Online Charter Schools Show Disappointing Results
By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. | November 12, 2015 National Center for Policy Analysis
The Center for Research on Educational Options (CREDO) at Stanford University recently published its findings for a study about the academic impact of online charter schools. Only full-time online charter students in seventeen states and Washington, D.C. were included.
The study sought to answer whether e-schools are a niche option that best fit a small group of students possessing a specific set of characteristics or whether they are a viable solution for educational challenges for today’s families.
Online schools may be a good option:
- for young working artists,
- as a solution for temporary emergencies within the student’s household,
- to have a highly flexible schedule for taking courses while helping to support one’s family,
- to avoid unpleasant situations within a school environment, or
- as another choice for those who just don’t fit the traditional public school model.
It is important to note that a significant number of virtual charter students are disadvantaged, both from a measureable standpoint such as poverty or special education status or race, or in other ways not measured by CREDO.
The virtual charter students lagged in math and reading when compared with the traditional public school students with whom they were matched. Although in two states the online charters outpaced traditional public schools in reading, there were none in math. Online students learned the equivalent of 73 fewer days in reading and 180 fewer days in math—they lost nearly a half-year in reading and nearly a full year in math.
Even though online learning may be the best choice for some students, the evidence suggests that they are not benefiting academically.
Thomas B. Fordham Institute notes that, before being allowed to expand the number of online charters within a state, charter providers must deliver a higher quality of online materials to improve student performance.
Even so, it is unrealistic to expect a youngster to sit isolated for endless hours, “going to school” on a computer screen without face to face contact with a human teacher. Unless the online materials are really creative and fun to study, how can we expect the child to remain engaged and excited about learning? From personal experience, just staying awake while staring at a lifeless screen is half the battle.