Jeff Kwitowski, K12’s SVP of Corporate Communications, responds to NCAA’s notification of eligibility and lack of standards for digital courses

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a private membership-based organization, recently notified a number of schools affiliated with K12 Inc. that coursework from these schools will not be used in the initial-eligibility certification process for Division I and II athletics following the 2013-2014 school year. Eleven of the schools are part of a single network of schools in one state and two of the schools are full-time blended schools. All are approved public schools that meet state content and instructional time standards and graduation requirements. 

The individual schools impacted by this decision are currently waiting for the NCAA to provide the specific coursework they reviewed in making its decision. All schools have the option to appeal.

According to the NCAA’s revised legislation for nontraditional courses, students and instructors must have “ongoing access to one another” and “regular interaction” throughout the duration of the course. However NCAA does not provide schools any measurable standard or rubric used to determine what they believe is a suitable level of student-teacher interaction. Despite repeated requests, the NCAA will not publish specific student-teacher interaction guidelines for nontraditional courses, including online and digital courses.

These vague standards and unclear review process leave schools to only guess what passes NCAA’s eligibility test. This is a significant concern for all schools and districts that use digital learning programs.

In one case, the NCAA rescinded the eligibility of an accredited and state-approved online public school with over 5,000 students based on a review of old coursework from only two students, one of whom is a competitive diver and on the Dean’s List at a Division I school. Furthermore, the NCAA did not account for updated technology systems and new instructional models with increased student-teacher interaction.

K12 believes its teachers and courses meet NCAA standards. Teachers in K12-managed schools are state-certified and highly qualified. They have ongoing access and regular interaction with their students. Teachers provide direct instruction, evaluation, guidance and support to students, including direct instruction through real-time, web-based classes. In K12-managed blended schools, students gather together in a learning center every day to receive direct, face-to-face instruction with teachers – as is done in traditional schools.

Hundreds of student athletes have graduated from K12-affiliated schools and have been accepted into Division I and II colleges and universities. Many of these student athletes graduated with academic honors and continue to excel academically.