by David Safier
Craig Barrett, who is the front man for Jan Brewer's education agenda, loves to use BASIS Charter as an example of all that's wonderful about charter schools and "school choice." He's the president and chairman, so he basks in BASIS' glory. However, you never hear him mention that BASIS educates the academic one percent and has never attempted to include the rest of the ninety-nine percent of students in its schools. BASIS gets good results from students who are high achievers. Barrett is under the mistaken impression that makes the school an example of why charter schools are superior to district schools.
But Barrett is less vocal about his association with K12, Inc., a Virginia for-profit corporation that runs online schools across the country, including Arizona Virtual Academy. Barrett sits on the Board. Here are two reasons for his silence:
- Arizona Virtual Academy is one of 27 AZ charter schools put on academic probation for their poor records of student achievement. The online school is in danger of having its contract revoked if it doesn't improve student performance.
- K12 Inc. is being sued for misleading its investors about student achievement. The corporation has overstated the performance of its students on standardized tests, which tends to be low nationwide.
Key among those stories was a New York Times investigation published Dec. 12 that found a mismatch between K12 student achievement and statements made by chief executive Ronald J. Packard.
During one investment conference call, the Times reported, Packard said that test results at one of the company’s largest online schools — Agora Cyber Charter — were “significantly higher than a typical school on state administered tests for growth.”
In fact, the article said: “Weeks earlier, data had been released showing that 42 percent of Agora students tested on grade level or better in math, compared with 75 percent of students statewide. And 52 percent of Agora students had hit the mark in reading, compared with 72 percent statewide. The school was losing ground, not gaining it.”
What's good for BASIS is good for K12, Inc. If Barrett is an honest man, he will talk publicly about the problems with K12 Inc., an educational corporation whose board he sits on, as well as the successes (with a limited slice of students) of BASIS charter where he is president and chairman.
K12 INC. BLAST FROM THE BfA PAST: A few years back, I conducted an investigation which revealed K12 Inc. took student essays and outsourced them to India to be graded without the parents' knowledge. The story went national, and K12 Inc. was forced to admit the practice and discontinue it. The takeaway: Education and for-profit EMOs (Education Management Organizations) are a bad combination. When a company can make money by cutting back on services to its students or lying about their achievement, no good will come of it.