Nate Davis, K12 Inc. Chairman and CEO, responds to the Center for American Progress report on online charter schools
It is unfortunate that the Center for American Progress (CAP) did not engage with the educators, nonprofit charter board members, providers, or parents of online charter schools for this report. The report does not include significantly more relevant data and school-level information, nor does it examine other important factors including effects of mobility on graduation rates and achievement, in particular for academically at-risk students. At a time when demand for online education continues to rise, CAP chose instead to attack the model rather than understand why parents are choosing online charter schools and how to best address students’ needs.
K12 is focused on the academic growth and success of all students in our partner schools —no matter their socio-economic status, academic history, or personal circumstances. Whether students transfer to online schools for academic reasons, or due to social, emotional, or medical issues, many arrive academically behind and credit deficient, which directly impacts test scores and graduation rates. Last year, less than 15 percent of new students in K12-partner online schools were performing at grade level when they enrolled. And for many families, online schools are the only public school options they can access. Sixty-four percent of students enrolled in K12-partner online schools do not live near a brick-and-mortar charter school. These statistics provide an insight into how some students have been underserved in the past and why parents seek new options to meet their children’s needs. These students deserve equal access and opportunity to the best education available, and K12 is proud to serve the schools that are helping these students.
While we are proud of the achievements of many of our partner schools, we also recognize our responsibility to improve outcomes. That is why K12, in cooperation with our partner schools, works to continuously improve teacher effectiveness, student engagement, and personalized learning programs. We are investing in recruiting, training and supporting the best teachers to create a culture of inspired teaching and learning.
As demand for online learning options continues to grow, K12 is committed to helping all students succeed in the schools we serve.
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K12 was not given an opportunity to review the CAP report prior to its release.
The CAP report compares traditional school district administrative expenses (using data from NCES) with K12 Inc.’s SG&A expenses. But comparing company financials to school district financials is an absurd “apples to oranges” comparison. It’s made even worse by the fact that the CAP report simply ignores the financial information of virtual charter schools, which is publicly available and could have been used to accurately compare against traditional school districts. (For example, see here and here and here).
The CAP report does not account for mobility. Online charter schools often have much higher mobility rates than traditional school districts, and often have a large percentage of first-year transfer students who are academically at-risk – arriving below grade level and behind in credits.
The CAP report compares virtual charter schools to nearby urban districts based on only two data points, but ignores other factors that contribute to overall school performance, including mobility, special education status, and prior student performance.
CAP identifies K12’s school partners as “for-profit virtual charter schools,” and “subsidiaries” of K12 Inc. They are not “for profit” schools, nor are they “subsidiaries” of K12 Inc. Our virtual charter school partners are non-profit public charter schools, governed by independent, non-profit charter school boards.
The CAP report cites old data regarding student-teacher ratios and teacher instructional time that do not reflect current practices at K12 or its partner schools. Like in all public schools, the student-teacher ratios in K12-partner schools vary, however average student-teacher ratios at K12 is approximately 25:1.
Persistence matters: In 2016-17, students in grades 3-8 who were enrolled 4 years or more achieved higher percentages at or above proficiency compared to students enrolled less than 1 year: ELA 20 points, Reading 12 points, and Mathematics 15 points.
In 2016-17, high school students enrolled 4 years or more achieved higher percentages at or above proficiency compared to students enrolled less than 1 year: ELA 15 points, Reading 9 points, and Mathematics 9 points.
School-level data not included in the CAP report:
In 2016-17, Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) improved in 8 out of 14 grade level assessments in ELA and Math.
In 2016-17, 42 percent of new seniors, 33 percent of new juniors, and 44 percent of new sophomores were behind in credits when they transferred to IDVA.
After a rigorous review, IDVA was recently awarded a five-year charter renewal by the state.
In 2016-17, Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA) improved in 11 out of 16 grade level assessments in ELA and Math.
This year, 59 percent of new high school students who transferred to OHVA were in need of credit recovery.
The Ohio Department of Education’s latest full-time equivalency review on funding and attendance found that OHVA was in compliance with state law, and had no issues or corrective actions.
Based on state-reported data from 2016-17, when comparing OHVA’s performance to schools with similar mobility rates, OHVA students have a higher K3 literacy rate than 97 percent of similar schools. OHVA’s students also performed better on state assessments, as measured by the Performance Index, than 90 percent of schools with similar mobility.