Monday, February 12, 2018

As Online Schools Expand, So Do Questions About Their Performance - WSJ

As Online Schools Expand, So Do Questions About Their Performance - WSJ:

As Online Schools Expand, So Do Questions About Their Performance
Online classrooms offer greater flexibility and freedom, but a review of more than 400 full-time virtual schools shows they deliver relatively poor performance and low graduation rates



After years of steady growth, virtual schools are experiencing a blip as some states attempt to claw back public funds, citing student inactivity online, or force schools to close due to habitual poor performance.
Virtual schools, where all classes are online and old-fashioned classrooms don’t exist, had full-time student enrollment of about 300,000 last school year, or less than 1% of the nation’s nearly 51 million public-school students, according to a Wall Street Journal review of enrollment data. That is up from about 199,000 in the 2011-12 school year, under a tally by the National Education Policy Center.

Online charter schools, which are publicly funded but run by private entities, educate the bulk of these students. The popularity of the schools has increased substantially in the past decade, with many providing live learning sessions.
The greater flexibility and freedom offered by online classrooms can help some students thrive, including young professional athletes with busy training schedules, home-schoolers and victims of harassment. “It’s a bully-free area,” said Brenden Santos, a 12-year-old in Raleigh, N.C., who often starts his school day in his bedroom, working on a school-provided laptop. Students are typically required to take state end-of-course exams.
But a review of more than 400 full-time virtual schools in 34 states and the District of Columbia shows they deliver relatively poor performance and low graduation rates compared with public schools overall.
Those performance levels and student-participation concerns have brought virtual schools under increasing scrutiny, although some educators and researchers say not enough states are holding the schools accountable.

In Ohio, state audits found that a prominent virtual charter school, Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow , or ECOT, didn’t educate as many students as the school indicated, based on logon data and offline participation information. The state demanded the school return nearly $80 million in funding and began reducing payments to the school. ECOT says the reduced payments caused its shutdown last month, leaving 12,000 students to enroll elsewhere. The school denies the allegation and is challenging the state’s methodology in the Ohio supreme court.
The California Department of Education has ordered California Virtual Academies network, or CAVA, to pay back about $2 million to the state, saying it improperly used state funds and citing the school for unsupported student attendance. CAVA said in a statement there was no misuse of public funds and it planned to appeal the decision.

In New Mexico, a state commission voted in December to reject a renewal application for the virtual school New Mexico Connections Academy, citing poor academic performance. An administrator at the school said it has appealed the decision. In Indiana, Hoosier As Online Schools Expand, So Do Questions About Their Performance - WSJ:


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