance and their funding arrangements.

Last year, a K12 shareholder filed a class-action suit alleging that the company had made false statements about students’ academic performance. The company agreed to a $6.75 million settlement this spring.

About 275,000 students nationwide are enrolled in full-time, publicly funded virtual schools, and enrollment has been growing about 30 percent a year, according to Susan Patrick of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a trade association.

Virginia offers online courses through the state’s Department of Education, and many districts, including the Fairfax County school system, are creating virtual schools available to their own students.

But the Virginia Virtual Academy, which opened in 2009, was the first attempt to offer a full-time program to students statewide. A second statewide program opened in 2012 and serves about 130 students through a partnership between K12 and King and Queen County. Another statewide school was briefly available through the school system in Buena Vista City, near Lynchburg, but the contract was not continued.

Developing such programs often proves difficult as online communities of students and teachers try to take root in school systems that have long operated brick-and-mortar schools at local taxpayer expense and with local school board control.

Some states have created statewide school districts to oversee virtual schools, but Virginia’s constitution gives local governments jurisdiction over public education. So K12 must offer its online curriculum through local school districts.

The partnership with rural Carroll County had a distinct financial advantage for the for-profit company. Carroll County receives more in per-pupil state aid than most districts, because of a formula that favors poorer districts, and all of the virtual academy’s students are counted as Carroll students, regardless of where they live.

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Comments

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fairfaxvoter1 wrote:

5/1/2013 2:38 PM PDT

I did not like a company taking advantage of our efforts to equalize opportunity around the state, which involve paying far more per student in rural or poor areas. This company’s response was to look at the list of school districts like a menu, pick the one with the largest per student payments (because of those local conditions), and then act like a vacuum and suck up that money, contributed by all Virginia taxpayers, even though the service they provided had nothing to do with that locality and served kids in more affluent parts of the state. This took gaming the system to a whole new level and I am glad it is over.

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Jaime McCament responds:

5/1/2013 4:05 PM PDT

Fairfax voter you have the right to your opinion and I would never tell you otherwise but do you even know how much money it costs to send my special needs son to a regular public school? Do you even understand that when he was in the regular public school that he was far ahead of the kids in his class but they didn’t offer him a way to succeed just holding him back to work with the slowest kids in the regular general education class? People who think that they know all about how this school works and how it doesn’t help students are clearly wrong. My son is succeeding at home and does far better than he ever did in school. He gets one on one schooling instead of stuffed in a classroom with a bunch of kids who bully and pick on him. That is not my opinion that is a fact, because of this ruling my son will be left without a school. A lot of families will be left without a school. I paid $500 to send my kid to Carroll County and K12 got one cent of that money it went straight to Carroll County.

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Rimfire responds:

6:59 AM PDT

Face it fairfaxvoter1, you have something against businesses charging for things that your liberal mind things should be free.

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