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An in-depth look by I-News - a Colorado-based nonprofit investigative news collaborative, Education News Colorado, and KUNC at the state’s online K-12 schools. Topics include: online K-12 school performance, state- and district-level oversight, and for-profit Education Management Organizations, such as K12 Inc.

School District To Decide Fate Of K-12 Virtual School Charter

The future of the state’s largest virtual K-12 school will be decided by Adams 12 Five Star Board of Education members Wednesday night.

12-year-old Colorado Virtual Academy is seeking a one-year extension to its charter agreement with the school district. If the school district rejects the plan, COVA officials will have to find another authorizer to oversee school operations by this summer, or face closure.

At a preliminary meeting January 16, Adams 12 Five Star staff recommended that Board of Education members not renew the school’s charter, citing academic performance and other governance concerns in their presentation. The school is currently on a Priority Improvement plan, the third lowest of four academic rankings. Charter School Liaison Patti Gilmour said:

COVA’s student achievement data documents a pattern of multiple years of low growth, low proficiency, failure to close student achievement gaps between student sub groups and unacceptable graduation rates. COVA’s growth trajectory makes it improbable that improvement status can be attained in two years.”

Since the meeting, COVA officials have submitted more information on academic growth [.pdf] and other issues raised at the January 16 meeting. Regarding the school’s 22 percent graduation rate, the reply notes that 22 percent is a “significant improvement” from 12 percent the previous year. It says COVA’s incoming students are more credit deficient compared to returning students. For example, “55 percent of new high school students are credit deficient based on cohort year.”

The document also answers questions surrounding governance, and compliance issues raised by Adams 12 Five Star about COVA’s special education policies. A district audit found COVA to be out of compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act and Colorado’s Rules for administration of the Exceptional Children’s Educational Act [.pdf].

COVA said that it has hired Ed Stienberg [.pdf], the former Colorado Department of Education director of special education to review the school’s program. “These audit findings are not unusual or atypical for a school organization as large as COVA, but are matters that should be corrected,” the document reads.

Wednesday night’s meeting kicks off at 7 p.m.

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