Ron Packard, CEO of K12 Inc, issued a reply to this article yesterday in the Fordam Education Institute's Flypaper. I'm not completely opposed to Virtual Education. I believe that responsible virtual education within the framework of existing educational structures is vital for 21st century learning. I do have reservations about a complete package of online education outsourced to a distant and nebulous institution whose primary purpose is maximizing profit. This description may not fairly characterize K12 Inc., but Packard's defense of the company in response to the NY Times articles is less than convincing. Of the several arguments presented by Ron Packard, I found number one most lacking. I've pasted the text of his argument below:
Academic performance of virtual schools: K12 data shows that a large and growing number of students coming into virtual schools are below grade level. The high growth rate of virtual schools means that a large portion of students taking the state tests are in their first year. This makes static test scores poor measures of a school’s overall performance because students perform better on state tests the longer they are enrolled. To measure academic growth, K12 administers third party norm-referenced tests. Data from these tests show students are making positive academic gains relative to national norms.
Second, it looks like the tests are getting blamed. In the world of public education, again this argument doesn't fly. The tests are the tests and if you can't perform then you're not performing. Have you noticed any of the value-added or growth model laws passing across the nation? It doesn't matter whether students are transferring, adding, dropping, repeating, or not even in your class in some states. If the test scores aren't good enough, you're not good enough. That applies to schools and increasingly to teachers as well. If the tests aren't good enough to judge online education and charters then why do we assume they're good enough to judge traditional public schools.
I suppose if you can be identified by initials and your stock is publicly traded a different set of standards apply. That shouldn't be a surprise, we've known for a while that Wall Street standards don't apply to the rest of us.