K12 faces plenty of criticism
GREENFIELD — Cyber school contractor, for-profit K12, has faced its fair share of recent criticism in other states from politicians, media outlets and its own investors.
In states outside of Massachusetts, the company sometimes handles all aspects of virtual schools and teaches thousands, even tens of thousands, of students in these schools.
The Wall Street Journal reported in March that the company settled a $6.75 million class-action lawsuit by its shareholders, which alleged that the company misled investors about its financial performance and schools’ academic performances. The company denies any wrongdoing.
In Tennessee, legislators were discouraged by the K12-run Tennessee Virtual Academy’s poor test results and passed a law this spring that will cap enrollment at new virtual schools at 1,500 students. The K12 school will be allowed to keep its 3,200 students.
Earlier this year, a Nashville, Tenn., television station produced a story about an email from a K12 administrator directing Tennessee Virtual Academy teachers to delete students’ poor grades. K12 officials responded saying they had modified the school’s grading system and that the decision “did not impact the integrity of our grading system and had no relationship to any state tests.”
In Florida, K12 serves 40 school districts, providing curriculum, technology and management services. The state’s inspector general has been investigating whether the company used teachers who were not Florida-licensed. A draft report suggests mixed findings.
There was no evidence that K12 used teachers without proper state licenses, according to a draft inspector general report that was leaked and published online in April. However, during the 2010-2011 school year, teachers were assigned to instruct certain classes they weren’t qualified to teach, the draft report said. K12 did not provide the public schools an accurate teacher certification list that year, according to the draft report.
The Colorado Virtual Academy, which has about 4,600 students, announced this spring it would cut ties with K12 in 2014. The school has been criticized for low graduation rates as well as alleged financial mismanagement, which K12 has denied.
Meanwhile, just as Massachusetts passed a law this January giving state officials more oversight of virtual schools, other states seem hesitant to move forward with virtual schools without proper legislation first in place.
The Illinois Legislature recently passed a one-year moratorium on new virtual schools outside of Chicago (K12 is involved with schools in the city). The law also directs the state to study student performance and virtual school costs.
In Maine, which does not have cyber schools, a similar moratorium is working its way through the state legislature. K12 and Connections Learning, a cyber school company owned by education company Pearson, were pursuing schools there.
— CHRIS SHORES