Friday, June 17, 2016

Significant Underperformance by Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now (50CAN) and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) today released a report providing specific policy recommendations to help states better hold full-time virtual charter schools accountable for student results. While the report notes that some students do well in a full-time virtual charter school environment, too many of these schools are not providing a quality educational program to the vast majority of their students, while enrolling too many who are simply not a good fit for attending a fully online school.

The report, titled A Call to Action to Improve the Quality of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools,  builds on previous studies by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), and Mathematica, that found that when compared to their classroom-based traditional public school counterparts, full-time virtual charter schools fail across nearly every metric. For example, in math and reading in a given year, full-time virtual charter school students learn essentially no math and less than half the amount of reading as compared to their peers in classroom-based traditional public schools. When comparing racial makeup, economic background, native language, and taking into account students with special needs, all subgroups performed worse than their classroom-based peers.

“Though some full-time virtual charter schools can effectively serve the unique needs of the students they enroll, overall, these schools are not producing great outcomes,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “A few states have opted to simply ban full-time virtual charter schools, but this solution risks limiting parental choice without giving otherwise high-performing virtual charter schools a chance to operate. This is why we need a better regulatory framework to govern full-time virtual charter schools.”

Currently, more than 180,000 students attend 135 full-time virtual charter schools in 23 states and the District of Columbia. By outlining the problems and offering a roadmap for legislators and authorizers for how best to combat them, the National Alliance, 50CAN and NACSA are calling for an overhaul to policies governing full-time virtual charter schools.

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