Here's an outsourcing story that may interest parents sending their kids, as it were, to Washington Virtual Academies and the Idaho Virtual Academy (BTW, compare their website designs): They evidently have been tutored, and their papers checked, not by American educators, but by residents of Bangalore, India.
These schools, like a number of other virtuals around the country, rely heavily on a company called K12 Inc., based in Virginia, for large chunks of its professional work - curriculum and much of the educator assistance students get. On August 25, a blogger in Arizona (where another of the K12 virtuals is located) posted something interesting: "In the fall of 2006, AZVA began sending papers from middle school students to India to be "marked." K12 Inc., the parent company of AZVA, contracted with Socratic Learning, Inc., a company based in Plano, Texas. The actual work was completed by Tutors Worldwide (TWWI). According to TWWI's Who we are page: 'Incepted in January 2004 as a fully owned subsidiary of Socratic Learning Inc.(USA), we are among the first companies in India to provide online educational support in English Language Arts, Science and Math to educational districts, schools and the student community worldwide.'"
David Safier, the blogger (and a retired English teacher), goes on: "AZVA [the Arizona virtual] didn't inform parents that their children's papers were being sent to India. When the first assignment was returned, some parents noticed that their children were being referred to in the comments using the wrong gender and that the language used in some of the comments didn't sound like it was written by a U.S. resident. The parents used an electronic communications platform provided by AZVA to complain among themselves about the outsourcing of papers. Then some of them complained to AZVA. AZVA gave parents some kind of assurances that the papers would no longer be sent to India.However, middle school papers continued to be sent to India for the entire 2006-2007 school year, then high school papers were sent during the 2007-2008 school year."
Of relevance to the Northwest, those schools whose work was outsourced across the close include the Idaho and Washington virtuals.
K12 has taken issue some parts of Safier's post, but the outsourcing of the education work evidently is undisputed. (The biggest point at issue seems to be exactly what information about the students, in addition to their actual work, was or wasn't sent to India.) The outsourcing has been noted in national education journals and apparently was ended after Safier's post got attention.
Education Week also notes this: "K12’s recent experiment with outsourcing to India is not the only example of an education company using the expertise of people in other countries. At least one other company has enlisted personnel based overseas for educational support. Smarthinking Inc., which helps colleges, universities, and some K-12 schools connect students with tutoring services in a variety of academic subjects through the Internet, employs tutors living in Canada, Chile, India, the Philippines, and South Africa, according to Burck Smith, the chief executive officer and co-founder of the Washington-based company."
(Hat tip to our Idaho correspondent who follows education issues closely.)