New Study Adds to Overwhelming Evidence That Virtual Schools Are Not Working as Claimed

BOULDER, CO (May 1, 2018) – NEPC’s Sixth Annual Report on Virtual Education, Full-Time Virtual and Blended Schools: Enrollment, Student Characteristics, and Performance, provides a detailed overview and inventory of full-time virtual schools and of blended learning schools, including student demographics, state-specific school performance ratings, and—where data are available—an analysis of school performance measures.

School performance measures for both virtual and blended schools indicate that they are not as successful as traditional public schools. Nevertheless, virtual school enrollment growth has continued. The study examines evidence suggesting that extremely large school sizes and large student-to-teacher ratios are key factors that explain the poor performance of these schools.  

Full-time virtual schools deliver all curriculum and instruction via the Internet and electronic communication, usually asynchronously with students at home and teachers at a remote location. Blended, or hybrid, schools combine virtual instruction with traditional face-to-face instruction in classrooms.

The report, beyond adding to the overwhelming evidence of poor outcomes for online schools, documents an interesting trend in the sector. Compared to prior years, there has been a shift in the type of schools with the most growth. We are now seeing more school districts opening their own virtual schools. These district-run schools typically focus on high school students and have relatively low enrollments. But the trend is nonetheless evident. Large virtual schools operated by for-profit education management organizations (EMOs) still dominate this sector; however, they have lost considerable market share. 

Find Full-Time Virtual and Blended Schools: Enrollment, Student Characteristics, and Performance, by Gary Miron, Christopher Shank, and Caryn Davidson, on the web at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/virtual-schools-annual-2018

This research brief was made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu