- Students in online charters lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading.
- Students in online charters lost 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year. Yes, you read that right. As my colleague Lyndsey Layton wrote in this story about the study, it’s as if the students did not attend school at all when it comes to math.
- The average student in an online charter had lower reading scores than students in traditional schools everywhere except Wisconsin and Georgia, and had lower math scores everywhere except in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.
- Current online charter schools may be a good fit for some students, but the evidence suggests that online charters don’t serve very well the relatively atypical set of students that currently attend these schools, much less the general population. Academic benefits from online charter schools are currently the exception rather than the rule. Online charter schools provide a maximum of flexibility for students with schedules which do not fit the TPS [traditional public school] setting. This can be a benefit or a liability as flexibility requires discipline and maturity to maintain high standards. Not all families may be equipped to provide the direction needed for online schooling. Online charter schools should ensure their programs are a good fit for their potential students’ particular needs.
- Current oversight policies in place may not be sufficient for online charter schools. There is evidence that some online charter schools have been able to produce consistent academic benefits for students, but most online charter schools have not. The charter bargain has been “Flexibility for Accountability” and all charter schools must be held to that concept. Authorizers must step up to their responsibilities and demand online charter providers improve outcomes for students. Authorizers should hold a firm line with those schools which cannot meet their end of the charter bargain.
- States should examine the current progress of existing online programs before allowing expansion. Online schools have the potential to serve large numbers of students with practically no physical restraints on their expansion. As such, mechanisms which have typically played a role in regulating the growth of brick-and-mortar schools such as facility construction and limited potential student pools do not exert pressure on online schools. Without these natural constraints, online schools have the potential to expand more rapidly than traditional schools. This makes it critical for authorizers to ensure online charter schools demonstrate positive outcomes for students before being allowed to grow and that online charter schools grow at a pace which continues to lead to improved outcomes for their students.
Ohio is expected to spend $554 million on online charter schools over the next two years. Most have struggled with state academic-performance measures; that includes ECOT, whose founder, William Lager, is among the top donors to Republican state legislators.Gov. John Kasich is to soon sign House Bill 2, an overhaul of state charter-school laws. Among its many provisions, it ensures that the academic performance of online charter schools counts in evaluations of sponsors, and it requires e-schools to contact parents of struggling students and maintain accurate student-participation records.