by David Safier
K12 Inc., the country's largest online school corporation, is in trouble again, this time in Florida. It's being investigated for using uncertified teachers and telling its certified staff to provide cover.
K12 officials told certified teachers to sign class rosters that included students they hadn’t taught, according to documents that are part of the investigation.
In one case, a K12 manager instructed a certified teacher to sign a class roster of more than 100 students. She only recognized seven names on that list.
Could it be an innocent mistake, where K12 thought it was OK to use uncertified teachers? No. The corporation asked for permission to use uncertified teachers who would be overseen by certified staff. The request was turned down.
K12 denies the allegation, but this email from a project manager to teachers makes the case pretty clearly.
“So if you see your name next to a student that might not be yours it’s because you were qualified to teach that subject and we needed to put your name there,” K12’s Samantha Gilormini wrote on Feb. 15, 2011.
Gilormini asked K12 teacher Capelle, whose emails helped spark the investigation, to sign off on a list of 112 students. Of the 112, she’d taught seven of the students, and refused to sign.
“I am happy to sign for the seven Seminole students who are my students, but I cannot sign as the teacher of record for students who I do not know,” Capelle wrote.
Since Capelle didn’t sign off the students, K12 manager Gila Tuchman signed in her place and submitted the records to Seminole County Public Schools, certifying that Capelle had taught students she in fact had not.
K12 Inc. is no stranger to trouble. Shareholders sued because they were told students at Agora Cyber in Pennsylvania exceeded the state average in academic growth, which happened to be a lie.
Meanwhile, here in Arizona, K12's Arizona Virtual Academy is on academic probation with the state.
Ex-Intel CEO Craig Barrett maintains his public silence about K12 Inc., which should raise the eyebrows of reporters in the state who cover education. Barrett speaks regularly about education nationally, even internationally. He's been known to swell with pride about the accomplishments of BASIS, where he is President and Chairman. But he is also one of 8 members of K12's corporate Board of Directors, which puts him in a position of power and authority -- and responsibility. If he's an honorable man who cares about education, he needs to step forward, talk about the problems with the online education corporation and about the steps he has taken to remedy the situation.
K12 INC. STOCK UPDATE: K12 Inc.'s stock (LRN) has been on a wild ride since November, 2011, when it reached almost $37 per share. It plummeted to 17 in January, 2012, when the stockholders sued. Since then it has topped out at 26 and fallen to 17. It took a 15% dip yesterday on news of the Florida investigation, from 23 to 20.