by David Safier
Someone who says he scored and commented on papers the Arizona Virtual Academy (AZVA) sent to India writes that all the papers he read had the students' names and IDs on them. This is in direct contradiction to what I was told by the former head of AZVA. She said all personal information was "scrubbed" from the papers before they were sent electronically to India.
Last week I posted a long, well researched piece about AZVA sending middle school and high school papers to India to be scored and commented on. Before I ran the story, I talked with Mary Gifford, Regional Vice President for Student Services for K12 Inc., which runs AZVA and a number of other virtual schools around the country. She confirmed most of my facts and added more information. We talked again after she read the post, and she said she thought I presented the issue fairly, even if she didn't agree with all my conclusions.
In our first discussion, I asked Gifford if the workers in India were fingerprinted and had background checks to make sure they had no history that indicated they might be a danger to students. State law requires that all personnel of a charter school be fingerprinted, and the school operators
make documented, good faith efforts to contact previous employers of the person to obtain information and recommendations that may be relevant to the person’s fitness for employment as prescribed in A.R.S. 15-512.F.
Gifford said the workers in India didn't need to be fingerprinted because they had no direct contact with the students and all the personal information was removed from the papers.
Here is the comment I received Saturday:
I was one of the educators who was closely involved in this project, on the Indian side.
Every paper I reviewed (it was not mere grading, there was extensive asynchronous teaching involved, we provided two to three pages of suggestions for improving writing) had the student's name and a numerical ID (school ID). It is likely the teachers at AZVA did not want to do extra work, did not take out the student names and sent them with the names to India.
Posted by: Suji
I don't know who Suji is, so I can't say whether the information is accurate. But Suji appears to have detailed knowledge of the program, which makes the comments credible.
The amount of work Suji said was done on the papers is interesting in itself. It suggests that these graders, not the AZVA teachers in charge of the students' education, were the real "teachers" when it came to students' writing.
But the truly damning statement is that every paper Suji saw "had the student's name and numerical ID (school ID)." This is in absolute contradiction to what Gifford told me.
How hard would it be, I wonder, for someone who had a child's name and the knowledge that the child lived in Arizona and attended Arizona Virtual Academy, to find more information about that student online, including some way to make contact? Since middle schoolers often write about themselves, the papers might reveal more specific information about where they lived, who their parents were and where they worked, as well as other information that could make tracking down that child even easier. I would imagine that anyone who was focused on getting contact information would be successful with a few students.
That's exactly why Arizona has laws requiring all personnel of charter schools to have fingerprints and background checks. It's to protect the children from predators who might use their connection with the children to do them physical or psychological harm.
Does the Arizona Charter School Board know that AZVA has outsourced part of its students' education to India and that, very possibly, the names and IDs of the students were attached to the papers?
Of course, Mary Gifford sits on the Board as the Superintendent's Designee, which could have a bearing on the answer. But she assured me she always removes herself from any issue where there is even a hint of a conflict of interest.
Would she bring up an issue for discussion, such as outsourcing of student work, which the Board might have concerns about if she thought the publicity and the Board's decision might be harmful to AZVA?
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