Florida’s public school accountability system could be on the verge of snaring one of the nation’s largest online education providers.
K12 Inc. is expected to get an initial “incomplete” when letter grades for Florida public school are released this month. But it’s still possible the final grade, whenever it is released, could be unflattering – with serious consequences for K12’s operation in Florida.
The state awarded K12 a D last year, and the company’s appeal was stymied in part because of data conflicts with school districts. If the company receives a D or an F in the next three years, it could be forced to sever its ties with nearly 50 school districts, its five virtual charter schools, and new virtual charters expected to open next year.
That would be the first time a digital learning provider faces that penalty since lawmakers first created a new system of “approved providers” and district-managed virtual instruction programs.
Representatives for K12 and the schools it helps manage in Florida say it’s hard to predict what its grade will be, or whether it will receive one for the current school year. The main reason, the company says, is that it has struggled to obtain student information from the districts where it operates virtual instruction programs.
But company officials are also questioning the state’s accountability framework for virtual providers, which grades those providers based on combined results for independently run virtual charter schools and school district programs, over which they have less control.
The state Department of Education has indicated it would give the company a grade of incomplete, at least for now, while officials try to sort out issues with data reported by 17 districts that have contracted with K12. It is not clear when a final grade may be out.
To understand K12’s situation, a little history is in order.
Florida’s virtual education system took a turn in 2008, when a new law required school districts to create new virtual instruction programs. The revised law allowed districts to supplement local virtual programs by hiring outside providers like K12, which currently contracts with 48 districts. It also required districts to offer at least three different options, which often included locally run franchises of Florida Virtual School, the state’s publicly run provider.
Under the current grading system, the state can issue grades to virtual charters. It also issues grades to providers, which for grading purposes combine their virtual charters and district instruction programs together. Continue Reading →