K12’s outsourcing of essays to India linked to current practices

by David Safier

Travis Manning, an Idaho teacher and director of The Common Sense Democracy Foundation of Idaho has penned a column linking the for-profit online education corporation K12 Inc.'s past practices of outsourcing student essays to India with its ongoing corporate policy of putting profits ahead of students.

Travis begins by writing about my 2008 investigation into K12's essay outsourcing (He contacted me, and we discussed the topic). He noticed that the corporation admitted sending essays from Arizona Virtual Academy but nowhere else. He got them to admit Idaho Virtual Academy outsourced essays as well.

The revelation that K12 Inc., the world’s largest online charter school provider, sent thousands of student essays overseas was revealed back in 2008 by Arizona blogger David Safier. But it wasn’t until September 2013 that K12 verified at least one Idaho charter school was also involved. After being pressed, K12 admitted that Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA), Idaho’s largest virtual school and operated by K12 Inc., had outsourced student essays.

In fact, K12 schools in 8 other states participated in the outsourcing. We'll see whether K12 spokesperson Jeff Kwitowski will admit to the other cases as well.

Travis goes on to note current concerns at IDVA.

IDVA’s 2013 Annual Update also reveals that, “There appears to be potential for conflicts of interest to result from IDVA’s administration and management staff being K12 employees.” And, in a 2012 study by Western Michigan University, 27% of K12’s schools in 2010-11 reported making adequately yearly progress, compared to 52% for brick-and-mortar schools. Perhaps K12, which donated 44K to Superintendent Tom Luna’s 2010 campaign, shouldn’t also get transportation costs for “bring(ing) the school to the children.”

The column is very timely, coming as it does on the heels of hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson's epic takedown of K12 Inc., explaining why he's "shorting" the corporation. Tilson is convinced the corporation's educational model is fatally flawed and it's poised to collapse like a house of cards. We'll see if Tilson is right. The way the corporation is run now, most of its students would be far better off if it failed.

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