Jeff Kwitowski's picture

Beware of Perverse Incentives Limiting Choice in Education

A very interesting debate is occurring among school choice supporters, in particular within the charter school community, regarding enrollment practices among public charter schools.  A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal puts the issue front and center. 

Authored by two school choice proponents in N.Y., the op-ed throws light on how many charter schools are intentionally restricting enrollment but boasting about better results on state tests.

“But the charter sector has long avoided a difficult truth:  Most charter enrollment policies distort market forces and explicitly limit choices for families at certain grade levels.  In fact, most charters squander an opportunity to give the highest-need students access to the highest-quality education by failing to backfill empty seats.”

They go on:

“Why would charters schools not want to serve as many students as possible?  Perverse incentives.”

You can read the full piece here.

The authors explain how these perverse incentives – relentless focus state-mandated test scores – create restrictive enrollment policies.  By controlling enrollment, a school can maintain the “illusion of success” by, in effect, filtering out students who were not succeeding, while keeping those who are engaged and achieving good results on state tests, and not granting access to new students who are less likely to be proficient on state tests and more likely drive down the school’s overall performance rating.  Charters that put in place these enrollment controls tend to produce better results, but leave more students-- including those most in need-- stuck on waiting lists.  

Who is pushing these perverse incentives that result in less access to choice schools?  

Ironically, it’s been driven by the very policymakers and organizations that claim to be the strongest champions of educational choice. 

Mary Morganti's picture

My Experience as a Full-time Online Intervention Teacher

Like most online educators, I began my instructional career in a brick and mortar classroom, teaching K-3 grade levels over a period of 5 years. My switch to become a virtual educator was partially due to relocation for my family, but largely as a result of looking for a way to broaden my teaching experiences. Currently, as an early literacy, Tier 3 Reading Intervention Specialist for California Virtual Academies (CAVA) – a network of online charter schools serving students across the state – I interact predominantly with K-5 students, Learning Coaches, and other CAVA teachers across California on a daily basis.

Having had the opportunity to teach in both learning environments, I’m often asked to compare my current role as an online educator to my experience as a teacher in a traditional classroom setting. I believe that both settings have their individual merits when the student’s physical, emotional, and educational needs are a priority in deciding on the appropriate learning environment. Regardless of the classroom setting there are many responsibilities I have as an educator, but the commonality between these two spaces is my role to guide and support students’ journeys to becoming proficient readers.

Specifically, as an intervention teacher I identify each student’s areas of deficiency in their reading acquisition skillset and the data I obtain is used to set a specific goal to measure their progress. In an effort to ensure each student meets or exceeds their specified goal, I develop and execute a learning plan tailored to their individual needs. Fundamentally, this often involves working through a progression that can be frustrating at times for students; however the data driven instruction, tools, and techniques I employ to help each student overcome these hurdles are the same regardless of the classroom setting.  Although the classroom environment may be different between the virtual versus physical classroom, the end goals of knowledge and proficiency remain constant.


Frequently, I hear concerns regarding the perception that the lack of physical presence, afforded by a traditional classroom, prevents virtual educators from establishing connections with their students. In reality, as an intervention specialist I have the opportunity to work with my students in a small group setting each day. Within my classes, I have the ability to have individual ‘break out sessions’ which allows for uninterrupted one-on-one interaction between a single student and myself just as any teacher would work individually with a student in the brick and mortar classroom environment. Adding to this is the ability to consistently interact and work with students’ Learning Coaches in workshops, weekly classes, and open office hours in addition to the regular communication regarding their student’s progress. My relationship with each family is very close as we work together to provide the best learning environment and support for each student. 

Ashley Collier's picture

K12 Rings In National School Choice Week

Today, students from Newark Prep, a blended public charter school in New Jersey, rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate the official start of National School Choice Week. Newark Prep students were joined by Andrew Campanella, President of National School Choice Week, educators from K12 Inc., and national school choice leaders.

National School Choice Week is the largest celebration of school choice in America raising awareness about the benefits of providing education options for all children and empowering parents with choice.

Throughout the week, over 11,000 events highlighting the importance of school choice will take place in the U.S. K12 and its school partners are participating in National School Choice Week events across the country in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and many other states.

Ashley Collier's picture

The Greater Washington Dance Center Launches The Academy for Elite Dancers & Athletes; Student-Athlete Program to use K12 International Academy

The Greater Washington Dance Center will launch a comprehensive instructional program, The Academy for Elite Dancers & Athletes (The Academy EDA) through the K12 International Academy beginning fall 2015.

The Academy EDA will open for enrollment beginning fall 2015 for both dancers and athletes, grades 6-12 seeking flexibility in their schedule to support their learning needs. The Academy EDA will host, on campus, The K12 International Academy – a fully accredited, NCAA-approved, online college preparatory high school program.

K12 International Academy is a fully accredited, private online school serving students in all 50 states and more than 70 countries around the world. The school combines curriculum, academic services, and support to families to meet the diverse need of students.

Through The Academy EDA students will have the opportunity to study through a certification program for graduates to become a NASM (National Association of Sports Medicine) certified trainer.  For dancers, The Academy EDA offers the highest level of professional dance training in Northern Virginia, with classes in ballet, modern, jazz, regular workshops, strength and flexibility training, and courses in nutrition, kinesiology, anatomy, and sports psychology.

For more information on The Academy for Elite Dancers and Athletes, visit or visit K12 International Academy.

Jeff Kwitowski's picture

The Real Story on Virtual Charters in North Carolina

Full-time statewide online public schools are an option for families in over 30 states. North Carolina is not among them despite strong demand from families throughout the state.

But that is about to change. 

A law passed by the NC Legislature requires that two K-12 virtual charter school pilots open by Fall 2015.  One of the two applicants is North Carolina Learns, Inc., an independent, nonprofit charter school board.  They are proposing the North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA), a virtual school available to families across the state that would use K12’s curriculum and academic services. NCVA was reviewed and unanimously approved by a special state education review committee last month. The NC State Board of Education will address the school’s application on Wednesday. 

Now that online charter schools in NC are imminent, opponents are scrambling. Some special interests are trying to muddy the water by peddling false and misleading information, and even coordinating attacks with teachers unions from other states. 

Chairman of NC Learns board of directors, Chris Withrow (an experienced and respected educator in North Carolina), is not letting these accusations go unanswered. Below is a recent letter he sent to the NC State Board of Education in response to claims from the North Carolina Association of Educators, an organization opposed to the virtual charter school pilot program.