Parents likely have noticed ads for an online school aiming to replace the neighborhood elementary, middle or high school.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
The TV ads are angling for Kansas students, and the taxpayer funds that go with them. That isnt exactly the way for-profit K12 Inc. promotes itself, but thats the business concept.
Children study at home, assigned to a cyber teacher and some of the public dollars that would normally go to their district for attendance are funneled to the company managing the studies.
K12 is publicly traded, based in Virginia and attracts scrutiny as the largest of the online kindergarten to high school companies.
In Kansas, the Spring Hill School District is aligned with K12, along with Derby, Ottawa, Emporia, Manhattan and Lawrence. Missouri has no K12 schools linked with school districts, according to the companys website.
A study released last month by the National Education Policy Center ripped the K12 program. The report was a caution for parents and politicos rushing to online schools as an anecdote for the ills of public education.
The study found that students of K12 programs continued to struggle in reading and math, more than their peers in regular schools. Online students have high withdrawal rates.
And K12 fared far worse than public schools and charters in meeting the Adequate Yearly Progress standards of No Child Left Behind.
Yet, more data are needed. The majority of studies measuring virtual learning by its usefulness have been of older, adult learners who are likely more motivated. With children, especially those in the younger grades, less is known.
Calls and emails to K12s corporate headquarters and a few of the Kansas affiliates werent returned.
Brick-and-mortar public schools are already engaging students in unique ways that include online learning. Its called a blended approach, using the tried and true method of having a live teacher work with students in class, along with technology.
Can a virtual petri dish equal watching the mold spores grown in a traditional science classroom? Depends on the student, his or her situation, learning styles and the ability or willingness of the parent to act as a teacher/facilitator.
Supporters argue online is a choice, an option for people the same way homeschooling has long worked well for many families. Investors are banking, literally, on the negativity surrounding public schools to churn higher profits for K12.
Problem is, a virtual school doesnt appear to be the most effective learning model for many students. And achievement levels of the student should always be the deciding grade.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to email@example.com.