Understanding and Improving Full-Time Virtual Schools
K12 Inc. enrolls more public school students than any other private education management organization in the U.S. Much has been written about K12 Inc. (referred to in this report simply as “K12”) by financial analysts and investigative journalists because it is a large, publicly traded company and is the dominant player in the operation and expansion of full-time virtual schools. This report provides a new perspective on the nation’s largest virtual school provider through a systematic review and analysis of student characteristics, school finance, and school performance of K12-operated schools. Using federal and state data, this report provides a description of the students served by K12 and the public revenues received and spent by the company at the school level. Further, the report presents evidence from a range of school performance measures and strives to understand and explain the overall weak performance of these virtual schools.
While the authors share the excitement of new technologies and the potential these have to improve communication, teacher effectiveness, and learning, they recommend that policymakers move forward cautiously and only after piloting and thoroughly vetting new ideas. The authors express hope that their findings will help inform policymakers and motivate researchers to carefully study various aspects of full-time virtual schools. They conclude that a better understanding of virtual schools can serve to improve this new model and help ensure that full-time virtual schools can better serve students and the public as a whole.