The Madill Record

L OCAL AND AREA

Risks of Breakneck Growth at State’s Largest Virtual School
By Jennifer Palmer
Oklahoma Watch

Dec
29
2016
Page
B003
Clip
resized
30%

Oklahoma’s largest online
charter school is on a track of
explosive growth, nearly tripling its enrollment over three
years, to almost 8,500.
That pursuit of lightning
growth by Epic Charter Schools
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enrollment will near 10,000 by
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concerns from one top online
charter-school regulator about
whether there is too much
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least one national report warns
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charter schools can compromise
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Epic’s unconventional efIRUWV WR GULYH HQUROOPHQW DOVR
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other tactics, it gives out concert
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accounts that families can
use to buy their curriculum or
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love it. Parents of some stuGHQWV DSSODXG WKH SURJUDP
saying it gives them the freeGRP RI KRPHVFKRROLQJ ZLWK
some of the
benefits of a
public school.
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families are
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appreciate, or
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Just over a quarter of Epic’s
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Those marks contrast with
Epic’s posting a 100 percent
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only one other school in the
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a virtual school the state is
trying to close.
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Rebecca Wilkinson, execuWLYH GLUHFWRU RI WKH 6WDWHZLGH
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which oversees all of the state’s
online schools. “I’ve got lots of
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choice for. But more than anything, these large numbers of
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the number that matters most
to him is enrollment.
“The statistic that matters
to us is how many parents say
our school is the best choice for
them every year. We feel like
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Epic’s Rise
Epic Charter Schools was
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charter school to form in OklaKRPD$WWKHWLPHLQLW
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in Weleetka.
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enrollment of more than 1,700
for the year. Its tenure has
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investigation into allegations of
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Epic Charter Schools is the
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Strategies Inc., a nonprofit
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contracts with Epic Youth SerYLFHVDIRUSURÀWFRPSDQ\WKDW
manages the school for a fee of
10 percent of Epic’s gross revenue. Epic Youth Services, in
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company
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leaps in 2014-2015, when the
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by 50 percent, to nearly 4,400.
This year, Epic also became
the first Oklahoma charter
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California last month.
Success with SelfDiscipline
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charter schools cater to parents
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home.
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schools take their courses mainly by computer, often using
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parents regularly via email,
telephone or in-person visits.
Online school operators say
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as athletes, musicians, teenage
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Matthew Whittington, of
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walls of his high school was
about rearranging time for his
passion: gymnastics.
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home to a mess of homework.
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another competitive gymnast
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eyeing college.
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Most of the growth at virtual
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by Epic’s expansion.
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enrollments at virtual schools
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critical of virtual charter
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by full-time virtual charter
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for states to “make the tough
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low-performing virtual charter
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maximum enrollment levels
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environment, rather than just
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virtual schools can open each
year. Oklahoma has no limits
on enrollment in virtual schools
or the number of schools.
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improve quality.
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work on improving the program
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sets a cut-off for enrollment,
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remain low. In 2014-2015,
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44 percent in 2012-2013 to 33
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to 28 percent.
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six-year rates as well as the
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school to achieve a high school
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rate.
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school in subsequent years,
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there are certain times of the
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elsewhere.
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up with local schools.
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experiences.
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parents sought a virtual school
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issues, or sports.
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another wrote.

These parents may be
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enrollment is by engaging in
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two Oklahoma virtual charters,
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Epic’s recent contests for
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of concert tickets to see Selena
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an archery range.
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of money on marketing because
they rely on enrollment for
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schools.
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(Editor’s Note: Oklahoma
:DWFKLVD QRQSURÀWQRQSDUtisan media organization that
produces in-depth and investigative content on public-policy
issues facing the state. For more
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oklahomawatch.org.)

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Property of OPS News Tracker and members of the Oklahoma Press Association.

The Newkirk Herald Journal

Dec
29
2016
Page
0008
Clip
resized
37%

Oklahoma virtual 
charter school receives
high marks
Editor’s Note: The EPIC Charter School was founded by
Newkirk graduate David Chaney, son of Roy and Nancy
Chaney. There are Epic students and staff from Newkirk.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Office of Educational Quality &
Accountability (OEQA) has released a first-ever and positive,
in-depth performance review of EPIC Charter School, which
has approximately 9,000 students and teachers in most towns
across Oklahoma. 
 In the report, available at : www.oeqa.ok.gov, EPIC is commended
in various areas of operation and given recommendations for
how to accommodate the  student  growth, the rate of which
vastly exceeds any other school in Oklahoma.
  The independent OEQA report was commissioned by
the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. It exceeds
200 pages and is structured in a format of commendations and
recommendations in five distinct areas: Management, Personnel
and Communications; Instructional Delivery; Business
Operations; Facilities Management; and Technology.
 Among its highlights:
•   4 commendations for EPIC in Management, Personnel and
Staff, including its staff and parent communications and a
finding of “effective” professional development.
•   17 commendations for Instructional Delivery, with notable
recognition of its blended learning delivery system and
strategies, its special education program, its  students’ steady
improvement on the ACT and amid a decline in scores statewide,
and its graduate management support system.
•   8 commendations for its Business Operations and Facilities
Management
•   6 commendations in Technology and the integrity of its IT
systems.
•      Recommendations to develop a long-term strategic plan,
gain more from such third-parties as landlords and continue
its ongoing efforts to engage students in more group learning
and interactions.
•   No recommendations were found to be serious or required
immediate action.
 OEQA Executive Director Dr. Daniel Craig praised EPIC for
its full cooperation in the performance review, indicating it
had impressive programs, financial efficiency and appeared
committed to optimizing student success amid robust growth.
 “Our team was impressed with EPIC. In many areas, it is on par
or better than the districts we compared it to for the purpose of
this report, which is our practice for any performance review,”
Dr. Craig said. “As with any review, we provide recommendations
for continued improvement but we consider this a positive
performance review for EPIC.”
  R e b e c c a Wi l k i n s o n , e x e c u t i v e d i r e c t o r o f t h e
Statewide  Vir tual  Char ter  S chool  B oard, said the
Statewide  Virtual  Charter  SchoolBoard commissioned
the school performance reviews for a number of reasons. 
 “The Board recognizes the expertise of the OEQA in education
data collection and analysis, and they recognize their ability to
provide quality independent school performance reviews,” she
said. “The Board also took this step in an effort to fulfill their
statutory oversight responsibilities and to provide another layer
in fair accounting of school performance. I am pleased with the
results of the EPIC report and appreciate the efforts of both the
OEQA and EPIC Charter School.”
 EPIC Superintendent David Chaney concurred the performance
review process had been a meaningful experience for staff and
faculty. EPIC already has implemented some of the strategies
OEQA included in its report, he said, and will be discussing the
report with its board for future planning.
  “When you are experiencing the growth we’ve had, having
an independent review like this is extremely helpful. It affirms
what you are doing right and sheds light on continuous
improvement, which should be the model for any school,” he
said.  “We are grateful the Statewide  Virtual  Board allowed
us to be the first virtual school in Oklahoma to be evaluated
in such a rigorous, objective manner, and we encourage our
colleagues in preK-12 public education to work with OEQA
on performance, too.”

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