Putting Education Reform To The Test

Trevor Aaronson

Trevor Aaronson is co-director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and author of the book The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism. He has won more than two dozen national and regional journalism awards, including the Molly Prize, the international Data Journalism Award and the John Jay College/H.F. Guggenheim Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award.

  • Email: FL_trevor@stateimpact.org

Florida Investigates K12, Nation’s Largest Online Educator

Stephanie Kuykendal / Getty Images News

Former U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennett founded K12, the nation's largest online education company. The Florida Department of Education is investigating whether the company used uncertified teachers to lead classes.

Editor’s note: Trevor Aaronson is with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Florida’s Department of Education has launched an investigation of K12, the nation’s largest online educator, over allegations the company uses uncertified teachers and asked employees to help cover up the practice.

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.

“I cannot sign off on students who are not my actual students,” K12 teacher Amy Capelle wrote to her supervisor. “It is not ethical to submit records to the district that are inaccurate.”

The documents suggest K12 may be using uncertified teachers in violation of state law.

In 2009, K12 asked Seminole County Public Schools if it could use uncertified teachers in some of its online classes. That uncertified teacher would be overseen by a so-called “teacher of record” — a certified teacher.

Seminole County Public Schools consulted with the Florida Department of Education and then denied the request, citing state law requiring certified teachers.

The Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General is now looking into whether K12 violated state law by using teachers of record, even after education officials warned the company it can’t.

State investigators confirmed the probe to FCIR/StateImpact Florida, but declined to discuss it.

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