The WCCUSD School Board will hear a charter petition for the “Uplift Contra Costa” charter school on Wednesday, March 29. As an organization with a core mission of ensuring an excellent public education for all West Contra Costa students, Education Matters strongly opposes the Uplift petition and we urge the School Board to reject it.
We are deeply concerned with Uplift Contra Costa’s petition. The proposed school may be connected with K12 Inc., a for-profit company with a troubling record of underserving students.
K12 is a publicly traded (on the stock market) company and one of the largest operators of for-profit charter schools around the nation. We believe that making money off students is deeply misguided, and the idea that profit, stock prices, and shareholders can influence the decisions of school leaders is simply wrong. By contrast, each of the charter public schools in West Contra Costa are managed by not-for-profit organizations and led by deeply committed educators. The only bottom line that matters for schools should be providing students with the best possible education.
We do not believe that a K12 partner school will provide a quality education for our students. A 2016 two-part investigation by the East Bay Times into K12’s California schools found that, among other things:
- Fewer than half of high school students earn diplomas. In 2014, their graduation rate was 42%. The graduation rate in WCCUSD and California is twice as high today.
- Almost none of their graduates are qualified to attend the state’s public universities. In WCCUSD, about 40% of students graduate having completed coursework requirements to apply for UC or CSU schools. Across the state, about half of graduates are eligible.
- About half of the schools’ students are not proficient in reading, and only a third are proficient in math. These levels fall far below statewide averages, but are similar to WCCUSD averages.
We are also concerned about Uplift Contra Costa’s lack of community engagement. We have not seen evidence of community demand for Uplift or other online schools. In fact, we have little reason to believe they will lead to improved student outcomes. While virtual schools can make sense for some students, face-to-face instruction is the best way to learn for the vast majority of students. Research such as a 2015 national study by Stanford University shows that students in virtual schools receive 180 fewer days of learning than those with an in-person teacher. In-person classroom interactions also provide critical opportunities for socioemotional learning and addressing to the whole child.
Given the landscape of today’s national politics, it is now more important than ever that our students get a quality public education that helps them thrive. We stand firm in our commitment to excellent, equitable education for all students in West Contra Costa – and believe that families who are seeking options deserve to choose a high quality public school for their child.
Thus, we do not believe that K12 and Uplift Contra Costa are fit to serve our community, and urge the WCCUSD school board – and all those who believe in great public schools – to oppose the Uplift Contra Costa charter petition.