State auditor says parents should ‘be concerned’ about North Carolina Virtual Public School

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A performance audit by the North Carolina State Auditor found North Carolina Virtual Public School was not fulfilling its promise to students.

The state’s audit lists the following findings:

  1. Eight of 12 NCVPS courses audited did not meet required curriculum content standards, increasing the risk that students would not be taught all required subject matter.
  2. There was no assurance that 11 of 12 NCVPS courses audited met adopted standards for rigor, increasing the risk that students may not master the course material.
  3. NCVPS teacher evaluations were not performed consistently and in accordance with NCVPS policy.
  4. NCVPS course content was not properly cited to avoid copyright infringement.

In an interview with CBS 17, State Auditor Beth Wood said families should be concerned with the findings.

“Be concerned that these online classes may not be preparing your children for the next grade or for college,” said Wood.

Wood questioned the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s, who operates NCVPS, ability to handle the increasing number of students looking for online courses as a result of COVID-19.

“Schools are already saying there’s going to be a lot more virtual training but I have shown in this audit that what DPI has in place for online classes is not meeting the standards of what DPI is advertising and what parents should be expecting is just not there,” said Wood.

To read the entire audit report, click here.

Wood said testing utilizes memorization and multiplication rather than critical thinking or problem solving, the course content may not stay with a student. Wood advised parents to become involed.

“Question the quality of the courses. Is it challenging enough for your student, your child to walk away with all they would hope they would learn before moving on to the next grade or college,” Wood said.

Response from DPI

The audit report was accompanied by a response from the office of the superintendent of public instruction. That response reads as follows:

“Throughout the course of this audit, NCVPS raised multiple concerns related to audit methodology used.

  • This audit did not include the most important part of any classroom (digital or physical): the teacher.
  • This audit did not include classroom instruction or student feedback.
  • This audit did not include the objective standardized assessment results of NCVPS students

DPI agrees with some audit findings

In it’s response to the state, DPI said it agreed with the third finding that teacher evaluations were not performed consistently. The department said their own internal audit found the same thing and steps were already taken to resolve the issues.

The department said a new teacher observation tool was introduced and it being implemented in phase.

DPI also agreed with the state on the fourth finding that course content was not properly cited. The department said they started to used an “originality detection software”.

While DPI did not make anyone available for an interview with CBS 17, they answered some questions via email.

CBS 17 asked, what is your response to the state’s assessment that 8 of 12  audited NCVPS  courses  did  not  meet  required  curriculum  content  standard?

DPI: NC Virtual offers about 130 courses a year for students in middle and high school.  The auditors only evaluated 12 of the 130 which is less than 10% of our course catalog. Please consult pages 55-58 to see a full explanation of why NC DPI disagrees with the findings.  

CBS 17 asked, how do you reassure families with students taking NCVPS courses that students are getting an adequate education? 

DPI: All of our courses are taught by NC certified teachers who have been through rigorous training on how to teach online for NC Virtual.  Their job is to ensure all students are challenged, receive feedback on assignments, and build relationships in the class.  NCVPS teachers are trained to make purposeful choices to increase instructor presence and student engagement in a course. High-quality instruction by a well-trained teacher is more important than course materials and textbooks. The impact of the teachers on student learning was ignored by the auditors.

CBS 17 asked, with COVID-19 turning more students to virtual learning, how do you reassure families who may be hesitant to enroll in NCVPS courses?

DPI: NCVirtual has been the solution for nearly 600,000 student enrollments over the course of 13 years.  The ultimate goal is to ensure that all students regardless of zip code have exposure to high quality instruction and engaging curriculum aligned to standards. NCVPS is committed to ensuring that all courses are developed in full compliance with state and national standards and highly qualified teachers are hired to provide optimal instruction. This combination is ideal for student success.   Our teachers are also required to communicate with families and schools and provide feedback on most assignments within 24 hours in order for students to have real-time feedback.  Through this vibrant communication channel between families and teachers, our courses are personalized to meet each student’s learning needs.  

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