Archives for category: K12 Inc.

Despite the significant research demonstrating the failure of cyber charters, they continue to expand, according to a new study by the National Education Policy Center.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was an investor in the worst of the cyber charter chains, the for-profit K12 Inc. started by Michael and Lowell Milken and listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It is not clear whether she divested. She has said she will encourage the growth of cybercharters, because any choice made by parents (she believes) is best for children.

Check out the NEPC report:

Find Documents:
Press Release:

NEPC Publication:

NEPC: William J. Mathis: (802) 383-0058,
Virtual School Performance: Gary Miron: (269) 599-7965,
Virtual School Research Base: Michael Barbour: (203) 997-6330,
Virtual School Policy: Luis Huerta: (212) 678-4199,
Virtual School Policy: Jennifer King Rice: (301) 405-5580,

More NEPC Resources on Virtual Education

BOULDER, CO (April 11, 2017) – Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2017, a three-part report released today by the National Education Policy Center, provides a detailed inventory of full-time virtual schools in the U.S. and their performance, an exhaustive review of the literature on virtual education and its implications for virtual school practices, and a detailed review and analysis of state-level policymaking related to virtual schools.

The growth of full-time virtual schools is fueled, in part, by policies that expand school choice and that provide market incentives attractive to for-profit companies. Indeed, large virtual schools operated by for-profit education management organizations (EMOs) now dominate this sector and are increasing their market share.

Although virtual schools benefit from the common but largely unsupported assumption that the approach is cost-effective and educationally superior to brick and mortar schools, there are numerous problems associated with virtual schools. School performance measures, for both full-time entirely virtual and full-time blended virtual schools, suggest that they are not as successful as traditional public schools.

The virtual education research base is not adequate to support many current virtual school practices. More than twenty years after the first virtual schools began, there continues to be a deficit of empirical, longitudinal research to guide the practice and policy of virtual schooling.

State policymaking in several key areas – such as accountability, teacher preparation, and school governance – continues to lag.

An analysis of state policies suggests that policymakers continue to struggle to reconcile traditional funding structures, governance and accountability systems, instructional quality, and staffing demands with the unique organizational models and instructional methods associated with virtual schooling. Accountability challenges linked to virtual schools include designing and implementing governance structures capable of accounting for expenditures and practices that directly benefit students.

The report’s policy recommendations include:

The specification and enforcement of sanctions for virtual schools and blended schools if they fail to improve student performance.
The creation of long-term programs to support independent research on and evaluation of virtual schooling, particularly full-time virtual schooling.
The development of new funding formulas based on the actual costs of operating virtual schools.

Find Virtual Schools Report 2017, Alex Molnar, Editor, on the web at:

K12 Inc. is the largest provider of online charter schools. This sector is probably the worst part of the charter industry. CREDO reported last year that for every 180 days of online enrollment, a student will lose 180 days in math, and 72 in reading.


At its shareholder meeting on December 15, a group of shareholders proposed that the corporation become transparent as to how much it spends on lobbying.


As reported on Valerie Strauss’s blog, shareholders wanted to know more:


At a meeting scheduled for Thursday, shareholders are going to ask for a vote on whether the company should be required to publicly disclose details about its lobbying efforts in various states. The Arjuna Capital shareholder resolution asks that K12 prepare an annual report showing:


Company policy and procedures governing lobbying, both direct and indirect, and grass-roots lobbying communications.
Payments by K12 used for (a) direct or indirect lobbying or (b) grass-roots lobbying communications, in each case including the amount of the payment and the recipient.
K12’s membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.
Description of the decision-making process and oversight by management and the board for making payments lobbying payments.


It is not known whether their efforts to get the company to disclose its lobbying activities were successful.


One of the proponents of transparency is Bertis Downs, who owns K12 Inc. stock and is a member of the board of directors of the Network for Public Education. He is a public school parent in Athens, Georgia.


Strauss wrote about him:


The new shareholder effort is being led by Bertis Downs, a public school advocate in Athens, Ga., who spent his career providing legal counsel and managing the rock group R.E.M., and who bought K12 stock a few years ago. Asked why he is taking this action, Downs said in an email:


My motivation in filing for this disclosure of K-12’s lobbying activities stems from my overall curiosity and interest as a parent and a shareholder in knowing more about what lobbying is done, whether through ALEC or directly, that leads to the so-called “education reform” laws being passed all over the country. How much does the company spend and how do they spend it and what results do they get for it? And is any of that good for meaningful teaching and learning in our schools? And is it good for the company and its shareholders?


At some point, parents should wake up and stop sending their children to these “schools.”

Ariana Prothero writes in Education Week about the “Outsized Influence” of lobbyists for the virtual charter industry.

The virtual or online charter industry is a sham and a fraud. Readers of this blog have read many articles and research studies demonstrating that these “schools” survive by the power of their lobbying and campaign contributions, not because they have any educational value. Studies, even by charter-friendly organizations like CREDO of Stanford, have repeatedly demonstrated that virtual charters have high dropout rates, low test scores, and low graduation rates. This doesn’t seem to bother state officials because…well, lobbying and campaign contributions.

K12 Inc is the biggest operator in the field. It was started by the Milken brothers, it operates for-profit, and it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The article doesn’t mention it, but two dozen K12 Inc schools lost NCAA accreditation because of the shoddiness of the education they offered.

The article goes into detail about K12 Inc and also Connections Academy, which is owned by Pearson. It does not go into the protected status of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) in Ohio, which has been relieved of all accountability because of its owner’s generosity to legislators and the governor.

K12 Inc owns CAVA (the California Virtual Academy), which was shown to be profitable while delivering inferior education in a powerful series by Jessica Califati in the San Jose Mercury-News. The state attorney general worked out a fine for K12 Inc, but the company continues to operate as usual. I personally communicated with a member of the California state school board to ask whether there would be any action to close CAVA, in light of its poor results, and I was told that it was under investigation by three different state agencies. I don’t know if that was real or just another way of saying “forget about it.”

There are even some in the charter industry who realize that virtual charters are an embarrassment to the whole industry.

But to date, even in Republican strongholds like Tennessee, the abysmal Tennessee Virtual Academy has escaped all efforts to close it down.

The Silicon Valley Flex Academy in Santa Clara County, California, recently won a five-year renewal of its contract, from 2016 to 2021, but will not open this fall due to “fiscal unsustainability.”

A Morgan Hill charter school is closing its doors due to a terminated contract and financial troubles, which means almost 250 students will have to enroll in new schools before the start of the academic year, Santa Clara County education officials said Wednesday.

Silicon Valley Flex Academy at 610 Jarvis Drive served 240 students between grades six to 12 and opened in 2011 under a countywide charter, county education officials said.

In November, Santa Clara County’s Board of Education had renewed the academy’s charter for another five years from 2016 to 2021, according to the county office.

On Monday night, the academy’s board told the county the academy would close because of “fiscal unsustainability” after its service provider, K12, cut their contract, county officials said.

Classes for the new school year were set to begin on Aug. 11, according to the school’s website.

The county office is working with the charter school’s board along with Morgan Hill Unified School District and its Superintendent Steve Betando to register the students for the 2016-17 academic year.

If you love disruption, watch the charter industry in California, where schools open and close with frequency, almost as frequently as in Florida.

Jessica Calefati wrote a blistering series about Michael Milken’s K12 Inc. virtual charter school in California (called California Virtual Academy or CAVA) a few weeks ago. The series caused enough of a stir to persuade State Superintendent Tom Torklakson to order a state audit of CAVA.

Calefati reported that less than half the students at CAVA graduate, and none is qualified to attend a California public university.

The virtual charter industry is noted for high profits and poor performance. Student attrition is high, test scores and graduation rates are low. But profits are excellent, because the “school” receives full state tuition but has none of the expenses of a brick and mortar school. No grounds, no transportation, no custodian, no food services, no library, no support staff, no athletics. And classes that range from 40-more than 100 in number. As Calefati reported in the original series, students may get credit for attendance if they are online only one minute a day. The latest CREDO study found that for every 180 days enrolled in a virtual charter, students lose 180 days of instruction in math and 72 in reading. This is a lose-lose.

It is heartening to see state officials taking action to curb the fraud that runs rampant through its charter industry, unsupervised, unregulated, and unchecked.

Calefati writes:

In a rare move, California’s top education official has enlisted the state’s highest-ranking accountant to conduct a sweeping audit of California Virtual Academies, a profitable but low-performing network of online charter schools that enrolls about 15,000 students across the state.

The audit is the first that Superintendent for Public Instruction Tom Torlakson has asked the state controller’s Office to conduct since he took office in 2011. The request comes two months after this newspaper published an investigative series on K12 Inc., the publicly traded Virginia firm that operates the schools and reaps tens of millions of dollars annually in state funding.

In a statement Thursday, Torlakson said he has a duty to ensure that public money isn’t being squandered and sought the probe into the California Virtual Academies because of “serious questions raised about a number of their practices.” He said the audit would examine the relationship between the schools and the company and the “validity” of attendance, enrollment, dropout and graduation rates reported by the academies to the state.

This isn’t the first time the company has come under fire in recent weeks.

Torlakson’s request follows lawmakers’ calls last month for the state auditor to examine for-profit charter schools operations and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla’s introduction earlier this month of legislation that would prohibit online charters from hiring for-profit companies like K12 for management or instructional services. The company is also being probed by Attorney General Kamala Harris, who launched an investigation of online charter schools last fall.

If Controller Betty Yee finds evidence of gross financial mismanagement, illegal or improper use of public money, a disregard for sound educational practices or repeated failure to improve student test scores the state Board of Education, may — based on a recommendation from Torlakson — vote to revoke the schools’ charters.

Jesse Califati at the San Jose Mercury News wrote a stunning series about the failure of online charter schools, which are often referred to as virtual charters or cybercharters.


The first article is here. The second is here. The third is here. There are more and you will find them when you open the first article.


Here is the article with the industry’s defense of their defective product.


Cybercharters are a great business model; they are very profitable for the corporation. But they provide lousy education. That’s the bottom line.


Even corporate reformers like Whitney Tilson have given up on this industry because of its terrible performance in educating children.


As usual, the offending for-profit corporation is Michael Milken’s K-12 Inc., which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has opened similar “schools” in many states.


Greed is not a good motivation for those involved in education. These virtual for-profit charters should be shut down.



Here is how the series begins:



The TV ads pitch a new kind of school where the power of the Internet allows gifted and struggling students alike to “work at the level that’s just right for them” and thrive with one-on-one attention from teachers connecting through cyberspace. Thousands of California families, supported with hundreds of millions in state education dollars, have bought in.


But the Silicon Valley-influenced endeavor behind the lofty claims is leading a dubious revolution. The growing network of online academies, operated by a Virginia company traded on Wall Street called K12 Inc., is failing key tests used to measure educational success.


Fewer than half of the students who enroll in the online high schools earn diplomas, and almost none of them are qualified to attend the state’s public universities.
An investigation of K12-run charter schools by this newspaper also reveals that teachers have been asked to inflate attendance and enrollment records used to determine taxpayer funding.


Launched with fanfare and promise, online schools such as K12 are compiling a spotty record nationwide, but highly motivated students with strong parental support can succeed in them. In California, however, those students make up a tiny fraction of K12’s enrollment. The result — according to an extensive review of complaints, company records, tax filings and state education data — is that children and taxpayers are being cheated as the company takes advantage of a systemic breakdown in oversight by local school districts and state bureaucrats.


At the same time, K12’s heavily marketed school model has been lucrative, helping the company rake in more than $310 million in state funding over the past 12 years, as well as enriching sponsoring school districts, which have little stake in whether the students succeed.


“Sometimes I feel like a terrible parent for enrolling them,” said Carol Brockmeier, a single mother from Santa Clara whose teenage daughters for a year attended K12’s San Mateo County-based academy, which serves an area stretching from Santa Cruz to San Francisco.
K12 is the nation’s largest player in the online school market. In California, it manages four times as many schools as its closest competitor, filling a small but unique niche among the state’s roughly 1,200 charter schools. And despite a dismal record of academic achievement in California and several other states — including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee — the business regularly reports healthy profits.

“This company has shown an inordinate level of failure, yet it’s continually given lifelines by policymakers who have irresponsibly ignored what’s going on,” said Luis Huerta, a Columbia University associate professor of education and public policy who is one of the nation’s leading experts on online education.



K12 was launched in 2000 by Ronald Packard, a former Goldman Sachs banker, and William Bennett, U.S. secretary of education under President Ronald Reagan, with seed money from Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison and disgraced junk bond king Michael Milken.


The company opened its first California Virtual Academies in San Diego, Kern and Tuolumne counties 14 years ago and has watched enrollment in the 17 schools it operates grow from several hundred students in 2002 to more than 15,000 today. Under state law, each academy may enroll students who live in adjoining counties. That means California children who live almost anywhere south of Humboldt County can sign up for one of K12’s schools.


To understand how the network of online academies operates, this newspaper reviewed hundreds of pages of education and tax records, examined complaints filed with public agencies and lawsuits, and interviewed dozens of parents, teachers and students affiliated, or once affiliated, with the schools. The investigation found:


• Students who spend as little as one minute during a school day logged on to K12’s school software may be counted as present in records used to calculate the amount of funding the schools get from the state.


• About half of the schools’ students are not proficient in reading, and only a third are proficient in math — levels that fall far below statewide averages.


• School districts that are supposed to oversee the company’s schools have a strong financial incentive to turn a blind eye to problems: They get a cut of the academies’ revenue, which largely comes from state coffers.


• Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education, worked for K12 as a consultant before Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the post in 2011. In March 2015, the board voted against shuttering a school run by the company that California Department of Education staff said should close because it was in financial disarray, marking the only time such a recommendation has been ignored.


K12 repeatedly declined this newspaper’s requests to interview its executives about its California schools’ academic programs and finances, citing an ongoing investigation by Attorney General Kamala Harris into California’s for-profit online schools. In a series of emails, however, K12 spokesman Mike Kraft defended the schools’ academic performance, arguing that “they will not have the same test scores as schools in high-funded districts with favorable demographics.”


“Many families choose online schools because they are fleeing a school or situation that wasn’t working for their child,” wrote Kraft, K12’s vice president for finance and communications. “Their academic performance expectations should be put into context.”




K12’s virtual schools have no classrooms, no buildings and no routine face-to-face interaction between teachers and students. Instead, teachers sign on mostly from home and connect to students over the Internet.


“Being in this school can feel so lonely,” said Alexandria Brockmeier, 17, who asked her mother to enroll her in an online school in late 2014 because she felt she didn’t fit in at Santa Clara High School.


Her school day began whenever she booted up her computer and logged on to the company’s programs. Since all lectures are recorded and can be listened to later, the students aren’t required to attend class or participate in real time. So, Alexandria said, she rarely did.


If questions popped up while she was working independently, she would often email her teachers seeking help. But Alexandria said they didn’t always respond and weren’t always available to tutor her one-on-one, even though the company heavily promotes personal attention in advertisements.


Kraft, K12’s spokesman, said the schools’ policy is for teachers to reply to student emails within 24 hours on school days, but most responses take far less time. Occasionally, however, responses take longer — for example, when teachers are out sick or on leave, he said.


Alexandria had been failing several of her classes when, in January, she suddenly lost access to K12’s software. Her mother, Carol, said she learned the following day that Alexandria and her sister, Jenna, had been locked out without warning because they’d fallen so far behind in their schoolwork.


“I’m disappointed in myself, my kids and this school system,” said Carol, who works full time at Mission College in Santa Clara and has been raising the girls on her own since her husband died in 2011 from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. “I’m stressed to the nth degree.”


As a special education student, Jenna — before she and her sister were forced to withdraw — was supposed to receive extra time to complete assignments and extra support from teachers. But, her mother said, she didn’t get it, and that made things even tougher for Jenna, 15.


“If I could stay home with the kids and say, ‘OK, let’s do this lesson,’ maybe it would have worked out for them,” Carol said.


Jenna isn’t the only K12 student in California who has gone without special education services, according to formal complaints filed by academy teachers with local school districts and county offices of education last year seeking investigations into the adequacy of special education provided by K12 schools. The services students are being denied range from speech therapy to counseling to daily in-person tutoring, the complaints allege.


Kraft said the company believes the complaints are “without merit.”


Not all parents and students are dissatisfied with the K12 model, which can work for highly motivated and closely monitored students such as Lillian Lewis, an 11-year-old Pleasanton gymnast who trains at least six hours a day and dreams of competing in the Olympics. That discipline, along with support from her parents, makes her a good fit for her online school, California Virtual Academy at San Joaquin.
“We didn’t know what to expect at first, but so far it’s working out great,” said Lillian’s mother, Milly, who signed her up last summer.


But most students who end up in online schools are far less successful.


Gabriela Novak says she pulled her daughter Elizabeth from K12’s San Mateo County school after a year because the difficulty communicating with her overworked, disorganized teachers was maddening. Throughout sixth grade, Elizabeth’s teachers repeatedly assured her mother and Elizabeth that she was all caught up with her assignments.


But at the end of the year, her report card showed several C’s because she was missing work she never knew had been assigned, her mother said. The experience shot the confidence of the onetime A student and left her desperately behind her peers academically when she enrolled in a San Francisco Unified brick-and-mortar school.


“She doesn’t believe in herself anymore,” Novak said. “We’re trying to get her back on track, but it’s not going to be easy.”


Kraft said that since parents and students can track online classwork in “near real-time,” the final grades shouldn’t have come as a surprise.




It’s not uncommon for students to struggle in online schools such as the ones run by K12, said Gary Miron, a professor of education at Western Michigan University and another leading expert in online education. He pointed to a study published in October by a research group called Mathematica that found the vast majority of students in online schools suffered because of the lack of a structured learning environment where live classroom attendance is required.


“A school that requires such little contact with teachers might be appropriate for students at the graduate level,” he said, “but it’s surely not appropriate for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.”


Kraft confirmed that the company’s schools do not require “live attendance.” Instead, he said, teachers work with students to develop a program that fits their individual needs.


A scathing report published in October by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, or CREDO, found that most online charter students across the country had far weaker academic growth than their peers in brick-and-mortar public schools.


Each 180-day school year, students are supposed to gain an equivalent number of days of learning in each of their core subjects as measured by standardized state tests. Instead, online charter students nationwide are advancing the equivalent of only 108 days in reading compared with their peers. And they’re not advancing at all in math.


The students are learning so little in that subject that it’s as if they hadn’t attended a single math class all year. And in California, the Stanford report shows, the students attending online schools such as those operated by K12 and other smaller companies are falling 58 days of math instruction behind their peers rather than advancing 180 days.


Please open the link. There is much more about the waste of students’ time and taxpayers’ dollars on a massive and profitable scheme.


The virtual charter chain K12, Inc., held its stockholder meeting and faced a double whammy. Investors complained about the schools’ terrible academic results and voted down executive pay raises.


Meanwhile, teachers from the online chain founded by Michael and Lowell Milken picketed outside.


“The vote was another sign of discontent among shareholders of the controversial company K12 Inc., with governance advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co. citing a “substantial disconnect between compensation and performance results” in its recommendation that shareholders vote against the pay proposal.


“K12, which has made a business for itself out of operating publicly funded online charter schools across the country, is at its lowest stock price in five years, down 75% from a high in September of 2013. In the past few months, it has faced an investigation by California’s attorney general and an onslaught of criticism from the rest of the education world, which has largely turned against online schools and their operators because of their students’ poor performance.


“Glass Lewis gave the company an “F” rating for how it paid its executives compared to peers: K12’s CEO, Nathaniel Davis, was paid $5.33 million in 2015; its chief financial officer was paid $3.6 million.”



The latest report from the Stanford-based CREDO research group found that online charters deliver a poor education. Students in online charters lose 42 days of reading in a year, and 180 days of instruction in math. Zilch. K12, Inc. is the largest of the online charter chains. It was founded by the Milken brothers, Michael and Lowell. It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.



California Teachers Association/NEA December 14, 2015
1705 Murchison Drive
Burlingame, CA 94010

Contacts: Claudia Briggs at 916-296-4087 or Mike Myslinski at 408-921-5769.

Dec. 15 Media Conference Call to Discuss Educators’
Struggle in One of Nation’s Largest Online Charter Schools to Address Major Issues Impacting 15,000 Students
California Educators to Deliver Report Card of Straight Fs
at Dec. 16 Washington, D.C. Shareholders Meeting


***Tuesday, December 15, 2015***


BURLINGAME – More than 750 educators at the Simi Valley-based California Virtual Academies (CAVA) have been seeking a stronger voice in improving working conditions and student learning for 15,000 students. The recent Public Employment Relations Board decision declaring the California Teachers Association as the exclusive bargaining agent comes at a critical time and promises to provide momentum for the teachers’ on-going efforts to make their online school more responsive to the needs of their students.

Concerned CAVA teachers have been calling for improvements at their school for years. In March 2015 they shared their experiences in an in-depth study of CAVA released by the “In the Public Interest” group that called for better oversight of the school. In June they filed complaints with school districts that authorized CAVA charters throughout California in an effort to protect students. Recently, new research from Stanford University and the University of Washington came out reinforcing many of the concerns CAVA teachers have voiced.


WHO: Educators at California’s largest virtual charter school will discuss in a Tuesday, Dec. 15, media conference call why their colleagues plan to deliver a report card with Straight Fs the next day at the annual shareholders meeting in Washington, D.C. of the controversial Virginia-based K12 Inc., a for-profit education company providing management services and curriculum to CAVA.


WHEN: Conference call is at 1 p.m. PST/ 4 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Dec. 15.


SPEAKERS: Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association; teachers working to improve California Virtual Academies.


Media should call toll-free 1-888-505-4368 to get on the teleconference. The password code is 4500878.


WASHINGTON, D.C. EVENT: California CAVA teachers will be educating shareholders of K12 Inc. at their annual meeting and will be joined by other concerned supporters. The event starts at 9:30 a.m. EST Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the law offices of Latham & Watkins LLP, 555 Eleventh Street, NW, Suite 1000, Washington, D.C., 20004.

A new, for-profit charter chain named Pansophic is planning to take over charter chain schools in Ohio. The linked story was published in June, but there have been no follow-ups since then. Either the deal was completed or is pending.

Pansophic is a new company founded by Ron Packard, formerly of McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and the online giant K12. As CEO of K12, Packard was paid $5 million yearly.

The company also expects to acquire charters run by for-profit Mosaica in Ohio. Pansophic will become the biggest for-profit charter chain in Ohio.

“Akron-based White Hat Management reportedly sold off management of 12 elementary charter schools Friday to an out-of-state, for-profit company that could acquire a third charter school company, an attorney for the charter schools’ public boards said.

“The two deals would make Pansophic Learning the largest for-profit operator of Ohio charter schools, which has become a taxpayer-funded $1 billion private industry.”

White Hat has produced poor academic results for 20 years.

Now, Ohio’s for-profit charter schools will be outsourced to a Virginia corporation that also focuses on the bottom line: profit.

Are these for-profit schools really public schools or are they profit centers that hoodwink parents to enroll their children?

This is what Ohio’s charter law says (thanks to reader Bethree):

“Opening paras of Ohio charter school law: “3314.01 (A) (1) A board of education may permit all or part of any of the schools under its control, upon request of a proposing person or group and provided the person or group meets the requirements of this chapter, to become a community school… (B) A community school created under this chapter is a public school, independent of any school district, and is part of the state’s program of education…”

Is a school owned by a for-profit corporation in Virginia still a “community” school? Is it a “public” school?

How much more of this flimflam will the voters and taxpayers of Ohio tolerate? Do they care about the education of their children?

While teachers across the nation have salaries lower than those of other professions and often need to take a second job to make ends meet, the executives at Michael Milken’s cyber charter chain K12, Inc. are faring very well indeed.

Their schools have high student turnover and low graduation rates, but it is a very profitable business.

The chairman of the board and CEO made $4.2 million last year.

The former CEO made $4 million.

The executive vice-president and chief financial officer made $824,000.

The president and chief operating officer made $5.5 million.

The executive Vice President, secretary, and chief counsel made $1.1 million.

The executive Vice President and manager of school services made $854,000.

Numbers are rounded.

Remember: It is all about the kids.