Dear Commons Community,
The NY Times has an investigative report today on K-12 online learning as provided by charter schools managed by a for-profit company, K-12, Inc.. Specifically, it concentrates on the commercial segments of the school choice movement, as rooted in the theory that corporate efficiencies combined with the Internet can revolutionize public education, offering high quality at reduced cost. Unfortunately, the results paint a portrait of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards. K-12, Inc. was founded by the likes of William Bennett, former Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration, and bankrolled by Michael R. Milken, of junk bond fame. The report uses the Agora Cyber Charter School as a case study because it is one of the largest in a portfolio of similar public schools across the country run by K12. Eight other for-profit companies also run online public elementary and high schools, enrolling a large chunk of the more than 200,000 full-time cyberpupils in the United States.
The report concludes that:
“[Agora] is failing…
Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.
By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K-12, Inc. the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers.”
The report goes on to cite many of the problems we have seen with some of the for-profit online colleges including high pressure recruitment and enrollment of students, high drop-out rates, low teach pay, intense government lobbying, and generally poor results.
The article points to the need to keep Wall Street out of public education.