A former teacher at a school run by online education firm K12, Inc. said she felt overwhelmed by the size of her class rosters and that online classes weren’t the right choice for the mostly poor communities K12 targeted.
Teacher Darcy Bedortha published her story at Anthony Cody’s Education Week blog.
I was an English teacher, so my students would write. They wrote of pain and fear and of not fitting in. They were the kinds of young people who desperately needed to have the protective circle of a community watching over them. They needed one healthy person to smile at them and recognize them by name every day, to say “I’m glad you’re here!” Many of my former students do not have that.
The last thing these young people needed, I came to realize during my time with K12 Inc., was to be isolated in front of a computer screen. A week or two or three would often go by without my getting a word from a student. They didn’t answer their email, they didn’t answer their phones. Often their phones were disconnected. Their families were disconnected. My students also moved a lot. During my first year at the school I spent days on the phone trying to track students down. This year I struggled to not simply give up under the weight of it all.
Bedortha left her job with K12 in November after 15 months with the company. She said she struggled with the choice to write about her experience because some students depend on and benefit from the virtual school.
K12 is a lightning rod in online education. The company has grown quickly as lawmakers and school district expanded access to online classes. But student performance at K12 schools has trailed traditional schools, and some school districts have been unhappy with the company’s management.
In September, Wall Street hedge fund manager — and school choice activist — Whitney Tilson unleashed a broadside of criticism against K12.
The Seminole County school district asked the state to investigate K12 after finding emails which suggested the company had used teachers who were not properly certified to teach Seminole County students. In April, state investigators found no evidence K12 had used teachers who were not certified by Florida. However, the company did use three teachers who lacked proper subject certification. Investigators also found no evidence K12 had notified parents the teachers lacked subject certification.
You can read all of our K12 coverage here.