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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

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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.

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Cross-posted from the blog of State Government Radio commentator Barlow Herget:

See if the pig is in the bag
By Barlow Herget

The idea of the Internet as the next big thing in education is an appealing vision.  There are ways now being tried in some schools in which computer programs and the Internet are designed to aid teachers in developing custom learning plans for individual students.

But the virtual schools that for-profit companies are pedaling to financially strapped North Carolina school boards are pigs in a poke.  The State Board of Education and its chairman Bill Harrison are correct to ask for a detailed review of such questionable sales.

The issue surfaced after the Cabarrus School Board was casting about to save money in these tight budget times.  Under the guise of a charter school, a North Carolina non-profit, NC Learns, sold the Cabarrus board a virtual school program operated by a for-profit company called K12.

The charter school expects to get over $18 million in public school funds, most of which will be paid to K12.  The N.C. Virtual Academy as it’s called, offers to teach 2,700 students from across the state.

Now, stop and think.

Does an on-line K through 12 school pass the common sense test?  Hardly. Read More

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A Wake Superior Court judge will announce his decision Friday on whether a virtual charter school should open this fall, after the N.C. Board of Education neglected to take up its application.

The State Board of Education is asking Judge Abe Jones to set aside an administrative judge’s order and give the state board a second chance decide if the virtual charter school should be approved to open up in North Carolina. (The state education board didn’t act on the virtual charters application earlier this spring, saying they had already announced they weren’t going to take up online-only charter schools this year).

N.C. Learns, the non-profit set up to house the K12, Inc.-run school, wants the administrative law judge’s order to hold, so that they can open up this fall and begin recruiting students.  The company expects to find 2,750 students statewide in its first year, meaning more than $18 million of public education funding would be diverted from the already-tight budgets of public schools around the state.

The virtual charter school would be run by K12, Inc., a for-profit online education company that runs similar online-only school in 29 other states. Students at virtual schools take their classes online from their home computers, paid for by taxpayers.

There have been a lot of questions about the quality of K12 schools, with states like Ohio reporting four-year graduation rates as low as 30 percent, and down to 12.2 percent for black students.

North Carolina’s cohort graduation rate is 77.9 percent overall, and 71.5 percent for black students and 68.8 for Latinos.

In this case, The North Carolina Virtual Academy would be run by K12, and be open to students statewide. The school would get the same per-pupil amount as other charter schools get (ranges from $7,000 to $10,000, depending on where the student lives and if they are special needs), despite not having to shoulder the cost of having a physical school and paying for the building costs, and all that goes along with that.

This is just a quick update, and you can read more here about the hearing in today’s News & Observer, as well as this story from WRAL.

Check back with N.C. Policy Watch later on, where we’ll have more detailed account about yesterday’s hearing as well as Judge Abe Jones’ decision Friday.

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Cross-posted from the blog of national education expert Diane Ravitch:

Profits, Not Better Education

An article in a publication called “The Financial Investigator” took a close look at K12, the for-profit online “education” corporation whose growth had made it a darling of Wall Street. The article paid particular attention to the “churn rate” at K12 online schools. That is, how many students left in a given year. In the Ohio Virtual Academy of K12, a staggering 51% of students turned over in a single year. That helps to explain why the name of the game for the for-profit online academies is recruitment. So long as the corporations can keep their numbers up, they will collect tuition money from the state, usually double their real costs.

The more the for-profit academies churn, the more they earn. And every dollar they collect comes right out of the public school budget. Read More