K12 Inc. has impressive credentials

by Hunter Bishop
Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

So what is K12 Inc. and what does it teach?

K12 Inc. was founded in 1999 by Ron Packard, who invited former U.S. Secretary of Education and "Drug Czar" Bill Bennett to develop the curriculum. Bennett's book, "The Educated Child," was Packard's inspiration to form K12.

Bennett, also author of the best-selling "Book of Virtues," said in a 2003 interview posted on the Web site Beliefnet.com, that the K12 curriculum has a point of view.

"We believe in certain things, ... in certain ideas of right and wrong, and of knowledge and truth and that's manifest in our program. We're centered in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we do not ignore faith and religion, we do not ignore the arguments against evolution, because there are some."

Jeff Kwitowski, a spokesman for K12, said that statement is not "the" underlying principle of K12, "but it's one of them."

"Certainly we teach the theory of evolution," Kwitowski said. "We don't ignore the scientific facts. We're clear that most scientists believe that evolution is a scientific fact."

In August 2001, the Hawaii Board of Education unanimously rejected the study of creationism in public school science classes and rejected proposals that would give equal weight to the study of alternative views in state performance standards.

A K12 seventh-grade science curriculum faxed to the Tribune-Herald by Kwitowski shows that it teaches evolution as scientific theory and discusses what most scientists "think" about the origins or life on Earth without mentioning alternative theories. But Kwitowski said parents have a right to discuss other points of view, including intelligent design and creationism, in the virtual classroom. "It would be wrong not to," he said.

Mark Christiano is principal of Kihei Public Charter High School on Maui, where the K12 program has been in use for a year and has enrolled 40 students so far.

"It's a core knowledge curriculum, well-planned and well-delivered," Christiano said. Students working with the curriculum have exceeded standards in every state where it has been implemented, he said.

Christiano said there are no religious references in the K12 curriculum taught at Kihei. "That's bad mojo," he said, but he also did not know whether the K-8 science curriculum included any discussion of evolution.


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