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Pearson Will Open Four New Connections Academy Virtual Charter Schools for the 2019 Fall Semester

By Henry Kronk
May 09, 2019

On May 7th, Pearson announced that Connections Academy will open four new virtual charter schools for the 2019-20 school year. The four new virtual charter schools will include two in California and one in Minnesota. An existing school in Tennessee has also gained state approval.

Connections Academy is a virtual charter school network that currently operates in 28 U.S. states (the addition of Tennessee will make it 29). It is owned by Pearson and stands as the second largest virtual charter school operator in the United States, behind K-12 Inc.

“Connections Academy virtual schools fit squarely with the company’s vision of the digital transformation of education and highlight Pearson’s commitment to K-12 education. We are pleased to bring online school to more learners who want a high quality alternative to the traditional classroom and look forward to working with these new schools and authorizers who make this form of education possible,” commented Tom ap Simon, managing director for Pearson’s Online & Blended Learning division.

Connections Academy Have Delivered Strong Results for Pearson

This growth exceeds 2018 in terms of numbers of institutions opened. (Last year, Pearson launched three new Connections Academy partnerships.)

Compared to its other holdings, Connections Academy has provided Pearson with some of its most consistent growth in revenue over the last few years.

According to unaudited company reporting, underlying revenue was down 1% in 2018 for Pearson, but revenue from Connections Academy increased 8%. The virtual charter network, along with online program manager, professional certification, and English language instruction holdings accounted for 35% of Pearson’s total revenue.

That revenue increase was brought about in part by an 11% enrollment increase. Connections Academy now serves 73,000 full-time equivalent students who attend 37 different institutions (this does not include the recently announced locations).

Scrutiny of Virtual Charter Schools Remains

This growth has continued amid ongoing scrutiny of virtual charter schools. The privately run schools typically do not perform as well as their face-to-face counterparts, and that often signals the attention of state regulators.

The New Mexico Connections Academy received two failing grades in terms of student performance in recent years and, in 2018, was ordered to be closed by the state’s Public Education Department. The virtual charter school appealed the decision. While the suit makes its way through court, New Mexico Connections Academy has been allowed to remain open.

More recently, North Carolina Connections Academy has sought to separate itself from Pearson. The effort cleared the hurdle of approval from the state Charter Schools Advisory Board on Monday. It is still subject to approval from the North Carolina Board of Education. The school has earned performance grades of D for the past three school years.

According to the 2018 unaudited results news release cited above, many families are very happy with Connections Academy, with “93% of families with enrolled students stating they would recommend our virtual schools to others and 95% agreeing that the curriculum is of high quality.”

In a separate news release announcing the four new schools in 2019, Pearson also released info on top reasons families choose virtual charters: “The 2019  Connections Academy parent survey shows top reasons for enrollment include a desire for: flexibility (48%), a different public school (37%), a safe environment (36%), more involvement with child’s education (25%). Twenty-three percent of parents say they enrolled their child to avoid bullying, while 17% have a child with health issues.”

Featured Image: Avel Chuklanov, Unsplash.