And now K12 Inc., has ads running in Connecticut even though they aren’t licensed here.
Lets face it, E-Learning is big business, pulling in $5.4 billion a year.
And a primary leader in the “e-learning” industry is the for-profit company K12 Inc., a company formed in 1999. William Bennett, the right-wing ideologue and Reagan’s former secretary of education, was the company’s first Board Chairman.
According to their investor reports, K12 offers “proprietary curriculum and educational services created for individualized learning for students primarily in kindergarten through 12th grade…”
The company was originally focused on the home school market. When asked by a Christian radio station, Bennett said that their science curriculum presents evolution, creationism, and intelligent design as equally tenable explanations for the existence of life,” adding “We’re centered in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we do not ignore faith and religion, we do not ignore the arguments against evolution, because there are some…”
However, with the passage of George Bush I’s No Child Left Behind law, the company quickly expanded to take advantage of the new business opportunities created by the new law.
Today, K12 Inc. is one of nine major for-profit companies running on-line public schools around the country. With over 147,000 students enrolled in their various divisions, K12 Inc. is the largest of them all and is producing annual revenues of over $650 million
This past February, a New York Times investigative report determined that K12’s performance doesn’t come close to their rhetoric.
While they brag of their successes, the New York Times found that “nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading.
A third of the students do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to high school seniors, “withdraw within months after they enroll.”
K12 Inc. is even facing a shareholder lawsuit for misrepresenting its performance to its shareholders.
However, K12 Inc. isn’t alone when it comes to a record of failure. A major study out of Stanford University found that “in every subgroup, with significant effects, cyber charter performance is lower.”
Paul Vallas and K12 Inc.
While K12 has become international in reach, the company got its big break in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 2005, when Paul Vallas was the CEO of the Philadelphia Schools.
The details about how K12 went from a small company in the home school market and a few thousand on-line students to the nation’s largest E-Learning for-profit company was outlined by Sheila Simmons, a reporter for the Notebook, an on-line education newspaper. (see link below)
Today, Charles Zogby serves as Pennsylvania’s budget director. However, before that he served for nine years as K12’s senior vice president of education.
But before Zogby was named a senior officer at K12 Inc., he served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education from 2001 – 2003 where he led the state takeover of the Philadelphia school system, a takeover that led to the selection and hiring of Paul Vallas to serve as the CEO for the state oversight-board assigned to running Philadelphia’s schools.
A year later, Zogby was working for K12 Inc., and Philadelphia was selecting a vendor to provide all of its K-3 students with a new science curriculum.
Vallas’ administration ended up giving the $3 million contract to K12 Inc. Not only did K12 Inc. beat out “two nationally renowned science materials providers” but with that contract, “Philadelphia became the first school district in the nation to adopt K12′s materials district wide.”
Interestingly, after the contract was given to K12, the 30 Philadelphia science teachers who were assigned to develop the new curriculum and identify the best vendor reported that there was little if any discussion about K12’s materials. Instead, the group focused on the two major providers of science curriculum.
As concern about the controversial decision grew, Paul Vallas admitted to a reporter that he had, as the reporter wrote, “provided some direction on the science curriculum.” In fact, Vallas’ quote was “I told them that we needed to standardize the curriculum. I talked about models they should look at. I didn’t say, ‘Here’s K12, I want you to bring them in.” Asked about whether he had recommended any other companies Vallas said “There’s not a lot of work done in primary science curriculum, let’s face it.”
Meanwhile, Vallas’ associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, who was responsible for selecting the vendor, said that it was only after the committee review process ended that K12’s materials become available for review.
Soon after K12 was selected, the Notebook’s reporter contacted a number of “major science education experts” around the country. Not one of the experts said they were familiar with K12 Inc. or its curriculum.
At the time, Vallas critics pointed out that K12’s chairman, William Bennett, and Paul Vallas had built a strong relationship when Vallas was in Chicago.
According to the Washington Post, Bennett even recommended that Vallas be appointed U.S. Secretary of Education by President Bush I, after Bush’s initial secretary of education, Rod Paige, announced his retirement.
To the accusation that Vallas directed the contract to Bennett’s company, Vallas said, “I don’t think I’ve ever had a discussion on K12 with Bennett. Ron Packard is K12′s person. He’s their CEO, the one we interact with…”
As the saying goes, the rest of the story is history.
Except for that one interesting side note…that although K12 Inc. is not licensed to do business in the State of Connecticut, the company has television ads that are running on at least one network in the state. If you go to www.K12inc.com and follow the instructions to check out their program in Connecticut, the following warning will pop up. “There are currently no public schools using the full K12 program in this state. But new schools are always being added! Sign up to receive notification when a full-time public program using the K12 curriculum becomes available in your area.”
Although they hardly need the additional revenue, maybe they think that with Paul Vallas taking over the Bridgeport Schools, lighting will strike twice and more contracts will be coming their way.