Archives for category: K12 Inc.

You have never seen the name Whitney Tilson on my blog
before now. Tilson is a hedge fund manager who is a major supporter
of KIPP, Teach for America, and Democrats for Education Reform. I
have heard that he has written unpleasant things about me, like
calling me a union shill. I avoid mentioning him as I see no value
in personalizing issues and I try not to become engaged in ad
hominem exchanges.

To my surprise, Tilson reached out to let me
know that he had written
a devastating critique
of the online charter corporation
called K12. As a financier, he knows more about the business than I
could ever fathom. He wanted to let me know that we are in accord
that K12 delivers a poor quality of education.

I was glad to see a leader of this movement trying to clean out the Augean stables.
Also, I was gratified by his conciliatory action in writing me.

We have exchanged a few emails. At some point, we may meet. I have
never called him any names. Perhaps he will now stop questioning my
motives and recognize that I write with as much sincerity as he
does. He knows–perhaps he always knew–that I am financially
independent and had no reason to sell myself to the unions or
anyone else.

I support teachers’ unions, because I believe that
teachers need a collective voice, just as other groups
in society do (think: Chamber of Commerce,
AMA, ABA, DFER, Etc) I support unions, although I have never
belonged to one, because they protect the rights of working people
and help poor people enter the middle class. I believe the attacks
on unions—and their diminishing numbers— have contributed to
the growing income inequality in this country and the shrinking
middle class.

It is good to tone down the rhetoric. But I will not
waver in my belief that public education, democratically
controlled, is a pillar of a democratic society.

Nor will I compromise my conviction that those entering the education
profession must be well prepared for the hard work of their chosen
profession.

Nor will I abandon my opposition to the widespread
assumption that test scores are the best and only way–or even an
accurate way–to measure students, teachers, or schools.

Nor will I be persuaded that schools alone can end poverty, no matter what
their scores. Schools are part of the solution, but much more is
needed, meaning social and economic change. We will see where this
goes. I appreciate Tilson’s offer to reason together. I am all for
that. What he wrote about K12 is devastating. Everyone should read
it.

In a sign that informed opposition makes a difference, New Jersey State Commissioner Chris Cerf denied approval to two virtual charter schools.

“A year ago the two charters — a K-12 school in Newark and a high school for dropouts in Monmouth and Ocean Counties — appeared poised to become the state’s first all-online programs. Both had received preliminary approval from the Christie administration.

“But support slowly wilted over the past year, as community and political opposition mounted. And K12 Inc., the nation’s largest online education firm, was connected with both charter applications as well, prompting debate over the for-profit company’s role.”

The proposed K12 charter spokesman was furious. He released a letter expressing his disappointment:

““We now find ourselves in the position of having to tell 850 children, their families, and the teachers your staff insisted we hire as part of the compliance process that, once again, the school will be denied the opportunity to open and prove ourselves,” read the letter from Michael Pallante, chairman of the proposed school’s board.

“Not once during all of the hearings, trainings, demonstration sessions, e-mail, and telephone conversations were we ever told that this was going to happen to us and to these families once again,” he said.

The school noted that it had also hired experts to speak to the legality and effectiveness of the programs. K12 also signed on with the state’s top lobbying firm, Princeton Public Affairs Group.”

The other rejected school, aimed at dropouts, had trouble enrolling students and seemed likely to withdraw.

“This would have been a disaster for taxpayers and a disaster for children, and we are happy that he did the right thing,” said Julia Sass Rubin, a spokeswoman for Save Our Schools New Jersey, a pro-public school group.

Although K12 Inc. and Pearson’s Connections Academy have lobbied for approval of virtual for-profit charter schools in Maine, the state senate voted 22-13 to put a freeze on them until further study about their effectiveness. The vote fell two short of the 24 needed to override a veto by Governor Paul LePage, a recipient of campaign contributions from the online industry.

Lobbying by the online industry and ties between former Governor Jeb Bush and the LePage administration were the subject of an award-winning exposé in the Maine Sunday-Telegram last fall. LePage’s Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, and the exposé last fall revealed that Bowen relied on Bush’s Organization, the Foundation for Educational Excellence, for ideas and legislative language.

Bowen still relies on Bush for policy guidance. Last month he announced an A-F grading system for Maine schools, an idea first implemented in Florida by then-Governor Bush. It is used in some places, like New York City, as a means to close schools and replace them with charter schools.

Regarding the moratorium, Commissioner Bowen said that the moratorium was “designed to halt the development of virtual schools.” Well, yes, that seems to be the point.

Cyber charters are profligate in wasting taxpayer dollars. A recent article on the Huffington Post reported that they spent nearly $100 million on advertising over a five year period. The biggest cyber charter, K12, spent more than $20 million in the first eight months of 2012.

In Ohio, home of rapacious and ineffective cyber charters, it costs the cyber operator $3,600 per student. But the corporation collects $6,300 per student. This leaves lots of dollars for profit and advertising.

Would it surprise you to know that the owners of the Ohio cyber charters give major campaign contributions to the governor and legislators?

I have written many posts about the scam and sham of cyber charters. They are highly profitable for their owners and investors, but study after study shows that they provide a poor education. Whatever their value for adults, whatever the value of an online course for a rural student, the cyber charters are a pitiful substitute for a real school with real teachers and real students and real human interaction.

Now comes the inside scoop from a teacher in a cyber charter school. It is very thing it’s critics feared and worse. It is all about making money for the corporation. It is bad education. That is, if you care about children or education or the future of our society.

USA Today has done it again. Last year, an investigative team of reporters broke open the cheating scandal during Michelle Rhee’s tenure.

Now, Greg Toppo reveals that the virtual charters are wasting millions of dollars on advertising to boost their enrollment and their coffers.

He has identified about $100 million of lost taxpayer dollars.

They recruit for two reasons: one, to add more dollars to their bank account. Two, because they have a high dropout rate and must keep replacing students.

This is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars. Money spent by taxpayers to pay for art classes be reduce class size is instead being paid to ad rise the wares of shoddy online schools.

This is money diverted from its intended purpose. This is money taken from schools across the state. It should be illegal.

More proof that these schools, as presently constituted, are a fraud.

Joanne Barkan has written an excellent summary of how public education fared in the recent elections.

Barkan knows how to follow the money. Her article “Got Dough?” showed the influence of the billionaires on education policy.

She begins her analysis of the 2012 elections with this overview of Barack Obama’s embrace of GOP education dogma:

“Barack Obama’s K-12 “reform” policies have brought misery to public schools across the country: more standardized testing, faulty evaluations for teachers based on student test scores, more public schools shut down rather than improved, more privately managed and for-profit charter schools soaking up tax dollars but providing little improvement, more money wasted on unproven computer-based instruction, and more opportunities for private foundations to steer public policy. Obama’s agenda has also fortified a crazy-quilt political coalition on education that stretches from centrist ed-reform functionaries to conservatives aiming to undermine unions and privatize public schools to right-wingers seeking tax dollars for religious charters. Mitt Romney’s education program was worse in only one significant way: Romney also supported vouchers that allow parents to take their per-child public-education funding to private schools, including religious schools.”

Barkan’s analysis shows significant wins for supporters of public education–the upset of uber-reformer Tony Bennett in Indiana, the repeal of the Luna laws in Idaho, and the passage of a tax increase in California–and some significant losses–the passage of charter initiatives in Georgia and Washington State.

The interesting common thread in many of the key elections was the deluge of big money to advance the anti-public education agenda.

Even more interesting is how few people put up the big money. If Barkan were to collate a list of those who contributed $10,000 or more to these campaigns, the number of people on the list would be very small, maybe a few hundred. If the list were restricted to $20,000 or more, it would very likely be fewer than 50 people, maybe less.

This tiny number of moguls is buying education policy in state after state. How many have their own children in the schools they seek to control? Probably none.

The good news is that they don’t win every time. The bad news is that their money is sometimes sufficient to overwhelm democratic control of public education.

Well, we are into big-time business talk about education.

For-profit colleges are losing market share.

K12 Inc.’s stock price drops after Wells Fargo downgraded its rating in response to the poor performance of K12’s Colorado Virtual Academy, where the graduation rate is 22 percent.

Now a rating agency finds that despite the passage of an ALEC-style amendment in Georgia, allowing a gubernatorial commission to open charters over the objections of local school boards, and despite a likely charter victory in Washington State, the charter sector as a whole is a risky investment. Read the analysis here.

Hey, is any of this about education or just about increasing market share and profits and return-on-investment?

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.

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