K12 Virtual Schools Lagging

OH-OH FOR ONLINE: The Washington Post reports that students attending virtual schools run by K12 Inc., lag behind their counterparts in traditional and charter schools on many academic measures.

The study, conducted by the National Education Policy Center, paints a portrait of K12 students falling behind in reading and math proficiency when compared to their peers and also having lower graduation rates. The study used 2010-2011 state and federal data from five states which together account for more than half of K12's enrollment. Results were so damning that the authors recommended that policymakers "slow or put a moratorium" on virtual schools."

The Post raises ominous issues, contending that "K12 spends less per pupil on average than the states or federal government" while pulling in $522M in revenue for 2011.

In the current budget-slashing political climate, online schools seem like a reasonable alternative for districts that can't afford to bus and house students daily. But results matter. K12's response--that the researchers used "'incomplete or incorrect school data'"--does nothing to quell fears of business priorities overshadowing educational ones.

It's not the first time the company has been put on its heels; the NYTimes published its own scathing indictment last December, which many say sent K12 stocks on a nosedive. Its PR team quickly issued a 14-point rebuttal arguing that researchers used "incomplete or incorrect school data." But results matter--and this does nothing to quell fears of business priorities overshadowing educational ones.

But not to be outdone, the report's authors so far have the last word, issuing its own response to K12's rebuttal.

STAY UP TO DATE ON EDTECH.News, research, and opportunities - sent weekly.