Friday, January 9, 2015

Questions from readers on K12, Agora, TNVA, Connections, virtual learning, and more.

Since my Monday blog about K12 I have been inundated with emails, many of them posing some good questions. As I did previously, I thought I would answer them here. I do appreciate each and every person who takes time out of their day to read what I have to say -- whether they agree with my viewpoint or not is irrelevant. So, if you are reading this, thank you for taking time to do so. Questions (and comments) are always welcome.

Let's dive in shall we.

Q1: In your post about the problems K12 is having you referenced the core issue(s) they are not addressing but did not identify them. What do you think those core issues are?

I purposely did not mention them on Monday but have alluded to them in other posts about virtual schools overall. Would like to point you in the direction of my post Virtual Schools Manifesto: Nine Essential Ingredients for a more detailed answer.

Q2: Do you think the K12 stock price will continue to drop?

While I invest in stocks regularly I am not one to follow for advice on this. My belief though is it will mirror the overall stock market to some degree and continue to be a wild roller coaster ride. News out of North Carolina should help boost it temporarily, along with my belief that the Tennessee Virtual Academy will be renewed due primarily to the departure of TN Ed Commissioner Kevin Huffman late last year.

I checked this morning and it was in the $10 range which is lower than I anticipated it would fall. Investors have a much different measuring rod in terms of the success for K12, and it has little to do with academics (unless they impact growth and margins).

Q3: K12 and Connections Academy were approved recently in North Carolina to open up two pilot programs for the state. If they are as bad as you say they are, why are the leaders in North Carolina approving them to open? Perhaps you are missing something after all.

It is a fair question, and appreciated. I would say though that the legislature in North Carolina mandated the approval of two pilot schools to start in the fall of 2015 thereby restricting what the educational leaders could do. Only two respondents replied to the RFP that was sent out (K12 and Connections), so in effect, they only had two to select from in order to meet the legislature requirements.

Encourage you to read this article to see the dilemma this has created in North Carolina. Demand for virtual is great in this state, and I expect it to mirror Georgia to some degree. It's unfortunate more providers did not respond to the RFP.

Q4: In the Bloomberg article you said that your experience in Tennessee Virtual Academy was not good, and you pulled your kids out after the first year. Yet, TNVA continues to enroll thousands of students each year so clearly it is having some kind of positive impact in the state. Why were you so down on it?

What I shared in the article was only a portion of what I could have shared about our personal experience with TNVA. And, as I mentioned to the author of the article, it was not to say TNVA was not working for everyone, it was to share our experience with it.

We as a family embrace the virtual school concept and believe it has a vital place in the world of education. However, I do stand by my assertion that the current model is broken, and tweaks to the model will not produce adequate results. If they did, we would have seen it by now.

It is what I call the lost potential. Virtual schools are struggling to fulfill their original mission and purpose because they have tried to mirror the public school system. In doing so, they are losing out on the potential of what they could accomplish. One need only look at the landscape across the country and quickly understand it is hard to find a virtual school that is thriving. It's not too late though to re-imagine what virtual could be.

Note: The Bloomberg article referenced is from last year, and authored by John Hechinger concerning K12, and virtual learning.

Q5: I recently left Agora Cyber and things there are not good. The new people who have come in to run the school are, in reality, driving it over a cliff. Do you think they made the right decision to leave K12 and manage the school on their own?

Time is the true answer to this question. Time will tell us if the decision was the right one. Sometimes though we make the best decision we can with all of the facts we have, then we must work hard to make it the right decision afterwards.

Q6: Do you think blended will overtake virtual?

Emphatic YES. Blended learning (or flipped as it is sometimes referenced) is the new golden child in education, and will be for years to come. It is becoming the go-to solution for all educational ills.

At the end of the day though I hope it is more of an AND than an OR. Within districts we don't have to do blended or virtual? Why not blended and virtual? Why not blended, virtual, classroom, flipped, disruptive, and mobile?

Education has multiple issues going on which requires multiple solutions. Let's embrace public schools, charter schools, private schools, homeschool, and alternative schools with the understanding that the ultimate goal is learning.

And with that I will leave it for today. Thanks again for reading, thanks for writing, and thanks for caring.

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