9:54am

Wed September 19, 2012
Education

Mirroring Questions in Colorado, K12 Inc. on Defensive in Florida for Large Online Teacher Loads

StateImpact Florida is reporting that teachers at K12 Inc.-managed schools may be responsible for as many as 275 students. The company manages taxpayer-funded virtual schools in more than 30 states, including Colorado Virtual Academy, the state’s largest online K-12 school.

According to an internal 2010 K12 Inc. memo obtained by StateImpact Florida,the higher per pupil funding is, the lower student/teacher ratios are at K12 Inc.-managed schools. StateImpact writes:

School districts that pay $4,000 or more per student receive a 225-to-1 student-teacher ratio in high school classes. Districts paying less than $3,000 per student have a 275-to-1 ratio.

StateImpact asked K12 Inc. spokesman Jeff Kwitowski if the ratios in the memo were correct, he wrote in a statement:

As with traditional schools, it varies by school, grade and course.

The topic of whether teacher loads at Colorado Virtual Academy were too high is a subject KUNC investigated last March. According to school records, class sizes were as high as 240 students per middle school English teacher in 2010. High school teacher loads were even larger, with as many as 267 students per teacher in 2010. Both numbers came from first semester COVA records.

Right now there is no measuring stick for appropriate teacher staffing at virtual schools. Colorado state law does not set limits on student teacher ratios.

Many virtual school advocates discourage comparing brick and mortar numbers with those of virtual schools. Making matters even more complicated in Colorado is how the state Department of Education calculates student teacher ratios. CDE divides the total number of students at a school by the total number of individuals with teaching credentials—creating a ratio that doesn’t always reflect the reality of the classroom.

For the March KUNC investigation, records and teacher loads were requested directly from Colorado Virtual Academy.

K12 Inc. is under investigation in Florida for allegedly using uncertified teachers in violation of state law. It’s also under fire in Tennessee for poor student performance and oversight. In Colorado, online K-12 schools came under fire last fall for low student test scores and high turnover.

Below is a sampling of the student to teacher ratios referenced in a K12 Inc. 2010 memo.

K-8

·         60:1 – $4,000 per student

·         65:1 – $3,000 to $3,999 per student

·         72:1 – $2,000 to $2,999 per student

High School

·         225:1 – $4,000 per student

·         245:1 – $3,000 to $3,999 per student

·         275:1 – $2,000 to $2,999 per student