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Diane Ravitch’s Blog: HECHINGER: What Went Wrong at K12 Inc.?

John Hechinger, one of the nation’s top investigative reporters, here presents a balanced but nonetheless devastating overview of K12 Inc., the for-profit virtual charter chain listed on the Néw York Stock Exchange.

K12 is the biggest purveyor of online homeschooling, paid for with public funds drawn away from traditional public schools.

This approach may be effective for some students –students training to be athletes or performers, students with illnesses–but K12 reaches out to recruit as many as it can.

“Plagued by subpar test scores, the largest operator of online public schools in the U.S. has lost management contracts or been threatened with school shutdowns in five states this year. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled in April that students can no longer count credits from 24 K12 high schools toward athletic scholarships.

While the company says its investments in academic quality are starting to pay off, once-soaring enrollment at the more than 60 public schools it manages has dropped almost 5 percent. Targeted by short sellers, who benefit from a company’s decline, K12 shares have tumbled by two-thirds since reaching a near-record high in September 2013…..”

“Of the full-time online schools assigned ratings by their states, only one-third were considered academically acceptable in 2012-2013, the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado reported this year. The percentage of K12 students achieving proficiency on state math and reading tests is generally below state averages, according to the company’s 2014 academic report.

“Ohio Virtual Academy, which accounts for 10 percent of K12’s annual revenue, received failing grades on a state report card last year for student test-score progress and graduation rates. Only 37 percent of its ninth graders receive diplomas within four years.”

Several online charters have cancelled their contracts with K12. Tennessee may soon cancel its Tennessee Virtual Academy.

“In Tennessee, education commissioner Kevin Huffman is moving to close a K12-managed school unless it can improve results by the end of this school year. Tennessee Virtual Academy has test results “in the bottom of the bottom tier” and is an “abject failure” in improving student outcomes, Huffman said in a telephone interview.”

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Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. She is the Co-Founder and President of the Network for...