Guess what? Online “academies” for K-12 students? Not such an awesome idea! Grace Hood has an alarming report on KUNC radio on the money paid to the for-profit company K12 Inc. to administer “COVA,” the Colorado Virtual Academy (click here to read or listen to it):
At a time when public schools are seeing deep cuts in funding, there’s a growing market for companies running online elementary, middle and high schools. The largest for-profit company overseeing these programs in Colorado is Virginia-based company K12 Inc. While public schools are struggling to survive, K12 Inc.—with the support of state tax dollars—is reporting double digit profits. Meantime, it’s not measuring up to state academic standards.
To be fair, the kinds of students who end up seeking an education online are not those who are having success in traditional schools. But instead of spending the money on human teachers to teach classes in bricks-and-mortar schools, let’s instead send $22 million a year to Virginia for an “online academy:”
Student enrollment at COVA has grown to about 5,000 thanks in part to marketing by K12. But despite the allure of flexibility and education from home, COVA is finding a relatively high number of students are dropping out. Last year the school reported a 12 percent graduation rate. That’s compared to a 72 percent average for all public high schools statewide.
Let’s try a thought experiment that I saw on Corrente recently in a post by Lambert (sorry–can’t find the exact post): substitute the words But despite with Because of. So: Because of the allure of flexibility and education from home, COVA is finding a relatively high number of students are dropping out. This I’m sure is obvious to any teacher or professor in the known universe. Students who do not have the drive, skills, reading ability, or whatever to succeed in traditional mass education classes will not be well served by COVA or any online school. I’m not saying that those students were all well-served by their schools–far from it, I’m sure. I’m saying that the answer is clearly not a magical online fairy godteacher. (What would most of you have done with all of that “flexibility” of “education from home?” And now the kids these days have the world-wide timewasting pR0n-shilling internets at their disposal, when all we had was Space Invaders, Philip Roth novels, and clove cigarettes! And by the way: 88% is not a relatively high percentage of dropouts–that’s a shockingly high percentage compared to pretty much any dropout rate you can imagine.) The story continues:
“I’m not going to lie to you about that. We’ve had some downward trends,” says Katherine Knox, director of school improvement for Colorado Virtual Academy. “But we’ve also had individual and small group successes.”
Overall, the state rated COVA academically as a “turnaround” school—the lowest of four academic rankings after it mis-administered statewide assessment tests last year. But after an appeal, COVA is one ranking better, listed as “priority improvement.” However, academically COVA is not alone. More than half of the state’s online multi-district schools are getting poor marks.
So with the state spending $5900 per pupil what are students, parents and taxpayers getting? Is anyone holding online management organizations accountable?
Short answer: no. And yet, we have faith that “throwing money at” computers and technology at a for-profit company in Virginia will solve problems that mere human teachers can’t. In fact, we are rather busy beating up on teachers and underfunding their pensions and health care plans while we in Colorado are sending $22 million dollars a year to Virginia for a graduation rate of twelve percent. This scandal is a bonus twofer: it’s the old online scama-lama-ding-dong plus the handover of public money for the privatization of public services.
Sing it with me so that they can hear you in Virginia, friends: AWESOME!!! (And thanks to Grace Hood and KUNC for the excellent report.)