Archives for category: K12 Inc.

Soon after the elections, the mega-corporation K12 convened a conference call with investors to boast about the opening of new markets for virtual charters in Georgia and Washington State.

K12 is the company founded by the Milken brothers to sell online schooling for-profit.

It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Its CEO, Ron Packard, has a background at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. Last year, he was paid $5 million.

The academic results of its schools are poor. The National Education Policy Center reviewed K12 and found that its students fare poorly in relation to test scores and graduation rates. The NCAA won’t accept credits from one of its online schools. The New York Times wrote a blistering critique of K12.

But K12, like some other charter operators, makes campaign contributions (as it did in Georgia), and the politicians care more about those contributions than about the children of their state.

Despite the miserable results that cyber charters get in study after study, the state has authorized more of them than any other state. It has 12 up and running, four more just approved, and more in line to be approved.

I mistakenly reported in an earlier post that only one cyber charter had ever made “adequate yearly progress,” but I was mistaken. NO cyber charter has ever made AYP in Pennsylvania. It was only because the State Education Commissioner dummies down the scoring that one crossed the bar. When held to the same standards as public schools, no cyber charter meets the NCLB requirement for academic progress.

I received this communication from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Just think: You too can earn a cash prize for formulating the best business plan for education.

Maybe it would be like the Milkens’ very own K12 virtual school business, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, makes millions of dollars, and provides a shoddy education. Study after study shows that the students in the Milken virtual schools have a high attrition rate, low test scores, and low graduation rates. They sit at home in front of a computer and guess the answers to questions on the computer. But what a great business plan! It makes a lot of money for its investors.

University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education

and the Milken Family Foundation Launch 2013 Education

Business Plan Competition

Share your idea. Change the world.

Philadelphia, PA, November 7, 2012 – The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and the Milken Family Foundation have opened submissions for the 2013 Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (EBPC) at the newly re-launched web site Penn GSE’s Executive Director of Academic Innovation Dr. Bobbi Kurshan announced the competition today. The first education-focused business plan competition ever now features a total of $120,000 in prize funding, and is part of Penn GSE’s expanding NEST initiative. The 2013 EBPC will take place on Penn’s campus May 7-8, 2013.

The Milken-Penn GSE EBPC stimulates cutting-edge ideas that serve the world’s educational needs, from Pre-K to adult learning. Last year, EBPC judges selected ten worldwide finalists from over 200 applicants to compete in a live competition in Philadelphia judged by a panel of industry leaders. This year’s competition will also feature the Penn GSE NEST Conference, a gathering of industry leaders for a one-of-a-kind opportunity to gauge the pulse of entrepreneurship in education and explore new ways of fostering a culture of continuous innovation in the field. In coming months, Kurshan will announce a greatly expanded slate of NEST programming that will take place throughout the year.

The $120,000 in total funding is awarded through the following six prizes:

· The Milken Family Foundation:

o First Prize ($25,000)

o Second Prize ($15,000)

· The American Public University System Prize for Innovation in Online Education ($25,000)

· The Educational Services of America Prize for Innovation in the fields of Special Education and At-Risk Students ($20,000)

· The Erudient Education Prize for Innovation in Borderless Education ($10,000)

· The Startl Prize for Open Educational Resources ($25,000)

Penn GSE NEST launched the EBPC in 2010 as a partnership between Penn GSE and the Milken Family Foundation. The EBPC culminates with a live competition, judged by a panel of industry experts, and has more than doubled the amount of prize money and number of prizes since it was first launched. Last year’s winning plans ranged from an effort to leverage mobile technology to educate in Africa (and beyond) to a powerful text-to-audio application that is revolutionary for individuals with visual impairments and those with literacy needs around the world.


A worldwide leader in education practice, policy, and philosophy, Penn GSE is consistently at the forefront of education innovation. As part of the school’s expanding entrepreneurial effort, each summer Penn GSE invites the best, brightest, and most influential professional educators, education entrepreneurs, business leaders, and venture capitalists to the campus of the University of Pennsylvania for the annual Penn GSE NEST Conference. The Conference is a unique way to generate new ideas, debate policy, forge new collaborations, discover investment opportunities, and conduct social networking and research.

The Milken Family Foundation

The Milken Family Foundation (MFF) was established by Lowell and Michael Milken in 1982 with the mission to discover and advance inventive and effective ways to help people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives. MFF has been at the vanguard of education reform for three decades. From founding the nation’s preeminent teacher recognition program to creating the country’s most successful comprehensive education reform system, the foundation continues to champion innovative strategies that elevate education in America and around the world. Learn more at

About Penn GSE

Penn GSE is one of the nation’s premier research ed schools. A small percentage of education programs in the U.S. offer doctoral degrees, with only a tiny fraction located at flagship research universities. No other education school enjoys a University environment as supportive of practical knowledge-building as the University of Pennsylvania. Penn GSE has long been known for excellence in qualitative research, language and literacy studies, practitioner inquiry and teacher education. Over the past 15 years, Penn GSE has also developed remarkable strengths in quantitative research, policy studies, evaluation, higher education, and psychology and human development. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals and unique partnerships with local educators. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit

I received the following news release from the National Alliance for Charter Schools.

They of course were crowing about the passage of the ALEC-inspired initiative in Georgia, where the governor will be free to open charter schools everywhere across the state without consulting any local school board.

I knew Nina Rees when I worked in the George H.W. Bush administration. She is smart and personable and very, very conservative in her education views. She subsequently worked for the Milken brothers, who own K12, the for-profit virtual charter corporation.

Then she worked as Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation in the George W. Bush administration.

She was co-chair of the education policy committee for the Romney campaign, whose agenda was a flat-out privatization program for education.

And now she is praising President Obama for his leadership in the charter movement!

From: Nina Rees <>
Subject: Public Charter Schools Win Big in Election

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
Dear charter school supporter,The 2012 election is an important moment in the public charter schools movement.In two states, voters sent a clear message that they want public school options that are unique partnerships between teachers, parents, and students and that respond to the specific needs of their communities.Voters in Georgia rejected the status quo and created conditions that support the growth of high-quality public charter schools that are accountable for student achievement. Now, charter applicants who are rejected by school districts will have access to a fair appeals process.In Washington state, where votes are still being counted, voters are on the verge of making their state the 42nd with a public charter school law. If the results hold up, families and children in Washington will have the chance to attend schools that are as innovative as the companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Boeing that drive the state’s economy forward.In addition, the re-election of President Obama maintains leadership for charter schools at the national level. In his first term, President Obama created an environment where charter schools could thrive through the incentives in Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, Promise Neighborhoods, and other reform programs. Over the past three years, almost half of states have revised their charter school laws to support growth and quality. Over the past four years, enrollment in public charter schools has risen by almost 1 million students. Today, more than 2 million students attend these unique public schools that serve the needs of students and their parents.

With the support of voters in Georgia, Washington and other states, and with the leadership from elected officials in state houses and Washington, D.C., the best days are ahead for the public charter school community.


Nina Rees
President & CEO

© Copyright 2006 – 2012, The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
1101 Fifteenth Street, NW, Suite 1010. Washington, DC 20005.
(202) 289-2700

Motoko Rich of the New York Times has written a good article about the Georgia charter referendum.

We already knew that big donors from out of state funded the pro-charter vote. What I learned from this article was that charter corporations also funded the Yes vote.

She writes:

“The roster of contributors in Georgia includes several companies that manage charter schools, including K12 Inc., Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies. In all, committees supporting the ballot measure have collected 15 times as much as groups opposing the measure, according to public filings.”

The charter corporations listed here operate for profit.

Somehow this seems unethical. Isn’t it like a payoff or a sort of legal graft to buy support for a measure that benefits the corporation?

Yes, I understand that it happens all the time. I understand that tobacco companies and oil companies spend money to win public support and contracts. I’m not naive.

But I never imagined that for-profit charter corporations would give money to candidates and ballot questions to get contracts. If the referendum passes, they make money.

It just smells bad. It stinks.

It’s not about education. It’s about greed.

There are few investigative writers in education journalism these days. It is disturbingly rare to find writers who look behind the press releases, the hype and spin.

One place that cries out for investigative journalism is Louisiana, the locus for the most extreme privatization schemes. The governor is now imposing the New Orleans model on the entire state, and many hold up New Orleans as a national model. That means wiping out public education.

So here is an excellent article that does what journalists are supposed to do: Matthew Cunningham follows the money. He looks closely at the money flowing into the state school board races. In 2007, the total spent was about a quarter million dollars. In 2011, it was multiplied by ten times, to $2.6 million. Read the article to see where the money came from.

Because I was traveling in Texas over the weekend, I didn’t see Bill Moyers’ report on ALEC. I watched it last night, and I hope you will too.

If you want to understand how we are losing our democracy, watch this program.

If you want to know why so many states are passing copycat legislation to suppress voters’ rights, to eliminate collective bargaining, to encourage online schooling, to privatize public education, watch this program.

ALEC brings together lobbyists for major corporations and elected state officials in luxurious resorts. In its seminars, the legislators learn how to advance corporate-sponsored, free-market ideas in their state. Its model legislation is introduced in state after state, often with minimal or no changes in the wording.

Watch Moyers show how Tennessee adopted ALEC’s online school bill and how Arizona is almost a wholly owned ALEC state. Watch how Scott Walker followed the ALEC template.

Moyers could do an entire special on ALEC’s education bills. ALEC promotes the parent trigger, so that parents can be tricked into handing their public schools over to charter chains. ALEC promotes gubernatorial commissions with the power to over-ride the decisions of local school boards to open more charters. ALEC promotes vouchers. ALEC, as he noted, promotes virtual charter schools (Pearson’s Connections Academy and K12 wrote the ALEC model law). ALEC has model legislations for vouchers for students with special needs. ALEC has a model law to allow people to teach without credentials. ALEC has legislation to eliminate tenure protection. ALEC has model legislation for educator evaluation.

It is all so familiar, isn’t it?

ALEC wants nothing less than to privatize public education, to eliminate unions, and to dismantle the education profession.

Stephen Dyer raises the question about whether Ohio will follow in Florida’s path and open an investigation of the K12 for-profit school. In Ohio, K12 has classes of 51 students to a single teacher even though it is paid to have a ratio of 20:1.

That is way profitable for K12, though not for the students.

Dyer’s article includes a link to a story about the sharp drop in K12′s stock price that occurred after news of the Florida investigation broke. That story points out that K12 is under investigation in Georgia as well as Florida.

You do have to wonder at what point Secretary of Education Arne Duncan might speak out against the poor quality of online for-profit charter schools and other for-profit entrepreneurs that raid school budgets and produce terrible results. Will he?

The Tennessee Virtual Academy is one of those online for-profit charter schools that are supposed to “save” American education. Bad news for its champions: The scores at the school were in the state’s bottom 11 percent. The sponsors say forget the scores and wait until next year. Right.

Jeb Bush promotes virtual schools from one end of the country to the other. His Foundation for Excellence in Education is funded by numerous tech corporations. He and Bob Wise of the Alliance for Excellent Education published guidelines called the “Ten Elements of Digital Education” urging states to take the plunge and authorize online schools with little or no regulation. Preferably no regulation at all, since regulations are seen as a hindrance to innovation. Teachers need not be certified, and the corporation need not even have an office in the state where it does business. Just hoops and hurdles that hobble true reform.

The push for virtual education takes two forms, both promoted heavily by the corporations that stand to profit: one, virtual charter schools; two, requiring that every high school student take at least one course online.

So far, there is not a scintilla of evidence that virtual instruction is good education, at least not in the way it is being sold by its advocates. Test scores are low; graduation rates are low; attrition is high. And why in the world should children in grades K-8 be isolated from any peer interactions during their formative years?

More and more evidence is emerging about the importance of non-cognitive skills, such as the ability to communicate with others and work with others. Can that be learned in isolation?

A reader asks: did Deval Patrick sell out?

I feel ashamed for Deval.  I am one of his many, many progressive supporters, and we’re all baffled by how he got into this situation.  I worked harder for his election than I did even for Obama, and I never doubted his integrity or strength.  

Through all the vicious attacks on him during that first campaign, he stayed steady and clear.  Remember the white-woman-in-dark-parking-lot ad?  I left work every day and went straight to unlock the little campaign office in my own town, as more and more volunteers came forward and signed on.  It got very ugly; there were smear attacks on his family members.  Even in Massachusetts, after Romney and Celluci, he seemed like a long shot.  But Deval brought out the best in my community, and turned it blue again.

On the morning after the election, I came in to my classroom and told my diverse and hopeful students, “The American Dream is For You.”  They cheered.  A couple of them even cried.  Remember, this was before Obama ever ran for president.

Later, after I had chaired a citizens online task force on ethics and lobbying reform, I sat next to him at our summary report meeting so he could answer our recommendations (for the cameras) by saying he’d veto the state budget if the legislators didn’t send him his groundbreaking (we thought at the time) ethics and lobbying reform with it.

After the meeting, I confronted him with his failure to get the state version of the Dream Act implemented (he’d actually tried the executive order route, but had to withdraw it).  I told him about my students, and he really did tear up.  His determination and frustration were real.

State Speaker DiMasi had been indicted for kickbacks on state contracts for the insurance and education data warehouses.  He was convicted, but the investigation went no further.  Edubuisiness had a lock on the state DOE, until Deval stood up to the Boston Globe and appointed a progressive PTA leader (Ruth Kaplan) to the board.

Then, when he ran for re-election, Deval let K12 and other for-profit education companies run a fundraiser for him at the Children’s Museum.  K12 now has a thriving online charter business operating out of Greenfield, and Deval is supporting Mosaica Boston’s forced takover-turnarounds of Boston Public Schools.  A memo leaked from his Secretary of Education once argued they had to bow to an illegal charter school placement, against the will of the community, or the Globe would attack them.  

I swear I don’t understand how he could sell out public education for their measly political  support. Like Obama, he got his chance by being admitted to a luxurious prep academy, so maybe he just can’t untangle his own conflicts about private schools, and it clouds his understanding.  I know he isn’t a coward.  I know he has a fine mind, and I still believe his life is dedicated to the same mission as my own.  I just can’t believe his is a calculated betrayal of the public trust we placed in him, in the face of this dangerous hour for the future of democratic governance.


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