State report on controversial virtual charter schools due in the coming days

Virtual charter schoolsA state report on the first year of operations for North Carolina’s controversial virtual charter schools is likely to wrap in a matter of days, according to a top state consultant.

Deanna Townsend-Smith, a consultant for N.C.’s Office of Charter Schools, told Policy Watch that she expects the report will, at the latest, be ready for the State Board of Education’s regular monthly meeting in early November.

Townsend-Smith’s comments come days after the consultant told members of the Charter School Advisory Board—which counsels the state board on charter applications and policy—that her office is attempting to put a “positive spin” on the report.

The “positive spin” quip is likely to rile up some critics of the virtual charters, but it follows a sometimes tense year of back and forth between state and virtual charter leaders regarding attendance requirements for the schools.

As Policy Watch has reported, the two pilot schools—N.C. Connections Academy and N.C. Virtual Academy, both run by for-profit outfits—have been troubled by high droput rates in their first year.

Townsend-Smith said the state office will be releasing a “factual report, nothing biased.”

“I’m trying to present a report that doesn’t seem like our office or the state board is against virtual charter schools,” she said. “We are trying to just present the facts as they are without editorializing them.”

Expect the report to include interviews with virtual charter board members and administrators, as a well as a survey of hundreds of parents whose children have participated in the four-year pilot programs.

The report will also bundle state data on the academic performance of virtual charter students.

The virtual charter model, touted as a boost to students who struggle in a traditional school setting, has been plagued by bad publicity in other states, with a Stanford University study last year finding that virtual charter students trail their peers in traditional schools by as much as a full academic year.

Meanwhile, N.C. Virtual Academy’s parent company, Virginia-based K-12 Inc., recently settled a multi-million court case with California state leaders over claims that the for-profit company inflated its attendance and performance data in order to guzzle more public cash. The company admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, but coughed up millions in payments and debt relief for the state.

Despite the criticisms, lawmakers in the N.C. General Assembly approved relaxed regulations for the virtual charter schools during this year’s session.

Check back with Policy Watch for full coverage of the virtual charter report once it’s released.


  1. Bryan Setser

    October 18, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Anytime you’d like to interview me on the actual work at Connections – I’m always available as this is the third time I’ve made this appeal to your journalistic integrity.

  2. Tammy Thompson

    October 19, 2016 at 1:52 am

    NCVA works for our family. My children struggled worse in a public setting, I think a lot of the other children did as well, so the majority of the Virtual students are probably scoring low. I pray that test scores are not all we are looking at for our kids, the ratio will probably be lower scores because of fewer students. The wait list is long . It is not for every family but I feel that as tax paying citizens, we should have choices for school that best fit our family dynamics and our tax dollars should follow the student. The State doesn’t tell us which daycare to choose, or which type of continuing education we can choose after graduation, so why not trust we can decide the best way to educate our children for 13 years. Brick and Mortar has not changed in over 100 years and my children were getting left behind. If we homeschool no one complains because our tax dollars go to the school in our area but we get 0 benefit from that money. I have parents every day tell me they wish they could do NCVA because their kids hate public school as a whole. Please don’t take our choice away! For those that don’t want it, stay where you are, but for those of us that need it, leave it in place.

  3. Hope Parra

    October 19, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Some article. How about you talk to the parents of NCVA cause my 3 girls are doing better they have ever done in the public school setting. This is my first year doing this and I wouldn’t change it at all. My oldest has been bullied since 2nd grade verbally and physically and the schools did nothing until last year when she stuck up for herself and I got the phone call that she was the bad child. My other 2 started getting the same thing at there school and I was not about to put up with that ever again. Now all 3 have there confidence levels back and are doing amazing. They eat healthier then the meals at the school and they have the freedom to get up and go to the bathroom with out restrictions. These teachers do one on one time, they call the parent and speak with them if they think something was a miss in class. My 10 year old had such low self esteem thanks to public school that it took 2 months for my kid to even want to read outloud on th NCVA. Now she raises her hand to read alot. Wish had interviewed us cause we have so much to say about the public school setting her. When 2 students are takEn out of school for to separate reasons and only one receives a tutor and the other gets left back there is a problem. One student was pregnant in the 6th grade the other fractured their stenum. The pregnant child was given the tutor and the other was ignored please tell me how the NC school system is right in doing this. The 7th grader had to repeat the grade and the 6th grader came back only to get pregnant again that year and quit school for good. Would have been a benifit for both students to have had tutors for both yes but they chose not to help all . If NCVA had been around for that student then he would have has to repeat a thing. Try talking to the parents that care for the kids education and not the ones that are not caring what happens.

  4. Dez Herrera

    October 19, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    My daughter is doing better because we have NCVA. Our family is glad to have K12 available for my child who is an introvert and learns differently. Being out of a brick and mortar school really makes a difference.

  5. Roseann

    October 19, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    My daughter goes to NCVA. As a parent , I have seen her flourish as a student and person . She suffers from severe anxiety disorder. And cannot be in a big classroom setting . She is close with her teachers and principal. They understand her conditions. Where the brick and mortality does not . There are books to learn from . Extra online help if needed . Counseling. I cannot imagine her in a public school. Where there isn’t enough to go around . Never-ending the bullying. The school does nothing about . And some of the teachers don’t know what to do about it . Or how to teach this Common Core . Which we need to get rid of as a whole . But that’s another subject. My child is doing much better in NCVA than public school system. I hope the test scores is not all you are looking at . I hope you look at the school as a whole . Some children cannot go to a classroom for certain reasons. Get the parents together that care about the children that are homeschooling and interview all of us . . And the reasoning is for better education. They are learning more . Way more . Teachers care more . It’s more on a personal level with homeschooling And let’s not pay attention to parents who don’t care about their kids ,who do not want to put their time into their child and support them . I fully support all homeschooling and the parents who choose to do so . It works for us and our children better than ever . So think about what you are going to do,to,these children who need this ! As a learning coach I see everyday what ,you child is doing . In brick and mortar my daughter told me she would never learn anything like this .

  6. Cindy Anderson

    October 19, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I don’t have a story of bullying or special needs or a child with medical conditions. I have a normal, every day kid who just wasn’t doing well in school. He was quiet and not disruptive so the teacher was happy to let him sit at his desk doing his work while she dealt with other, louder, disruptive kids. It didn’t seem to occur to her to check on that quiet boy in the corner who never raised his hand. It didn’t bother her in the least that he was quietly doing all his work but it was all wrong. My son almost failed fourth grade because he was too quiet to be noticed. We were thrilled to be presented with the option of enrolling in NCVA last year and I am so glad we did! For the first time, I saw my son succeeding and learning so much. He actually understood what was being taught! What a blessing. All he needed was a one on one atmosphere with someone who cared about whether or not he succeeded. NCVA has allowed my son to finally have success. Traditional school is not for every student just as online school isn’t for everyone. This school has been such a turning point for my son. Her finally understands that he too can be a good student! Online school is a very viable solution for many families. I hope our lawmakers can see that NCVA is successful to many of its families!

  7. Heather

    October 19, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    My son struggled in brick and mortar school, he struggled with bullies, he struggled with learning, he struggled with tests, and fought me everyday when it came to going to school. He would run from the bus, refuse to get out of the car when i would drop him off, and had major meltdowns at school. He had multiple tardy’s, even when we were at the school, just because he wasn’t in class before the bell. He had many doctor appointments that pulled him away from school. NCVA has given him the chance he has not had since starting school! My son was diagnosed ADHD combined presence and ODD in kindergarten. Since then, he has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and anxiety/panic disorder. I had meeting after meeting with his brick and mortar while he attended there. He was on IEPs and had extra reading classes, but the other help that he needed was just not being offered. NCVA gave immediate response to my concerns and questions. They have put full effort into getting my son the help that he needs. My son is excelling at amazing levels and we just started NCVA this school year! He loves his teachers that engage him during class connects, he has truly come out of his shell. When he is having a rough day, with meltdowns, and behaviors, I am able to adjust his schedule to fit that day. He is able to take breaks when he becomes overwhelmed, stand up and dance around if needed during lessons, and he is able to move ahead in classes that he is excelling in! Last year he struggled with addition, subtraction, and rounding….this year…..he is already multiplying double digit numbers!!! My son has more good days than bad now. NCVA has been a GOD send to us. We still have our struggles, but attendance and reaching goals has not been one!

  8. Annie Blackburn

    October 24, 2016 at 7:57 am

    My comments will echo the sentiments of many parents who have already spoken out however I would be remiss if I did not stand up for the virtual charter school system. My son has autism and we spent years fighting with the brick and mortar system in regards to his education, his success or the lack there of and his IEP. Since starting at NCVA, not only is he doing better but he is thriving. He loves his teachers, he loves the routine and the set schedules but more importantly he loves to learn. Taking this option away based on reports and numbers that are skewed by bias is unconscionable and I will fight for my son to continue on this educational path.

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