LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A dismal graduation rate has prompted the Lawrence School District to take over a virtual school, and its future could be in jeopardy if its academic performance doesn’t improve, district officials said.
Lawrence Virtual High School’s graduation rate was just 26.3 percent last semester, The Lawrence Journal-World (http://bit.ly/1d9GkUk ) reported. That compared with an 88 percent graduation rate for Lawrence High School and 94 percent at Free State High School.
“If we can do it well, we plan to continue,” Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll said of the virtual school. “It’s all about quality for me. There is a need across Kansas, as evidenced by the enrollment we have, but we’ve got to do it well.”
Private company K12 Inc. has been running the virtual school, and its instructors will continue teaching through the end of the year, after which district employees will take over teaching K12 Inc.’s curriculum.
That shift will improve the school and make it stand out in an increasingly competitive market, principal Keith Wilson said.
“I want teachers that know Kansas,” Wilson said. “I want teachers that know Lawrence. I want teachers that know the Midwest values and state expectations and district content and so on, rather than someone located somewhere else in the country that may not have the buy-in, understanding and sensitivity to our district and state needs.”
Wilson said K12 Inc. employs about 15 instructors for Lawrence Virtual High School. The school enrolls students from throughout the state. There are 93 virtual schools operating in Kansas, according to the Kansas State Department of Education. Many of those are operated by private, for-profit companies.
Doll said virtual schools tend to post lower test scores because they draw students who may already have been having problems with traditional schools. Also, the business model of for-profit companies that operate them doesn’t necessarily take the best interests of the students into account.
“For-profits tend to be in the business of enrolling lots of kids, and then not serving their needs, which is exactly why we’re taking the high school over,” Doll said.
Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com