Full-time cyber schools expanding despite no evidence of their effectiveness, new report finds
Study finds more questions than answers about the benefit of full-time virtual schools
EAST LANSING, Mich. (Oct. 25, 2011) — Full-time virtual schools are expanding despite no high-quality evidence that they are effective, according to a new report released today.
Cash-strapped states and school districts are using online education — including full-time virtual schools with no face-to-face contact between students and teachers — as a lower-cost alternative to traditional public schools. In states such as Florida, virtual schools are used as a loophole in laws that limit the size of classes.
According to the report, authored by University of Colorado education professors Gene V Glass and Kevin G. Welner, full-time "cyber schools" are now operating in 27 states. In at least one case in Arizona, a private firm outsourced essay grading to low-paid workers in India.
"Private operators are gaining access to large streams of public revenue to run cyber schools," Glass said. "But school districts are not getting full information on the actual costs of these programs, so it's not clear if taxpayer money is being used effectively — or properly."
Cyber schools are subject to only minimal government oversight, according to the report.
"We have to make sure that cyber schools don't become just a cheap way of providing second-rate service to disadvantaged schools and students," Glass said.