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Today’s “Monday numbers” edition of the Fitzsimon File looks into some of the rather startling numbers related to the state’s mad rush to expand charter schools. Among other things, they offer additional evidence that the myth about charters being “laboratories of innovation” that will somehow lead to improvements in traditional schools is just that — a myth.

N.C. Learns, the group behind a proposal for a virtual charter school, plans on appealing a Wake Superior Court judge’s order that put the school’s plans on indefinite hold.

The school would have been run by K12, Inc., a Wall Street-traded educational company that gets most of its revenue from public dollars for online-only schools it runs in more than two dozen state around the country.

Wake Judge Abraham Jones ruled on June 29 that the state board didn’t have to review an application  submitted by the online-only school, and overturned an administrative judge’s decision to grant the school permission to open.  (Click here to read a past story about the case.)

N.C. Learns, a non-profit whose start-up costs are being paid for by K12, Inc., is appealing Jones’ order to the N.C. Court Of Appeals, according to a notice of appeal filed in the Wake County Courthouse July 27.

The N.C. School Board Association and the N.C. Justice Center joined the state board in opposing the virtual charter school, arguing that school districts around the state would have their funds depleted for an online-only school with questionable performance in other states. (N.C. Policy Watch is a project housed under the N.C. Justice Center, an anti-poverty statewide advocacy group.)

The appeal is also seeking to overturn Jones’ decision to allow the school board association from intervening in the case, according to the notice written by state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, who was hired to serve as the attorney for the proposed virtual school.

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This morning’s Charlotte Observer editorial gets it just about right in its take on K12, Inc. — the big for-profit cyber-schools company. The editorial comes as a follow-up to a recent study by the National Education Policy Center which found that K12 has a generally abysmal record in educating kids:

“Online learning does have great value and popularity. The state’s N.C. Virtual Public School program offers courses to high school students across the state – often courses that don’t have high demand but ones that students in various parts of the state need or desire, and courses that students have flunked which can be recovered without students having to go back through a whole semester.

But the K12 Inc. managed school would be different. It would operate as a standalone school, completely online, taking in students from anywhere in the state.

Whether that’s a good idea is worth debating. But K12 Inc.’s involvement is another matter. The report from the National Center for Education Policy should prompt a thorough investigation before K12 Inc.’s application goes forward.”

Of course,  like so many other sharks looking to cash in on the privatization of our schools and other essential public structures, K12 is already employing a virtual fleet of high-powered lobbyists to represent it in the General Assembly. So, whatever the continued fallout from the NEPC repport, don’r expect the company to leave North Carolina alone anytime soon..

The Winston-Salem Journal has a story this morning about the new national report (reported here last week by Sarah Ovaska) that slams the student outcomes produced by K12 Inc., the for-profit corporation that is lobbying hard to run charter schools in North Carolina — including a so-called “virtual charter” in Cabarrus County. (The group currently employs seven registered lobbyists in North Carolina).

“A report released last week shows that students enrolled at K12 Inc., an online school company linked to a nonprofit group in Cabarrus County, are falling behind in reading and math scores compared with students in traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Read More

The National Education Policy Center, a nonprofit research organization, released a lengthy report this week that raises more questions about the performance of virtual charter schools operated by K12 Inc.

The 65-page report acknowledges that while computer-assisted learning has tremendous potential, students enrolled in K12 Inc. schools are falling further behind in reading and math scores than students in brick-and-mortar schools, according to the study.

Some of NEPC’s key findings include:

• Math scores for K12 Inc.’s students are 14 to 36 percent lower than scores for other students in the states in which the company operates schools.

• Only 27.7 percent of K12 Inc.’s schools reported meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards in 2010-11, compared to 52% for brick-and-mortar schools in the nation as a whole.

• Student attrition is exceptionally high in K12 Inc. and other virtual schools. Many families appear to approach the virtual schools as a temporary service: Data in K12 Inc.’s own school performance report indicate that 31% of parents intend to keep their students enrolled for a year or less, and more than half intend to keep their students enrolled for two years or less.

The NEPC report goes on to recommend that state policymakers “slow or put a moratorium on the growth of full-time virtual schools” until they better understand the reasons for the disparities in outcomes:

‘In the area of full-time virtual education, states should place their first priority on understanding why the performance of virtual schools suffers and how it can be improved before undertaking any measures or programs to expand this new model of schooling.’

In response to the report, K12 Inc. says NEPC used selective data and failed to take into account student academic growth.

Earlier this month, K12 had its plans derailed to open a virtual charter school in North Carolina this fall. The Wall Street company had hopes to recruit 2,750 students in its first year and take in $18 million in federal, state and local education dollars.

You can read the NEPC full report, “Understanding and Improving Virtual Schools,” here.  For K12′s response, click here.  And to read more about K12 Inc. in North Carolina, read Sarah Ovaska’s most recent story here.