Recent attacks and inaccurate statements about the integrity and success of Primavera Online and its students demand a proper response. On behalf of the more than 200,000 students we have served over the past 18 years, the truth about us deserves to be told.
- The Arizona Republic reports our dropout rate at 49 percent. This is inaccurate, and we are working with the Arizona Department of Education to correct errors made when all schools transitioned to the state’s new data system in 2015-2016. Once finalized, we expect our dropout rates to resume being much lower than that of our alternative school peers.
- The Republic has reported multiple student-to-teacher ratios ranging from 215 to 1, most recently 68 to 1. Both numbers are ludicrous and evidence of The Republic’s baseless reporting. Our average class size last year was 33 students per teacher.
- The Republic states we raised teacher salaries by 1 percent. Again, inaccurate. Teachers’ base salaries were increased an average of 15 percent over the last two years, while significant cost increases to health care benefits have been covered by Primavera – not passed on to our teachers.
- The Republic reports that we – like half of all schools throughout the state – perform below state average on AzMERIT. What they don’t report is that our scores exceed those of other alternative schools. More than 70 percent of Primavera students are considered at-risk of not graduating, yet our passing scores are higher than our peers by 13 percent in math and 20 percent in English. For the past three years, Primavera’s AzMERIT improvement has outpaced the state’s average by increasing 7 percent in ELA and 10 percent in mathematics.
The Republic has failed to publish these facts, which we have submitted to them on several occasions, possibly because they don’t fit into their narrative against charter schools.
What they do not acknowledge is the immense value Primavera provides to the people of Arizona.
Primavera educated 22,000 students last school year. The vast majority of these students chose Primavera to recover graduation credits over the other 150 alternative schools throughout the state. In fact, one in 10 of all Arizona high school seniors chose to enroll in a Primavera course last year.
For taxpayers worried about overpaying for education services, that isn’t happening. Safeguards to protect Arizonans from paying more than once for a child’s education already exist in statute. The state splits funding proportionally between all schools that educate each child.
Primavera also has a large full-time student body – 20 percent of whom are adults between 18 and 21. We graduated nearly 1,000 of these students last year alone. Most of our graduates were at least one year behind after attending other high schools. These matter because according to the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable 2018 report, these graduates alone prevented an approximate $415 million in total estimated lifetime loss for Arizona.
Primavera also saved families approximately $1.2 million last summer alone by enrolling over 6,700 students who would have otherwise paid $180 per class to traditional district summer school programs. Primavera’s unique ability to help any student recover credits so that they can graduate with their classmates at their home school (or ours), doesn’t cost the state one penny more. In fact, it saves everyone money. And, unlike other schools, Arizona’s online schools are required to educate every student 20 percent more time for less state funding per pupil than brick and mortar schools.
To provide a rigorous and effective program, we created the technology and digital curriculum that powers Primavera’s online platform. This is an ongoing endeavor to innovate how students learn and teachers teach in the modern era. Our curriculum and technology have won over 60 prestigious regional and national awards. Primavera’s unique innovations include tools that allow teachers to track student progress and foster engagement. Primavera is nationally regarded as a pioneer in online education, and as an Arizona charter school, we continually re-invest our resources to give students the top-notch education they deserve.
Since 1994, the private sector has successfully played a critical role in improving the quality of public education by providing school choice. Primavera is an essential piece of that success. Our 18 years of experience has taught us what works and more importantly, what doesn’t. We invest heavily in our faculty, staff, curriculum, and technology. Unlike a brick and mortar school built for a fixed cost, enterprise-level education platforms continually evolve to meet the changing needs of the modern student.
We’re 500 employees strong – dedicated professionals providing even the most disadvantaged students with the highest quality education and proud of the work and service we provide. It’s unfortunate that The Republic has chosen a one-sided attack that impugned the positive impact Primavera has in Arizona.
Damian Creamer is founder of Primavera Online Schools and StrongMind. Editor’s Note: Managing Editor Gary Grado has a relative who is an employee of Primavera.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.