After 15 Months in Virtual Charter Hell, Darcy Bedortha quit her job as a high school English teacher for K12 Inc., the nation’s largest virtual education company. She couldn’t meet students’ learning needs, she writes in Education Week Teacher.
K12 pays full-time teachers $42,000 a year to teach a minimum of 226 students, writes Bedortha. Some full-timers have more than 300 students.
Students can enroll at any time.
In a given day in mid-November I would grade introductory assignments, diagnostic essays and end-of-semester projects, and everything in between, for each course (this month I had 30 separate courses). I found it to be impossible to meet the learning needs of my students in that situation.
Many students are phantoms, Bedortha writes. Fewer than 10 percent of students “attended” the weekly 30-minute “class,” which used an interactive blackboard. Only a small percentage communicated by email.
Most were behind in high school credits and “could not afford another failure.”
. . . as I wrote this in early December, nearly 80 percent of our students were failing their classes. At that time there were 303 students (12 percent of the school) enrolled in special education programs – and 259 of them were failing while 17 had no grade at all. Eighty-two percent of the 9th graders were failing.
Other virtual schools face similar failure rates, writes Bedortha. Only 37.6 percent of students at full-time virtual schools graduate on time, compared to 79.4 percent of all public high school students according to a July 2012 National Education Policy Center report.
Virtual schools do best for mature, self-directed learners or for students with a homeschooling parent. Most students who’ve failed in schools with in-person teachers won’t succeed with less personal contact with a teacher. But they need an alternative to traditional schooling.
Virtual schools are bound to attract transient students. We need a way to fund virtual charters so they’re not compensated for students who aren’t using the school’s services.