“I am happy to sign for the seven Seminole students who are my students, but I cannot sign as the teacher of record for students who I do not know,” Capelle wrote.
Since Capelle didn’t sign off on the students, K12 manager Gila Tuchman signed in her place and submitted the records to Seminole County Public Schools, certifying that Capelle had taught students she in fact had not.
After reading these emails, Seminole County officials followed up with a survey of parents whose kids were enrolled in K12 classes. Parents were given a list of teachers who reportedly instructed their children.
More than one-third of parents said the listed teacher did not teach their child. Only 36 percent of parents said their child’s teacher was the one K12 had listed. The rest could not be reached or said they couldn’t remember.
The survey and emails prompted Seminole County officials to request that the DOE investigate. They warned the state that the problems they uncovered with K12 may be widespread.
“Since K12 uses the same teachers across the state in virtual instruction programs, this issue may reach far beyond the borders of Seminole County,” they wrote.
Other Florida school districts have found problems when officials checked whether certified teachers taught K12 courses. Leon County Schools spokesman Chris Petley said his district has removed students from K12 courses that were taught by teachers who were either not certified in Florida or not certified in the course subject.” If the teacher is not both,” Petley said of certifications, “we move them out of there.”
Founded in 2000 by William Bennett, a former U.S. education secretary under President Ronald Reagan, K12 is an $864 million publicly traded company whose stock price has more than doubled in the last year.
In recent years, K12 has increased profits while student performance has suffered.
A July 2012 study by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado found that students at K12 schools fell further behind in reading and math scores than pupils in traditional schools.
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit news organization supported by foundations and individual contributions. For more information, visit fcir.org. StateImpact Florida is a project of Florida’s NPR member stations. For more information, visit http://stateimpact.npr.org