Online Schools Continue to Fall Behind

Online school outcomes continue to be consistently below traditional public schools. This, according to the 4th Annual Virtual Schools Report published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) and funded by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

NEPC 2016Even though this finding has been well known for some time, these schools continue to expand:

With key providers vigorously lobbying legislatures and national organizations promoting school choice, virtual schooling now has a firm foothold: 30 states and the District of Columbia allow full-time virtual schools and blended schools to operate, and even more states allow, or in some cases require, one or more courses to be delivered online to district public school students.

…our findings indicate for-profit EMOs continue to dominate and increased their market share from 2012- 13 and again from 2013-14.

Not all online schools are alike:

Our findings indicate that district operated virtual schools and blended schools, as well as virtual schools and blended schools operated by nonprofit EMOs, or no EMO at all, are more likely to perform better.

The problem is the lack of transparency. And as a result:

There is not a single positive sign from the empirical evidence presented here. Given this picture, continued expansion seems unwise. More research is needed; and to enable such research, state oversight agencies need to require more, and better refined, data.

The study’s recommendations:

  • Slow or stop the growth  of virtual schools;
  • Specify and enforce sanctions for virtual schools  if they fail to improve performance;
  • Require virtual schools and blended schools to devote more resources
    to instruction, particularly by specifying a maximum ratio of students to teachers;
  • Ensure that virtual schools fully report data related to students and teachers;
  • Design new outcome measures;
  • More research to identify funding and accountability mechanisms.

Read the report.

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