NASHVILLE - State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, is asking state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman to conduct an independent review of the operations and effectiveness of a for-profit virtual school operating under contract with the Union County school system.
In a letter to Huffman, sent Wednesday, Berke cites a study released this month by the National Education Policy Center that is critical of the company, K12 Inc., based on an analysis of the firm's national operations in 2010-11.
Among other things, the study noted that only 27.7 percent of K12 schools reported meeting Adequate Yearly Progress in 2010-11. About the same percentage of virtual schools reported making AYP. Nationally, some 52 percent of public schools met the standard.
While meeting Adequate Yearly Progress is a "relatively crude indicator of whether or not schools are meeting state standards," the study says, it notes the "extremely large differences" such as the 25 percentage point AYP disparity "warrant further attention."
In his letter Huffman, a copy of which went to Gov. Bill Haslam, Berke, a critic of K12, said he is "troubled" by the study's findings. He noted it "illustrates why K12 Inc. fails to meet Tennessee's high standard for academic achievement."
K12 began operating in Union County during the 2011-12 academic year. That came after the for-profit company launched a 2011 lobbying blitz in the General Assembly and won approval for for-profit online vendors to operate.
Berke said he had several bills this year to impose state accountability standards on education vendors like K12 Inc. K12's operations "funnel precious taxpayer dollars into corporate coffers while local school systems suffer from increasingly limited resources," Berke said in his letter. "Their ultimate accountability is to their shareholders, not our taxpayers."