Observations on the NEPC Report about K12 Inc.


Jeff is out of the office this week, so I’ll try to channel my “inner-Kwitowski” and offer some observations about the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) and their Report on K12 Inc.” released yesterday. 

First, though, let me direct everyone to both the K12 Response Document that we made available yesterday, and to the K12 Virtual Academies Academic Performance Trends report released by K12 in April. Both of these documents are available to download as PDFs on k12choice.com.

As to NEPC, the most important thing to remember is that this so-called “policy center” is funded by both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and especially the National Education Association (NEA). NEPC is bought and paid for by the teachers unions. This fact can affect how the center formulates its positions and recommendations on education policy. Because funding of teachers' unions can affect the center's attitude on issues related to wages and costs buy cheap articles.

How we are funded
“The National Education Policy Center is funded by contracts and grants, in addition to tax-deductible private donations made through the University of Colorado Foundation. In addition to individual donors, NEPC has received direct or indirect funding from, among others, the Ford Foundation, the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, and the National Education Association.”

NEPC is not some neutral, independent think-tank, staffed by non-partisan academic experts. NEPC has earned its reputation as the de facto research and policy arm of the unions – the interest groups that are advocating against charters, virtual charters, and school choice. They have a long history of pumping out reports, backed by incomplete data and dubious methodologies, that trumpet the policy and political views of unions and other special interests. 

We know the truth about NEPC, but many observers do not, and the mainstream media often overlooks the ties to unions and the fact that this organization and its staffers are agenda-driven. Gary Miron, Gene Glass, Kevin Welner, et al. like to identify themselves with a university and position themselves as independent researchers, but they are not. 

Remember, these are the folks who went after the non-profit Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) earlier this year, prompting a fierce counterattack from our friends at KIPP.

The attack on CMOs was riddled with errors, and so was yesterday’s report on K12. For instance, NEPC included in its analysis schools that K12 does not manage, and omitted large schools we do manage. Data on the percentage of Special Education students in our fully managed schools was incorrect, as was similar data on students qualifying for Free and Reduced Lunch.

Most alarmingly, the Report claims that students in K12-managed schools  are “falling behind”, “falling further behind,” and are “more likely to fall behind” in reading and math scores compared to students in brick-and-mortar schools.  The report, however, provides no evidence backing up this claim, e.g., test scores of students from a prior school year when they were enrolled in a brick-and-mortar school. This data is notoriously difficult for schools to get, and the NEPC didn’t present any.

Check out the academic data we provide in the K12 Academic Performance Trends report. Since 2008-09, we’ve been administering the Scantron Performance Series exam to students in grades 3-10 as a way to gauge growth over the academic year. Student growth is compared to the Scantron norm group, which is comprised of thousands of students who represent the national demographics in terms of socio-economic status and ethnicity. Our students have consistently outperformed the norm group in the majority of grade levels in both math and reading.

It’s pretty obvious that NEPC staffers aren’t exactly subject matter experts when it comes to understanding charter school law, how charters are set up and managed, and charter accountability.  Many of the open-ended "questions" in the report about charter schools are actually thoroughly addressed during the charter application process, and through the regular oversight exercised by charter authorizers.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that the conclusions of the report on K12 are inaccurate and off-the-mark. The report is really just a political assault by a well-known interest group that has an anti-charter and anti-choice agenda.

Bryan Flood
SVP, Public Affairs
K12 Inc.