- The National Alliance for Public Charter schools, the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now, and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers released a call to action Thursday to hold full-time virtual charter schools accountable for student performance.
- The joint report highlights research showing that students who attend these schools perform worse than their traditional public school counterparts on virtually every metric and across all subgroups, and it calls on charter school authorizers to make renewal and closure decisions based on progress toward rigorous performance goals.
- The report also encourages statewide enrollment caps at virtual charter schools, enrollment criteria so only students who would be best-served by virtual schools get in, and funding levels based on performance and real costs of operating such schools.
One complaint of the rise of virtual charter schools has been the lack of cost-savings for traditional districts that have to funnel a portion of their funding to the charters. Virtual schools, with no brick-and-mortar maintenance or transportation costs, and higher student-to-teacher ratios should be expected to operate with lower per-student funding than traditional schools. Critics have accused major players in the virtual charter school space, like K12 Inc., of operating with too-high profits. The CEO of the massive virtual school earned more than $5.3 million in total compensation in 2015, according to SEC filings.
Virtual charter schools defend their student performance by saying they attract students traditional schools have failed, arguing they serve cohorts who come to them already behind. More rigorous performance standards would have to take student demographics into account when setting expectations.