The Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA) recently broke off its future school management relationship with K12, Inc., a for-profit company that runs virtual public schools around the nation.
Online schools allow students to take their full course load from home computers, and K12 has been a national leader, with close to 85 percent of its revenues coming from public education dollars.
The Colorado charter school’s board of directors decided recently to part ways with the company’s hands-on school management for the 2014-15 school year, according to this article from a Colorado public radio station, KUNC. The school will still use K12-developed coursework and K12 will continue to run the school in 2013-14, according to KUNC.
Brian Bissell, head of the COVA board, confirmed the change Tuesday. It will go into effect during the 2014-2015 school year. COVA has struggled with poor academic performance in recent years amid questions about K12 Inc.’s management of school resources—including teacher understaffing.
Bissell, who is a K12 Inc. shareholder and has three children enrolled in COVA, says that the school could still use K12’s curriculum but says school leaders have decided that new management is the best option.
“It became clear that at certain points in COVA history the interests of COVA—that is our students and their families, their teachers and Colorado’s taxpayers—these have not always been aligned with K12’s interests,” he said.
The Colorado school has been criticized for its low graduation rates (22 percent in 2011-12, according to state education statistics) and a discovery by state auditors that the school had overcharged $800,000 for 120 students who never attended, weren’t Colorado residents or whose enrollments couldn’t be verified, according to this in-depth 2011 New York Times article.
K12 spokesman Jeff Kwitowski said COVA is continuing to use K12, Inc. to manage the online school in 2013-14, and took issue with the idea that COVA was backing off from its use of the company.
From an email Kwitowski sent N.C. Policy Watch after this post’s initial publication:
We presented a self-management option to COVA Board so they could assume full management and operational control of the school next year, but they declined. They wanted K12 to manage the school next year and use K12’s curriculum. Furthermore, they wanted the new agreement to state that if they received a new charter, a relationship with K12 would continue. They voted to ratify the agreement. In short, they didn’t “dump” K12, they stayed with K12.
Nationally, critics of K12 have charged the company is focused on profits while students in many of its public schools lag behind their peers.
For its part, K12, Inc. has said it fills a needed niche in public education by offering families an option of learning online at a pace that can be geared toward individual students. Company officials have said that low testing and graduation rates are partly a result of online schools’ tendency to attract families of students who have struggled in traditional schools. (Click here to read a K12 response to a study critical of the company’s educational quality.)
The Colorado school is also only operating on a one-year approval for the 2013-14 school year as a result of the concerns that the school district that hosts the school had about the low academic performance and other issues related to the K12-run online school.
K12 will still have a presence in Colorado, another virtual charter school that will use K12 to deliver its education platform was approved by the Colorado education department this week, according to this press release.
North Carolina doesn’t currently have any virtual charter schools operating, but K12 has made a big push in the state including partnering with the Cabarrus schools and requesting approval for a statewide charter in 2012. The State Board of Education, which is tasked with approving charter schools in the state, didn’t take up the virtual school’s application and the matter has since been in the appeals courts.
A legislative proposal that would have granted the K12, Inc. school instant approval was yanked earlier this year, after the legislator who floated the idea at the behest of K12, Inc. lobbyists had second thoughts.
Note: This post has changed significantly from its original form to reflect that K12, Inc. will continue to provide curriculum to COVA, and to allow for a response from K12 about COVA’s recent decision. The headline has also been changed to reflect the continuing relationship between K12 and COVA, after a K12, Inc. spokesman contacted N.C. Policy Watch with concerns about the post.