DC think tank: California online schools group should be investigated

A Washington, D.C., think tank issued a report that says California Virtual Acadmies, a major online school network, has had more dropouts than graduates in most years. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A report released Thursday by a labor group-affiliated Washington think tank is questioning the education provided by an online public school program that says it is in a union fight.

The report by In the Public Interest, a group funded by unions, says the thousands of students enrolled in the California Virtual Academies online public school known as CAVA are receiving a  substandard education by most measures.

"So in every year since CAVA began graduating students, with the exception of 2013, it has produced more dropouts than graduates,” said Shahrzad Habibi, who authored the report.

She said state test score data show that 71 percent of California public schools performed better than the virtual academies.

The report calls on California officials to investigate the online schools’ administration and finances.

California Virtual Academies enrolls about 14,000 kindergarten to 12th grade students through 11 sites, including those in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Fresno. It is run by a national for-profit company called K12 Inc.

In a written statement, California Virtual Academies did not dispute the reported low student performance numbers, but denied other allegations in the study, which it called “inaccurate and deeply flawed.”

“The report relies primarily on misinformation from the California Teachers Association — the union currently engaged in a coordinated and well-funded distortion campaign to unionize the eleven independent California Virtual Academies charter schools.”

In the Public Interest, which supports the work of labor unions, partnered with the American Federation of Teachers last year on a website to track for-profit charter school companies.