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New national report raises questions about virtual charter K12 Inc.

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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New national report raises questions about virtual charter K12 Inc.