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NEPC Panel 2014 - What Do We Know, and What Should We Know, About Virtual Schools?


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Barbour, M. K., (2014, September). What do we know, and what should we know, about virtual schools? Eighth Annual NEPC Fellows Research Panels, Boulder, CO.

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NEPC Panel 2014 - What Do We Know, and What Should We Know, About Virtual Schools?

  1. 1. Michael K. Barbour Sacred Heart University
  2. 2. K-12 Online Learning  virtual school = supplemental  cyber school = full-time Blended/Hybrid Learning  blended = online & F2F at the same time  hybrid = online or F2F
  3. 3. Bigbie & McCarroll (2000) over half of students who completed FLVS courses scored an A in their course & only 7% received a failing grade Barker & Wendel (2001) students in the six virtual schools in three different provinces performed no worse than the students from the three conventional schools Cavanaugh et al. (2005) FLVS students performed better on a non-mandatory assessment tool than students from the traditional classroom McLeod et al. (2005) FLVS students performed better on an algebraic assessment than their classroom counterparts Barbour & Mulcahy (2008, 2009) little difference in the overall performance of students based upon delivery model Chingos & Schwerdt (2014) FLVS students perform about the same or somewhat better on state tests once their pre-high-school characteristics are taken into account
  4. 4. Ballas & Belyk (2000) participation rate in the assessment among virtual students ranged from 65% to 75% compared to 90% to 96% for the classroom-based students Bigbie & McCarroll (2000) between 25% and 50% of students had dropped out of their FLVS courses over the previous two-year period Cavanaugh et al. (2005) speculated that the virtual school students who did take the assessment may have been more academically motivated and naturally higher achieving students McLeod et al. (2005) results of the student performance were due to the high dropout rate in virtual school courses
  5. 5. Haughey & Muirhead (1999) preferred characteristics include the highly motivated, self-directed, self-disciplined, independent learner who could read and write well, and who also had a strong interest in or ability with technology Roblyer & Elbaum (2000) only students with a high need to control and structure their own learning may choose distance formats freely Clark et al. (2002) IVHS students were highly motivated, high achieving, self-directed and/or who liked to work independently Mills (2003) typical online student was an A or B student Watkins (2005) 45% of the students who participated in e-learning opportunities in Michigan were either advanced placement or academically advanced students
  6. 6. • “Online student scores in math, reading, and writing have been lower than scores for students statewide over the last three years.” (Colorado, 2006) • “Virtual charter school pupils’ median scores on the mathematics section of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination were almost always lower than statewide medians during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.” (Wisconsin, 2010) • “Half of the online students wind up leaving within a year. When they do, they’re often further behind academically then when they started.” (Colorado, 2011)
  7. 7. • “Compared with all students statewide, full-time online students had significantly lower proficiency rates on the math MCA-II but similar proficiency rates in reading.” (Minnesota, 2011) • “nearly nine of every 10 students enrolled in at least one statewide online course, all had graduation rates and AIMS math passing rates below the state average” (Arizona, 2011) • “…students at K12 Inc., the nation’s largest virtual school company, are falling further behind in reading and math scores than students in brick-and-mortar schools.” (Miron & Urschel, 2012)
  8. 8. • “K12 Inc. virtual schools enroll approximately the same percentages of black students but substantially more white students and fewer Hispanic students relative to public schools in the states in which the company operates” • “39.9% of K12 students qualify for free or reduced lunch, compared with 47.2% for the same-state comparison group.” • “K12 virtual schools enroll a slightly smaller proportion of students with disabilities than schools in their states and in the nation as a whole (9.4% for K12 schools, 11.5% for same-state comparisons, and 13.1% in the nation).” • “Students classified as English language learners are significantly under-represented in K12 schools; on average the K12 schools enroll 0.3% ELL students compared with 13.8% in the same-state comparison group and 9.6% in the nation.” Miron, G. & Urschel, J. (2012). Understanding and improving full-time virtual schools. Denver, CO: National Education Policy Center.
  9. 9. “AYP is not a reliable measure of school performance…. There is an emerging consensus to scrap AYP and replace it with a better system that measures academic progress and growth. K12 has been measuring student academic growth on behalf of its partner schools, and the results are strong with academic gains above the national average.” Jeff Kwitowski - K12, Inc. Vice President of Public Affairs
  10. 10. But What Else Do We Have?
  11. 11. • Mountain Heights Academy (formerly the Open High School of Utah) o non-profit online charter school based on “open access software and open educational resources for course delivery and content” o State Office of Education Public School Data Gateway grade: C • Utah Virtual Academy o for-profit corporation — K12, Inc. o State Office of Education Public School Data Gateway grade: F • Utah Connections Academy o for-profit corporation —Connections Education, a division of Pearson Education o State Office of Education Public School Data Gateway grade: not enough students enrolled and/or tested
  12. 12. • In the early 2000s banned cyber charter schools after a case of extreme corruption between one school district and a for-profit provider • In Spring/Summer 2009, the legislature lifted the cap and allowed two companies to each create one full-time cyber school o Enrollment capped at 400 students in the first year o Enrollment capped at an additional 1000 student in second year (1 regular student for each 1 student from the State’s dropped out roll) o Enrollment beyond year two would be determined based on the performance of the programs in those first two years
  13. 13. • In the Spring 2011, the legislature moved to remove all meaningful restrictions on the number and enrollment levels of cyber schooling in the State o Finally passed no restrictions on the number of cyber schools, but limited enrollment to half the size of the largest school district
  14. 14. Director of Doctoral Studies Sacred Heart University