Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Opinions on Virtual Charter Company K12

A friend commented on my recent email about the for-profit online/virtual charter company, K-12:

I think you are correct about K-12 Whitney. I had an inside view of this company early on. They appeared giddy with the fact that they could receive the same per-pupil funding levels as brick and mortar schools and use the difference for big salaries and profit (on the public dime). If they are not providing a truly great education it means that, once again, students lose to adult interests.

Another friend commented:

Unsurprisingly I cut in between you and Jeanne on the full-time virtual schools. I think they are an absolutely critical option though, as many students have no other public school option besides them for a variety of reasons, and denying them is foolhardy. You can speak to many parents for whom K12 or Connections or other ones have worked brilliantly and been literally a life saver. That said, they clearly are not for the majority of students, and so we need far more robust accountability standards on them -- that measure growth and give us a real idea of how they are doing with students (well or poorly) -- such that they don't serve students that they shouldn't be serving. It's a more subtle discussion of course, but the data is far more mixed than pointed below. It would be worth looking at Barbara Dreyer's AdvancED piece where she really opened up on the data and the challenges they are having. At the end of the day I agree with you though, these schools aren't applying a No Excuses mindset for many of those who are most in need. iNACOL issued a great report in October pointing to the outcome standards we need, and I'd encourage you to take a look, as I think they should apply to all schools, not just full-time virtual ones. Also, for what it's worth, here's Matt Chingos's piece on full-time virtual schools for Education Next.

And Chris Barbic added:

Thanks for sending the email re: K12.  Earlier this week, we wrapped up our third round of Achievement School District (ASD) charter authorizing in less than 2 years.    The majority of these will be in Memphis.  It has been great to see the number of local and national charters and CMOs step up and compete with one another to serve students in our state currently stuck in some of the worst schools in the country.  What is especially interesting is that the majority of these charter operators will replace the bottom 5% neighborhood school and serve students in the exact same attendance zone. Think of them as “neighborhood charters”.   In this case, nobody is “creaming” or ducking the toughest to serve kids like our detractors like to say.  In fact, one of our current charters is working with a student population in which over 30% of the students qualify for SPED services and 1/3 are on the autism spectrum.  Most importantly, they are serving these students with a much better quality of education than what these same students were receiving before this year. 

It is way too early to declare victory and we have a ton of work ahead of us, but I have attached the press release and fact sheet from earlier this week so you can see the quality operators coming to and expanding in Memphis.  This is in addition to Aspire and Rocketship who have already been approved in an earlier authorization cycle and are set to open schools in the next 24 months . . .  Aspire next year and Rocketship in ’14-’15.    Would love for you to send this out in an upcoming email so that some of your charter friends in your backyard heed the call and come help us build the possible in TN.


Chris Barbic

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