Thursday, June 16, 2016

K12 responds to the report from the charter school advocacy group

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently released a report that calls for stronger oversight of virtual charter schools. Albeit a little weird that the charter school alliance would call out a segment of its own, it is quite telling as to what is going on.

The Alliance's main points are:

* Rethink the ways in which virtual charter schools are governed

* Move quickly to close virtual charter schools that perform poorly

* Remove virtual charter schools from the charter designation

K12, the leader in virtual schools, issued a response to the report. (I imagine Connections will also respond soon)

Their main points are:

* The report issued was not collaborative because virtual charter schools were not consulted

* The report relied on analysis of old data and did not account for recent data

* Most troubling was the report's call for "criteria for admission" essentially removing the ability for the parents to decide on enrollment

* The recommendations from the report to improve virtual charter schools should be applied to all charter schools

We have now entered a very strange season where the charter school movement is trying to distance itself from one of its subsets -- virtual charter schools.

While I have written extensively on the problems and potential solutions associated with mainly K12-managed virtual schools, I do happen to agree with a few points made by K12 in their response:

1. "Criteria admission" would essentially negate the whole idea of school choice associated with virtual schools While I do believe virtual schools should do a much better job of helping families make the best decision for them (being more authentic about the workload, responsibilities, daily requirements, etc.), at the end of the day, it is up to the parent to decide if they are willing to commit to it or not. In reality, it is parent choice, not school choice, meaning the parents choose.

2. The K12 curriculum for grades K - 8 is, in my opinion and experience, one of the best out there. Granted, it has not helped much within the virtual charter school arena in terms of academic achievement and test scores it still remains a gold standard in terms of quality across the board. I happen to believe the academic issues associated with the virtual charter schools have less to do with the curriculum and more to do with the time commitment, workload investment, etc.

At the same time, I do agree with the idea behind the report that BOLD steps must be taken in order to right the virtual charter school ship. Actually, I say burn this ship, and let's build a different one entirely - but that's for another blog post.

The fact of the matter is, everyone agrees that virtual learning works for only some. Those it works for are willing to put in the hard work, and are self-motivated with a strong family unit for support.

However, those who tend to enroll in virtual schools are enrolling to get away from something. They are not enrolling in order to get to something.

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