DeVos praises virtual schools, but new research points to problems
A new study adds to the body of research showing that online-only schools don’t serve low-performing students
It was the best of times and the worst of times for virtual schools, which allow students to go to school without ever stepping into a school building.
Online schools received yet another hearty endorsement last Friday from the new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who doubled down on her opinion that these schools should expand – without any hint that she recognizes there are serious quality-control issues.
Meanwhile, an important study published last week in Education Researcher added to the growing pile of research that reveals that online-only schools tend to attract and harm the most vulnerable students. The study from RAND Corporation and New York University found that Ohio students with low test scores who enroll in online-only schools tend to fall even further behind. High-performing students fare better, but they still do worse than they would have done if they had not enrolled in a virtual school, according to the study.
The findings for the lowest achieving students are particularly troubling considering the high stakes for children who are already on the edge of failure. And, as it turns out, low-performing students tend to be drawn to cyber charter schools, the study found.
“If that’s a population they want to serve, then they need to design a system that is better for [those] students,” said Andrew McEachin, of RAND Corporation, an author of the new report.