by David Safier
People at Arizona Virtual Academy and K12 Inc. have read everything I've written about AZVA and other K12 schools outsourcing student papers to India. I'm virtually certain of that. But since my two conversations three weeks ago with Mary Gifford, a regional vice president for K12 Inc., no one in the organization has responded to my assertions. Silence like that speaks volumes. If what I've said could easily be refuted, K12 would have done it already.
Meanwhile, I've seen a bit, but only a bit, of chatter on the topic among parents who have their children enrolled in AZVA. (Disclaimer: I don't know these people, so I have no way of guaranteeing they're actually parents of children at AZVA. The internet is a wonderful communication medium as well as an easy way for people to assume false identities. Having said that . . .)
A parent who refers to herself as Once_a_virtual_schooler left a comment on one of my posts. The opening is interesting, to say the least:
I didn't find out about this 'out sourcing' topic until I joined an AZVA Yahoo! Message Board. When I initially came across the post on the board, I asked a general question in relation, but didn't get any information. It seemed to be hush-hush. So, I went away believing that this whole thing was a misunderstanding. Well, I went to another virtual academy school board and there I found the same comments. Still, no answers. Then I stumbled upon this blog and I am so glad that I did.
I don't have access to the Message Board the commenter refers to, but if this is true, the word is getting out, and there is an effort, possibly by parents, possibly by AZVA staff, to suppress it.
When I first found out about this I was pretty surprised. I had no idea that this actually went on in public schools. I didn't know that my son's personal information would ever be allowed in the hands of a stranger who didn't meet the safety guidelines for educators in the United States of America, but it has!
In her next post, Yahoo! Message Board...does anyone care?, she writes:
Every parent has the right to know what is going on with the school that their child attends. So, I find it quite odd that I have been ousted from the group. Well, this is what I believe! Ummm...so much for freedom of speech, right?! Anyway, I have a voice and it will be heard on this topic.
I find it quite odd that the individuals at K12 are doing everything in their power to claim redress of the situation, yet at the same time they have stated that they will continue to utilize these outsourcing procedures throughout 2008-2009 for their high school students.
A parent who is upset with the possibility that AZVA is outsourcing education is no longer allowed to write on a message board for parents. And she says that K12 is trying to redress the situation at the same time it plans to continue outsourcing high school papers. Something is going on here. I wish I knew more.
JaMincc, by the way, wrote her first blog post on July 28, well before I began writing about outsourcing. She expresses some concerns about AZVA where she had one of her children last year, but mostly she writes the kinds of things an excited, slightly nervous parent writes about her preparations for a new school year, the first days of school, a sick baby and so on. This is a concerned mother who expects a quality education for her children and is outraged about the outsourcing. She wants K12 to act responsibly. And she wants her concerns to be heard.
K12 is in a bit of a bind here. The information about outsourcing, which should never have been kept from parents in the first place, is now out in the open. The best remedy is to make a full, public statement about its past and current outsourcing practices, including which schools participated in the program and what information did and didn't go to India with the papers. These disclosures would cost the corporation some bad publicity and a loss of students, but then the controversy would be over. K12 would be able to rebuild its reputation and its student numbers. That would be the smart thing to do -- get the facts out, deal with them and move on.
But it looks like K12 has decided to hush up the outsourcing as much as possible and put out brush fires when they arise. As we've learned on many occasions in recent decades, the cover up tends to cause more damage than the original incident. K12 might try to keep a lid on the information by means of intimidation and threats, possibly starting an in-house witch hunt to find out how the information got out in the first place, making staff members terrified to speak to anyone inside or outside the organization, fearing retribution. That kind of atmosphere is not conducive to good education, to put it mildly. K12 may also try to rein in or suppress whatever information is already out there by any means at its disposal, which can make the information far more damaging when it becomes more widely known
I have a question for K12 Inc. Did you think this outsourcing, which so many people know about, staff and parents alike, could be kept hidden away forever? Do you think, now that the facts are in the public sector, that you can get this cat back in the bag? I've laid out the basic story in my posts for all to see, and one TV station has already run a story on the evening news which was posted on its website. Do you really think no one else in the country will be interested and ask questions of the nine other schools I listed that most probably used the same paper scoring service AZVA used?
NOTE: In case anyone questions my motivation in all this . . .
For the record, I don't make any money writing on Blog for Arizona. I'm a retired teacher, so I'm not trying to jump-start a budding career. Education has been my passion and my profession for my entire adult life. I still honor the unwritten contract I signed with myself when I began teaching in 1969: Do your best for the young people you serve,and try in some small way to improve the quality of their education. I used to do that in my classroom. Now I do it on this blog. My reporting on the careless, secretive way AZVA outsourced education to India is part of that ongoing effort.