Archives for category: K12 Inc.

As the Miami-Dade County school board considering awarding a multi-million dollar contract to the for-profit K12 Inc. to supply remote learning to all its students, the virtual learning company made a very very generous contribution to a nonprofit chaired by Miami’s superintendent of schools.

The matter is being investigated.

K12 delivered subpar services, and the board nixed the contract.

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Office of the Inspector General for Miami-Dade County Public Schools has launched an investigation into Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s nonprofit following a donation from K12, the much-maligned online learning platform axed by the district.

A memo from Inspector General Mary Cagle states her office “will begin a review of the transfer of approximately $1.57 million dollars from K12, a virtual instruction provider, to the Foundation for New Education Initiatives, Inc.”

Frankly, it’s hard to understand why Miami public schools chose for-profit K12 Inc. as it’s provider of remote instruction. Ten minutes or less on google would have turned up multiple articles about its terrible track record: high attrition, poor curriculum, low test scores, low graduation rates. NCAA strips accreditation for 24 schools using K12.

Wired tells the story in Miami, which recently severed its contract with K12.

ON THE MORNING of August 31, the first day of school, the 345,000 students in Miami-Dade County’s public schools fired up their computers expecting to see the faces of their teachers and classmates. Instead a scruffy little dog in banana-print pajamas appeared on their screens, alongside an error message. “Oh bananas!” read one message from the district’s online learning platform. “Too many people are online right now.”

A rudimentary cyberattack had crippled the servers of the nation’s fourth-largest school district, preventing its 392 schools from starting the year online. But even once the district had quelled the distributed denial-of-service attack and a local teen had been arrested for the crime, “Banana Dog” didn’t go away. If anything, the security breach merely obscured for a few days the crippling weaknesses in the district’s plan to move every aspect of its schooling—including a revamped curriculum—onto a platform that had only ever supported half as many students (and never all at once).

The platform was built by virtual charter school company K12, backed by one-time junk bond king Michael Milken and US secretary of education Betsy DeVos. Doug Levin, an education tech consultant, calls the decision to use K12 “atypical.” Another ed tech analyst, Phil Hill, calls it “weird.”

The rapid pivot to, and even faster pivot away from, K12 amounts to a case study in how not to deploy a massive new software project. It also illustrates how, in a few intense weeks of summer decisionmaking, a charter-school curriculum written by a for-profit company was chosen and installed, with little scrutiny, across one of the largest districts in the country.

Alberto Carvalho made the decision on his own, without consulting the board. They trusted him.

It was a disaster from the start.

K12’s software promised to replace all the other apps that schools had been using. “It was billed to teachers as the Rolls-Royce of software,” says Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade. The district and the company rushed to implement it. At the end of August, all of Miami-Dade’s educators sat through six days of K12 training—and that’s when they started to panic.

The teachers received demo logins to try out the platform, but they didn’t work, and even the trainers struggled to access it, West says. From 8 am until 3:30 pm each day, teachers took notes without once trying the software themselves. “The training was make-believe, it was so, so complex,” says one teacher. “Even our techie teachers were lost.” On Facebook, teachers shared GIFs of dumpster fires and steaming poop emojis in response to the experience.

“That’s a very complex, aggressive undertaking. And to do it with 345,000 students and in less than a month? There’s a lot of hubris involved.”

PHIL HILL, EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY ANALYST
Once the school year began in earnest, technical challenges persisted. Some students struggled to log in. Uploads could be excruciatingly slow. A particular sore point was the platform’s unreliable built-in video conferencing tool, called NewRow. It had issues with sound and screen-sharing. After about 15 minutes, the video quality started to degrade. It didn’t work on iPads or iPhones.

And then there was the built-in curriculum. K12 provided content, though teachers could change or supplement it. The lessons had been devised for K12’s virtual charter schools: for-profit schools that are entirely online and receive taxpayer money for every student enrolled. When some Miami-Dade teachers examined K12’s materials, they were horrified by what they found. One teacher came across a quiz for second graders with one question: “Did you enjoy this course?” Clicking “yes” allowed the student to ace the test. Several classes relied on K12’s paper workbooks, which the students didn’t receive. “One thing our educators complained about was, the rigor was not there. It was a very watered-down curriculum,” Hernandez-Mats says.

Talk about taking advantage of a crisis!

The rightwing extremist Heritage Foundation has issued its own report on how to recover from the pandemic. They cover it with patriotic glitz to make it appear like a government report, which it is not. It calls itself the “National Coronavirus Recovery Commission. But it is just a self-aggrandizing report from a rightwing think tank funded by the usual suspects.

The Task Force consists of people who share the Heritage view that government is evil, as are public schools.

Tucked into its recommendations is this: eliminate public schools and certified teachers.

That will help America sink back at least a century in educating its children, perhaps even two centuries.

Perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that the lead person on education was Kevin P. Chavous, CEO of the notorious for-profit K-12 Inc. online charter chain, noted for high attrition, low graduation rates, and low test scores–and above all, high profits! In 2019, Chavous’s total compensation was $4.3 million for his estimable services. But in the nature of for-profit enterprises, there are always new worlds to conquer, new markets to open up.

On page 5:

The Commission recommends that states help families return to work with access to K–12 education by making existing education funding student-centered and portable. Many parents and guardians who now find themselves in charge of teaching and monitoring their children’s educations are unable to access the public schools they pay for through their taxes and are looking for continuity in their children’s education. States should immediately restructure per-pupil K–12 education funding to provide education savings ac- counts (ESAs) to families, enabling them to access their child’s share of state per-pupil funding to pay for online courses, online tutors, curriculum, and textbooks so that their children can continue learning. Students are currently unable to enter the K–12 public schools their parents’ taxes support. They should be able to access a portion of those funds for the remainder of the school year in the form of an ESA. Parents would receive a por- tion of their child’s per-pupil public school funding in a restricted-use account that they could then can use to pay for any education-related service, product, or provider of choice. Additionally, state restrictions on teacher certification should be lifted immediately to free the supply of online teachers and tutors, allowing anyone with a bachelor’s degree to provide K–12 in- struction online. Research suggests that there is little if any difference in student academic outcomes between teachers who are traditionally certified, alternative- ly certified, or not certified at all. States should work with school districts to reopen districts based on data about where the disease is prevalent or waning. Deci- sions about whether to keep schools closed should be medically determined by zip code, tied to districts. Dis- tricts that have low incident rates should begin plans to
reopen, and all school districts should have emergency response plans (including quick transitions to online learning) if they are forced to close again.

The Commission recommends that states remove occupational licensing requirements. States have im- posed numerous occupational licensing requirements that in many instances are simply artificial barriers to entry that can inhibit individuals’ ability to pursue en- trepreneurial work. These should be eliminated. Simi- larly, states should extend reciprocity so that licensed individuals in one state are not subject to additional requirements in the new state. Eliminating or signifi- cantly reducing occupational licensing requirements can help to get people back to work and can also provide a state with access to individuals with high-demand skills. For example, Massachusetts created a one-day approval process to license doctors with out-of-state licenses as a means to expand access to medical care in response to the virus.

Peter Greene also saw this phony “commission report” that pretends to be an official document but is just another anti-government, anti-public school self-aggrandizing piece of propaganda.

He writes:

While Trump has announced a variety of groups he wants to gather together to charter a pandemic recovery for the nation, there’s one group that is already on the job– and their plans for public education suck.

The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission– doesn’t that sound grand? It sounds like a real official government thing, only it isn’t, exactly. It’s the project of the Heritage Foundation, a right-tilted thinky tank that has been a major policy player in DC since the days of Ronald Reagan.

He notes the presence of one Kevin P. Chavous, who has made good money by running with the rightwing crowd, a sector not known for their devotion to racial equality and civil rights.

Well, look. It’s Kevin Chavous, the big cheese at K12, the 800 pound gorilla of the cyber school world, the one funded by junk bond king Michael Milken and founded by a McKinsey alum (anoter early investor– Dick DeVos). They’ve had more than their share of messes (like the time the NCAA decided K12 credits don’t count). But the Trump administration has been good times for them. And Chavous used to help run the American Federation for Children, Betsy DeVos’s dark money ed reform group, from which he called for the privatization of post-Katrina New Orleans education. Do I need to add that he has no actual education background?

Want a reason to vote for Joe Biden? Read the Heritage Foundation report with their plans for a dark future.

Why do teachers’ pension funds invest in stocks of corporations that are actively undermining public schools and their teachers?

K12 Inc. manages a chain of online charter schools that are noted for low performance, high attrition rates, and low graduation rates. Their teachers never meet students. They have large classes, no union.

New York State Teachers Retirement System Makes New $100,000 Investment in K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN)

Earlier this year, Ohio’s infamous Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) went into bankruptcy rather than pay the state money owed for “ghost” students. ECOT has collected over $1 billion since its opening nearly 20 years ago. It had the lowest graduation rate of any high school in the nation. Its owner regularly gave campaign contributions to state officials, which shielded him from accountability until a state court ordered ECOT to pay back state money for students who never showed up.

ECOT is gone, so here comes a new virtual K12 Inc. charter school. 

K12 is a for-profit management corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It has high attrition, low test scores, poor educational quality, but it is profitable.

Charter schools in Ohio are called “community schools,” which is a joke, since they suck money away from public schools, which are real community schools. Even corporate charter chains, like the 40 owned by entrepreneur Ron Packard (ex-Goldman Sachs), are called “community schools.” Ha-ha.

The Ohio Digital Learning School (ODLS), authorized by the Ohio Council of Community Schools, will serve students ages 16 to 21 in grades 9-12. It is tuition-free.

Behind the scenes, K12 Inc. is serving as an online management provider, supplying curriculum and the online platform that the school will use, along with other services. The company already is involved in two other virtual high school charters in the state, Ohio Virtual Academy (K-12) and Destinations Career Academy at OHVA (9-12).

Is there any scam too odious for Ohio?

 

 

Alabama needs to fund its public schools properly but instead it is opening dubious charters and now a for-profit K12 Inc. online virtual school.

K12 makes a lot of profit but gets awful results. Low graduation rates, low participation, low teacher salaries. Just what a state would not want if it actually wanted to improve education.

Online virtual for-profit charter schools are the bottom feeders of the education industry. Even Reformer-Disrupters despise them.

Kevin Huffman (ex-husband of Michelle Rhee) was Commissioner of Education in Tennessee. He recognized that the Tennessee Virtual Academy was the worst School in the state. He tried to close it. He couldn’t.

Politics. Money.

 

K12 Inc., widely criticized for low-quality online K-12 education, has decided to pivot its offerings to a new market: teaching job skills online.

https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2018-12-10/controversial-virtual-school-operator-k12-pivots-to-job-training

Let’s hope they stop sucking dollars out of public school budgets.

Julian Vasquez Heilig reports that Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to ban for-profit charters. This is very good news. In 2015,he vetoed such a bill.

Now, here’s hoping that the Legislature can pass (and the governor will sign) a bill requiring accountability and transparency in all charters, including a ban on nepotism and conflicts of interest.

The momentum for this legislation was reignited by great reporting on K12 Inc. by reporter Jesse Calefati of the San Jose Mercury News in 2016. Give credit where it is due. Be thankful for freedom of the press!

PS:

An ally in California says this is not as big a deal as it seems. She writes:

“I just can’t understand all of the excitement about this given that there really aren’t any for profit charters left in CA anyway. This bill was approved by the Callifornia Charter Schools Association who were already celebrating and promoting that there are no for profit charters in CA. For profit charters have never really been an issue in CA, we have barely had any in the past. Of course, the vast majority of online charters contract to k12 and we all know they are a huge profit machine.”

http://www.ccsa.org/blog/2018/08/california-charter-schools-association-celebrates-landmark-legislation-banning-for-profit-charter-sc.html

The California Legislature passed a bill banning for-profit charters. The sponsor is Assemblymember Kevin McCarty of Sacramento. The bill is aimed primarily at the virtual charter school run by for-profit K12 Inc.

Last time such a bill was passed, Governor Brown vetoed it. Having opened two charters when he was mayor of Oakland, he is very protective of them. This is a stain on his otherwise progressive record.

Even the California Charter Schools Association has endorsed this bill.

The San Jose Mercury News ran a powerful expose of K12 Inc. in 2016.

“SACRAMENTO — For-profit companies will be banned from running charter schools in California if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a hard-fought bill that won final approval from the state Legislature on Thursday.

“The proposal is the latest of several attempts to crack down on what critics say amounts to profiteering at the expense of children and taxpayers, the subject of a 2016 investigation by this news organization. Its passage came only after proponents were able to forge agreement between two groups that are almost always at odds: teachers unions and the trade association representing charter schools.

“The exposé in the Mercury News highlighted the need for reform,” said the bill’s author, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat who serves on the education committee.

“That investigation zeroed in on K12 Inc., a for-profit operation based in Virginia and traded on Wall Street that manages publicly funded charter schools in California and other states. The K12-run network California Virtual Academies, the largest of its kind in the state with an enrollment of roughly 15,000, graduated fewer than half of its high school students, the news organization reported, and some teachers said they were pressured to inflate grades and enrollment records.

”This news organization’s probe also found that children who logged onto the company’s software for as little as one minute per day were counted as “present” for the purposes of calculating the amount of taxpayer funding the company would receive from California.

“As with policies from immigration enforcement to fuel standards, the Legislature’s approval of a for-profit charter school ban is at odds with the policies of the Trump administration. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is not only a vocal supporter of for-profit education, but her husband disclosed they were early investors in K12 Inc.

“Assembly Bill 406 would change California’s charter school law to prohibit for-profit corporations and for-profit educational management organizations from running the state’s taxpayer-funded and independently run schools — even if the schools themselves are technically nonprofits.

LCalifornia currently has about 35 such charter schools, according to McCarty’s office. In 2016 K12 settled a lawsuit with the state for $168.5 million over claims that it manipulated attendance records and other measures of student success.”

Governor Brown has until September 30 to sign or veto the bill.

Jesse Calefati’s reporting for the San Jose Mercury News is education journalism at its finest, independent and owing nothing to philanthropists or investors.

Ron Packard, previously at Goldman Sachs and McKinsey, knows a good thing when he sees it. He was formerly CEO of online charter chain K12 Inc., where he was paid $5 million a year to run the business. Now he calls himself an “educator” and plans to open a new e-school in Ohio. After the collapse of ECOT, which siphoned $1 Billion from taxpayers, you would think Ohioans would say no.

Apparently the lesson educator Packard draws is that the market needs another e-school to replace ECOT.

This one, he says, will be better than ever. Bigger, better, better. And some people will believe him.

Every dollar he gets will be withdrawn from a public school.

When will the legislature ban these faux schools?

Better yet. Limit the owner’s salary to be no greater than that of a superintendent. He will leave.