Feb 15, 2018
What’s the scoop? Online public charter schools enroll some 275,000 K-12 students across the U.S., with parents turning to virtual schooling as an alternative to brick-and-mortar schools for flexibility in how, when, and what their children learn. But parents also encounter a harsh reality: online public charter schools don’t really benefit students, in particular vulnerable kids.
In fact, according to a 2015 study by Stanford University, attending an online charter school “is literally as if the kid did not go to school for an entire year,” according to the study’s project manager, Margaret Raymond. The study looked at virtual schools in 17 states and Washington, D.C. over the period of 2008 – 2013, and found that students, on average, lost 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days (or virtually an entire school year) of math.
Are people catching on? Yes and no. Despite the Stanford study and recent scandals, like the collapse of a major Ohio online charter school, the online charter school phenomenon remains big business—and continues to grow. The largest provider, K12 Inc, boasts 111,000 students nationwide and a revenue of around $888.5 million last year alone. (U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a former shareholder of K12 Inc.) Further complicating matters, parents and students are getting dragged into the politics of the charter school movement, which is divided when it comes to effectively regulating the quality of virtual schooling.
The bottom line… Parents are demanding more of their children’s educators: they want flexibility in scheduling and a personalized approach to student learning. That’s what live, one-on-one tutoring offers, and something “online only” schooling—or, for that matter, virtual tutoring—struggles to deliver.