by David Safier
BROKEN RECORD NOTE: I realized I've written this many times before, but . . . Ex-Intel CEO Craig Barrett is hardly media shy. He gives his opinions on education and high tech issues freely and often in local, national, even international press. But I have yet to see or hear him mention K12 Inc., where he serves on the national Board of Directors. It would be interesting to hear his insider's perspective on a corporation where he occupies such an important position and which has been so much in the news.
On Monday, K12 Inc. stock took a dive and has continued to limp along at around $16 a share since then. The share price may rebound, but the latest news from states where its online schools enroll thousands of students isn't looking good.
The stock slide began with the word from Wells Fargo that it downgraded K12 stock, saying the poor performance of its Colorado school, Colorado Virtual Academy, is the "latest example of K12's declining academic performance." I've noted frequently that Arizona Virtual Academy is on academic probation with the state's very forgiving Charter School Board, and in Pennsylvania, stockholders are suing because they were lied to about the poor student achievement at Agora Cyber School.
Now there's more bad news from Tennessee and Georgia.
In Tennessee, the Education Commissioner called the student performance at Tennessee Virtual Academy "unnacceptable."
The state's figures show the Tennessee Virtual Academy fell into the bottom 11 percent of schools for student gains as measured under the state's Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System. The cyber school scored a 1 on the 5-point scale.
[State Sen. Andy] Berke complained that "millions of dollars are flowing to K12 and all we're getting for them from them are results at the bottom of the bottom."
He said the state needs to look at injecting more accountability into the law authorizing for-profit companies to run cyber schools under contracts.
In Georgia, the Department of Ed has threatened to shut Georgia Cyber Academy down if it doesn't improve the way it provides education to Special Education students.
Those concerns, spelled out in a report delivered to GCA on Tuesday, include failure to obtain individualized education plans special education students are taught from, problems in resolving parental complaints and failure to offer the individualized instruction special education students are eligible to receive under federal law.
With 12,000 students, GCA is the largest public school in the state. The report says GCA’s special education problems stretch back to 2009, when the scores of its special needs students were among the lowest in the state.
GCA has about 1,100 special ed students. I have trouble seeing how an online school can tailor a computerized education system to fit the highly individualized needs of special ed students, and GCA seems to prove my concerns are warranted.
Online education is a valuable alternative for a limited number of students. It's possible lots of students can benefit from the occasional online class. But K12 Inc.'s attempts at creating an online education system that serves large numbers of students across the country is looking more and more like a failed experiment.