Originally published on Washington Business Journal – October 25, 2017
Herndon-based online education company K12 Inc. has partnered with Southern New Hampshire University to create training modules and an advanced degree in online teaching — a move it hopes will boost teaching quality and retention and, eventually, its own bottom line.
The multimillion-dollar, multiyear contract — K12 declined to outline a specific dollar amount — is part of the local company’s push to better prepare teachers for an online or blended course that better aligns with where the industry is headed.
“When we looked at what was out there and what was available, we were simply not impressed,” said CEO Stuart Udell in an interview. “We think this is good for teachers, good for kids and ultimately, we hope, good for business.”
Under the partnership, K12 will develop a training module that will be available to the company’s nearly 5,000 teachers, as well as a new “microcredential” programs that it will use to train existing and new teachers. Those credential programs would count toward a full master’s in online teaching. Eventually, that degree will be offered to non-K12 consumers across the country.
The new program is also part of a larger effort to make sure K12 is attracting and retaining quality teachers, Udell said. “We just think that like schools, which have needed to evolve with technological change and a changing consumer and learning experience, education requirements have to as well,” he said. “Being a great teacher is really, really hard. Being a great teacher in a technological environment is even harder.”
K12 also recently introduced a national instructional coaching program that includes teacher observation and feedback, in hopes of improving performance, Udell said in a Aug. 5 earnings call to discuss the company’s fiscal fourth-quarter results. In addition to better student outcomes, Udell said on the call the company was eyeing the move for “long-term growth and profitability.”
K12’s revenue has fluctuated in recent years, from $848.2 million in fiscal 2013 up to $948.3 million in fiscal 2015, before dropping to $872.7 million in fiscal 2016. Revenue grew slightly to $888.5 million in fiscal 2017, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Udell was upbeat about the coming years, saying that one-time charges of $11.4 million and $3.8 million during fiscal 2017 dragged down its overall operating income. He pointed to several states, including Pennsylvania, Florida and West Virginia, that had recently passed legislation allowing K12 to operate more extensively there.
But he matched his optimism with caution on the August conference call. “While we are very excited about these entirely new opportunities, they are at an early stage,” he said then. “Therefore, we are not changing our view for enrollment growth for fiscal 2018.”