States Putting Online Schools Under the Microscope
The popularity of virtual public schools has grown rapidly in recent years, but poor student test scores have many states putting the brakes on the movement.
Students in full-time online schools tend to underperform and graduate at lower rates than their traditionally schooled peers, and states are beginning to take notice.
As Reuters reports, officials in Maine, New Jersey and North Carolina have halted plans to create new online schools this year; Florida has launched an investigation into a virtual school that allegedly hired uncertified teachers; Tennessee's education commissioner has publicly condemned an online school's test scores; and Pennsylvania has called for funding reform in response to a report that concluded the schools are overfunded by more than $100 million annually.
The growth of K-12 online education has been rapid -- enrollment has increased 30 percent each of the last few years. The concept is particularly popular among public-school students in Colorado, Washington, Ohio and Arizona, where 4 percent attend a virtual school full-time, according to Reuters.
States' concerns go beyond test scores. In tight fiscal times, elected officials want to be sure that taxpayer money is being used responsibly, and critics argue there's no way to evaluate the quality of online courses.
To address these concerns, states are taking different actions. In Pennsylvania, legislation has been introduced to set minimum standards how long students spend on coursework and limit public funding for the schools. In Colorado, the state has made the process for approving online school more rigorous, reports Reuters.
Despite the controversy, some states -- Michigan, Indiana and Louisiana -- are reportedly still firmly behind their push for online education.