10 Parents Respond to the New York Times’ Hit Piece

The New York Times ran a tabloid-style hit piece on K12, the online learning provider.  They apparently didn’t speak to many parents that appreciate full time virtual schools as an option.  Follow are excerpts of 10 notes I received from parents this week (responding to my blog) with a different story.
T. Weiss said, “There is almost NO flexibility in brick-and-mortar middle schools for students who love to learn but have delayed fine motor, gross motor, and organizational skills. Even his IEP was not honored, and he was termed “lazy.” With the scheduling flexibility of OHVA which allows him to work longer on classes which take longer and move more quickly through content which comes easy for him, he has regained his love of learning and is reading every day because he WANTS to. He is progress monitored against the current Ohio 7th Grade Standards…He has teachers who WANT to hear from me as the parent, and he has an Intervention Specialist who knows his educational strengths and weaknesses. We have had bumps along the way, of course, but overall this school year has been FANTASTIC compared to the hell of 6th grade in a traditional public middle school.”
Jen said, “My son attends Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest – only he couldn’t start on time this year. He had open heart surgery on August 23rd, the first day of school.  His surgery was 8 hours, and he was in the hospital three weeks. The surgeons wanted us to “keep him out of school” for another two months after that – when we explained about K12, that we would be able to pace him, that it would not be physically taxing, they gave us approval to start as soon as he was ready. He chose to return the week he was out of the hospital.  His teacher was aware of everything, helped us get him back in a groove, and instead of missing the three weeks of school he was able to start from the first day of school 3 weeks late – without K12, I have no doubt his 8th Grade Year would have potentially been down the drain. Because of K12, he was able to ease back into his normal life at his own pace, with the support of his parents and the school – and most especially his teacher.  I wish they would profile some of us for a change.”
Jody said, “It’s nice to have options! I have a wonderful sixteen year old son who is very creative & intelligent. He is bored to death in school. We have so much stimulation in the world today. We ask our kids to sit in a chair for hours, non stimulated. Our local public school system is on the cutting edge. But, it’s not changing fast enough for him. K12 allows him time to do other things. He already is a budding entrepreneur and has a YouTube sight with 5,000 hits. We are grateful for this outside of the box option.”
Amber said, “My Daughter made it through kindergarten in public school, she not only did not know how to read according to them but failed art and came home discussing racism at 5 years old, I pulled her and went through an alternative school which supported the K12 program. Now She is in second grade and tests off the charts! I have never made a better decision for her. She not only is getting a wonderful education but also is less cranky, and more involved with violin lessons, soccer, junior grange and more! Thank you K12 for what you have given my family, the right to a solid education without the torture that our public schools have become!”
Cathy said, “We are in our 9th year with OHVA, a K12 virtual academy, and my daughter will graduate as one of the kids who attended for all 13 years of her schooling (K-12). We initially chose e-schooling because of a learning-style issue for my son, but it’s become a life-style for us. We love the flexibility that e-schooling allows. My mom is a retired teacher from a district with an excellent rating here in Ohio, and she said the K12 curriculum is the best she’s ever seen. School doesn’t take 10 hours/day, so my kids are involved in other activities such as 4-H, Boy Scouts, competitive dance, and volunteering. My son is a 17 year old Eagle Scout and my daughter is does historical re-enactments along side adults with DatyonHistory.org. We travel off-season (which costs less) and my kids have visited many of the historical sites other kids just read about in their history books. What an incredible opportunity technology has created for us!”
Warren said, “My son started K12 this year. He is a very smart child. The school he went to could not accommodate him.
 The learning pace was to slow for him therefore he was bored. He did not want to go to school for that reason. Now he can work at his pace. He loves it. He is making A’s now and is ahead of his schedule. My wife and I are very thankful for K12!”
Rosa said, “My children have had the privilege of attending a blended K12 school since Kindergarten. It is more work than I had imagined and far more rewarding than I had hoped. Thank you, K12, for ignoring legislation and bad press. Thank you, K12, for providing my family with curriculum that I would have to pay $15k plus for in my city’s private schools. $15k for each child, mind you.”
Aimee said, My children have been in California Virtual Academy (CAVA) for a year this January. We pulled out of brick and mortar school because of the way the schools are ran. My 8th grader was counted absent for 21 days when in reality she was only absent for 3 (3 days x 7 classes = 21). My son is high functioning autistic and was bullied badly. We are a military family and the school district is the best in Northern California, but they were about 1-2 yrs behind. Now my daughter is working at a 9th grade level reading at a 12th grade level. My son had figured out the easiest and best way for him to learn. The district was not allowing him freedom to learn the way he is able to learn and in 1st grade was reading at a preschool level. Now he is learning at a 3rd grade level but is in 2nd grade. He is HAPPY. My 8th grader is making all A’s and is ahead in her curriculum. I watch my friend’s children, all in public school. Have to go through homework with them. My daughter is doing better than my friend’s daughter in math, who is in 9th grade. My 2nd grader is doing higher math and reading at the same level as my friend’s 3rd grader. I never ever thought my son would enjoy math, and seeing him read at a 3rd grade level a year after entering k12 is amazing. Especially when he was only at a kindergarten reading level this time last year. K12 is an amazing program. It is not just for those who are failing out of traditional brick and mortar schools. (My 8th grader has made all A’s since she was in kindergarten.) K12 is a wonderful choice for homeschooling. The families are held to a higher standard and held accountable for their education. The teachers are certified teachers. The students have several options to show they are within national education standards including mandatory state testing and other online testing. They receive one on one attention by being at home and are able to have a fully enriched education by including music and art, classes that are being removed from traditional schools. The teachers are available daily for anything. I am amazed by the program and how happy my children have become. My family is much more relaxed and I am watching my childrens’ minds grow daily.”
JMG said, “Glad no one closed the comments to this article like they did right after the Times piece was published. One of the things that irked me most were  comments from the readers at the bottom of the article. My 11 year old read a few after the article and he asked, “Mom, have they ever even spoken with anyone who uses K12?” If he can point out bias and propaganda (ironically, the unit we happened to be covering in one of his K12 courses), why can’t an adult? It was sad to see a complete misrepresentation of the program, the parents and students.”
Gail said, “I speak as a learning coach for my two children, 10 and 8, who have attended Georgia Cyber Academy for 4 1/2 years. I have an MBA and a masters degree in health administration. Although an advanced degree is not necessary for success, I do think my input and interest enhance my kids’ learning experience. We have been very satisfied with K12′s curriculum and with GCA as an option. To me, GCA offers the best of all worlds. It is state-funded, so some of my tax dollars actually go back to my kids’ education. They are able to move at an accelerated pace in some subjects. This keeps them challenged in the areas where they are strongest. They take the state standardized test every year, and they have the option (which I chose to do) of taking the ITBS also. GCA offers many interactive online lessons taught by certified teachers. GCA also requires 3 to 4 five-paragraph essays per student each year. These are reviewed and scored by GCA-certified teachers, providing good feedback in this important area. Scheduling is more flexible than in brick & mortar schools, and there are less distractions administratively. The online tools are amazingly fun and thorough, and they are balanced by an equally impressive set of offline textbooks, worksheets, and writing and math assignments. GCA offers many field trip opportunities, but I do also consider it important for my kids to have several other weekly activities where they interact with kids their age. We do scouts, music programs, tennis, and track. I’m sure not all learning coaches are able to stay as organized and persistent as needed, but GCA still offers a great alternative in my opinion. I am thankful to have this choice, and I feel my kids will one day be very equipped educationally to be productive members of society. They will also carry values which my husband and I think are important.”
Don’t know about you, but I’ve cancelled my subscription to the New York Times, a once great paper.  The vicious attack pieces on EdTech and online learning have run this year have been inaccurate, one-sided, and harmful to people and groups attempting to improve American education.
Disclosures: I am an advocate for innovations in learning with a passionate interest in expanding access to quality options for students in this country and worldwide.  I am a director of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).  K12, Inc. is an iNACOL and Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.  I support the work of Digital Learning Now and believe it is the most comprehensive and bipartisan guidance available for state policy makers. 

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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