For some time, I have been wrestling with the problems occurring in virtual schools throughout our country. As a tech enthusiast, I believe educational technology has the potential to transform public education. However, the wrong students are being recruited into virtual schools and because almost all virtual schools are charter schools being run by for-profit Educational Management Organizations (EMOs) they are trying to maximize their dollars instead of improve their educational delivery model. Researcher Michael Barbour (
@mkbshu )thinks competition and market forces in the education system have created a separate, but equal education systems. While Adam Smith championed free markets in the private sector, we have seen that public school closures devastate and devalue communities (Hello Chicago!). Thus, this post is a collection of tweets that will be sent to California legislators who oversee K12, Inc’s California Virtual Academies (CAVA) virtual schools. In the hopes that they remember their responsibility is to California school children, not out of state corporations. Feel free to blog, reblog, tweet, retweet, and rock on in the search for truth, justice, and the American way.
California Virtual Academies #CAVA is the largest provider of virtual public education in CA. CAVA uses eleven locations to employ 766 teachers who work from home and educate students online. Darling-Hammond, et al (2014) found that the promise of ed tech has failed to meet the high expectations policymakers have heaped on the sector, however, there have been many successes that reveal promising approaches for technology implementation. Pollock et al, (2014) maintains that high-quality teacher assistance “seems to be mandatory for the online learning of underprivileged students.”
In 2011-12, the most recent data available, CAVA paid teachers an enrollment-weighted, system-wide average of $36,000 a year, while teachers at CAVA’s authorizing districts made an average of $60,000 a year. Because they only pay a fraction of what corresponding districts pay, CAVA teachers report high rates of teacher turnover. In 2012-13, CAVA received $95M in public funding, $47M went to K12 HQ in Virginia. In the last four years, CAVA’s overall graduation rate was 36%, compared to 78% for the state of CA. In 2012-13, 57% of schools with similar student populations performed better than CAVA and 71% of all schools in the state performed better than CAVA. CAVA’s statewide rank was a 2.9 out of 10. Some teachers spend 65 hours per week just completing administrative tasks. In 2012, K12 spent $1 million on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network advertisements, and $600,000 on teen social media sites. That year the company’s ad spending topped $20 million.
Using the California Department of Education’s definition of “continuous enrollment,” CAVA was found to have a 2012-13 student turnover rate of 24%, compared to 7% in California. CAVA’s model of virtual education negatively impacts CA kids. Virtual Schools should not look like this.
CAVA’s head of school has issued this response: Response to In The Public Interest Report from California Virtual Academies, by Katrina Abston.
Pollock, M., et al. (2014). Innovating toward equity with online courses: Testing the optimal blend of in-person human supports with low-income you and teachers in California. The Center for Research on Educational Equity. University of California San Diego. La Jolla, CA. Accessed at http://create.ucsd.edu/research/CREATE%20Equity%20RR_1Mar2014.pdf
If you feel inclined to contact your California Legislators about this issue, I am providing their Twitter handles below:
Legislative Office Building, 1020 N Street, Room 159 Sacramento, California 95814 Phone number (916) 319-2087.
Committee members Twitter handles are: